A howling success

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  • Big Bad Wolf Fair

    “A child who reads will become an adult who thinks.”

    * * *

    Today marks the last day of the 11 days that Big Bad Wolf that has been open for the first time in the Philippines. One last day to hunt for the titles and deals from the millions of books brought to the World Trade Center.

    As the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale comes to a close, I can’t help but think about the tremendous amount of amount of work, dedication, and even the initial challenges that went into getting not just the World’s Biggest Book Sale to the Philippines but more importantly bringing the advocacy of making reading enjoyable and exciting to readers and not readers alike. This mission to the Philippines started with a meeting between Gawad Kalinga executive director Luis Oquinena and the Big Bad Wolf founders Andrew Yap and Jacquelin Ng in Kuala Lumpur in July 2017. They talked about how the advocacy of ending poverty and making books available to everyone regardless of stature aligned toward nation building. That meeting ended with a handshake where the goal was to have BBW launched in the Philippines by 2018.

    Luis Oquinena assembled trusted Gawad Kalinga partners to help Big Bad Wolf get mounted in the Philippines. The team of MVM Philippines, led by chairperson Maria Montelibano, CFO Jan Co-Chua, and CEO Mari Oquinena heeded the call. They quickly assembled a team to observe and learn from the Big Bad Wolf Event in Bangkok, Thailand in August 2017. The Big Bad Wolf Philippines team was composed of Lito Nadal, overall head, CJ Sarmiento for operations, and Miguel Mercado for marketing, and Allan Capulong of RTL for digital marketing.

    The team came back from the Big Bad Wolf Bangkok impressed not only with the operations but more especially with turnout of Thai families who came to the sale to buy carts full of books as they shopped with the kids and toddlers in tow even late at night. This was especially impressive as Thailand is not an English speaking country.

    The team went to work to search for a venue that could accommodate two million books. The only venue that fit the needs for that time was the World Trade Center. It, however, came at an expensive price and the only availability was during the Chinese New Year festival of 2018. Chinese New Year is the biggest festival, especially for the Malaysian Chinese, as this is when family reunions are held. Family members are expected to go home to their parents during the festival.

    Faced with this, Andrew and Jacqueline asked their operations team if they would agree to sacrifice their Chinese New Year Celebrations to bring Big Bad Wolf to the Philippines. Operations head Christine Lim had no hesitation and the rest of her team gave their commitment. The cost of booking the venue was negotiated lower too but it was still high compared to other venues in Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Rather than increasing the prices of the books, Andrew and Jacqueline decided to keep the prices low and took the risk and decided to sell as many books as possible to cover the costs. They stuck to their mission of making books available to all.

    So as the doors of Big Bad Wolf Philippines opened on Feb. 15 for the preview day, the Filipino people came in droves to enjoy the multitude of book offers. The opening ceremony was graced by special guests, including senator Joel Villanueva, congressman Karlo Nogales who gave a keynote speech about how reading goes hand in hand with his advocacy for free public education, congresswoman Emi Calixto-Rubiano, mayor Antonino Calixto, MMDA chairman Danny Lim, Nation Book Development Board chairperson Neni Sta Romana Cruz, ABS-CBN broadcasting COO Cory Vidanes, ABS-CBN Publishing CEO Ernie Lopez, and Gawad Kalinga executive director Luis Oquinena.

    After the brief ceremony, the doors were opened to the public and people came in droves! Most of them would enter and upon seeing the millions of books would giddily smile, jump, and exclaim “ang bango, amoy libro!” They would then proceed to start their hunt among the 20 thousand plus titles in the hall. A lot of people would always be crowding the adult fiction and young adult section. It was always full of people that we internally started to call it the divisor section of books. It was so packed that whenever it would be re-stocked, people would have to be told to make way for the gigantic boxes to be brought in place. The people would then crowd around the box and wait patiently for it to be opened and new books to be put in place. It looked like a peaceful rally for books!

    The opening day crowd came very early for the first official day on Feb. 16. Although the doors were scheduled to open at 9 a.m., the lines started to form as early as 2 a.m. when a family arrived straight from Bulacan. By 9 a.m., the line spilled over to the driveway of the World Trade Center. People had waited patiently for three hours for the doors to finally open. No one knew at that time that the Big Bad Wolf team was working overnight to get the books in place as there were delays. Many of the containers arrived later than expected from the port.

    The doors finally opened at 9 a.m. and the crowd hurriedly piled into the hall. Wave upon wave of people came to see what two million brand new books looked like. By 2 p.m., that time, the line to the cashier had spilled over to the main hall. Even with 42 cashiers working simultaneously, the line was so long that it stretched and snaked through the many miles of the main hall. It took people between 45 minutes to an hour in line before they finally got their chance to pay for their books. All hands were induced then to help get the line moving efficiently. Founder Andrew Yap himself manned the front of the line to ensure a faster queuing system.

    Congratulations to all involved in the BBW!

    ***************

    As far as reading goes, two-month old Disney Siytangco is off to a great start. Disney’s parents are both avid readers. An animator and a professor in St. Benilde, his dad AJ grew up with a dad whose rule was, he’ll buy any book so long as it’s not comics. His mom, Margaret, a child education and post grad reading major and former teacher in Ateneo also grew up with a dad who would buy any and all books she wanted. And they’re continuing the tradition with their son. His mom had been collecting books since she was in fifth grade, collecting books even for her future children.

    When the Ondoy flood destroyed thousands of her book collection, she started again. Reading was something she was determined to pass on to her child and AJ fully agrees. Because through reading, worlds get explored, ideas go out of the box, adventures are taken, and magic returns.

    They have been to the BBW book fair twice, towing game little Disney around and they plan to go again. Because nothing can beat their cheap prices and the quality books that are rarely found in our local bookstores. They’ve gone above and beyond budget but figured it’s okay. Because as Walt Disney, my apo’s namesake, would say “There is more treasure in reading than in any pirate’s loot on treasure island.” (mb.com.ph)

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