Monday, May 2, 2011


When I couldn't find Tan's and Baldisimo's Trese in the Graphic Novel section in Fully Booked and discovered it in the Filipiniana Section, I railed - I saw it as literary apartheid. Why couldn't Trese share some shelf space with Captain America? My main issue against this stemmed from the fact that fans of the Graphic Novel will never stray to the Filipiniana section thereby cutting off our books to our target market. In the current setup, one would have to be looking for a Filipino Graphic Novel to be able to find it; it denies the casual browser to discover something new and Filipino in his/her genre of interest.

Researching further into this, however, I discovered that the situation was not as black and white as I thought and that, at times, there were distinct advantages to being segregated in such a way.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Filipiniana Section are totally dependent on the brand of bookstore and even the particular branch of that bookstore. Generally, one would find that in Fully Booked (FB), it could be seen as a disadvantage while in National Bookstore (NB), it could be seen as quite a big plus.

The FB in Greenhills tucked the Filipiniana section in the back wall of the second floor - between the kids section and the special interest books; not the usual place you'd find comic book fans. It was this particular bookstore that initially got me all riled up about this subject.

However, even in FB, not all Filipiniana Sections are created equal. The former layout of the Rockwell FB allowed for a totally separate shelf for Filipino Graphic Novels in its Filipiniana Section - it looked like a holy shrine to the gods of the Filipino graphic novel. It was a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, Rockwell FB has since changed layout and the Filipiniana section no longer figures as prominent a space compared to their Graphic Novel Section. However, the opposite is true for most National Bookstores.

In a lot NB's, the Graphic Novel Section is a disorganized blob of books thrown on a table, literally. It is not the ideal place for any graphic novel, much less a Filipino graphic novel! It's not even on a shelf!

However, NB's setup for their Filipiniana sections are vastly different. I know that in NB Shangri-La, it's the very first shelf you see as you enter. Again, as in FB, it's different everywhere and it changes from branch to branch. Nevertheless, one does get the impression that NB gives more importance to Filipino publications as they regularly put up encouraging signs like this in their stores:

In the end, I discovered that there was no deep-seated racial conspiracy nor was there really any malice in the segregation. It all comes down to what the book store thinks will sell and optimizing their shelves to that end. Given that Filipino books are vastly outnumbered, it's an advantage that they can be found in their separate section lest they be swallowed up by the ocean of foreign publications.

Though NB and FB treat the Filipiniana section differently, at least in both cases, Filipino graphic novels are given shelf-space. The way they view graphic novels in general is vastly different, however and, in the end, I'd rather be on the shelf than in a pile on a table. Of course, the ideal would be a totally independent shelf-space in the Graphic Novel section in FB and another one in the Filpiniana section of NB but I may be shooting for the moon on that point.

So, because I'd rather be on a shelf, I am for the status quo.

However,  the graphic novel fans will never meander into the Filipiniana Section on their own - they must be guided there. To do so, we need the help of the fans.

So if you're reading this and you are a fan, please, endorse the Filipino Graphic Novels you enjoy and make sure to give them specific directions on how find it. Tell them to go to Customer Service or say:

"Trese? It's a great graphic novel! It's available in National Book Store IN THE FILIPINIANA SECTION!"

I hope to see you there.