5 things Big Bad Wolf founders learned from PH book sale

Interview by Jeeves de Veyra

Posted at Feb 22 2018 10:07 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2018 11:00 PM

Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng, the husband-and-wife team of BookXcess, the Malaysian company behind the Big Bad Wolf Book sale. Jeeves de Veyra

MANILA -- There are only a few days left before Big Bad Wolf, the biggest book sale in the world, pulls down the curtains on its inaugural Manila visit. But fret not book lovers, its first will not be its last. 

Miguel Mercado, the marketing head of Big Bad Wolf Philippines, told ABS-CBN News that they will be working on bringing the book festival to other parts of the country in the future. 

"To dream with an advocacy and to dream with a mission, it's always there," he said. "Maybe after the sale, we'll rest for a few hours and then I'm sure we'll be working on the next one." 

Big Bad Wolf has left its doors open at the World Trade Center in Pasay City since it opened last February 16. 

It is the brainchild of BookXcess heads Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng, whose sole mission is to help introduce books to readers who normally couldn't afford one. 

It began in Malaysia with just over 120,000 books and has since grown to become one of the world's biggest book sales. It brought over 2 million books for its visit here in the Philippines.

"This is just to boost the [book] industry," Ng explained. "To inject some excitement, to get people to start reading. [This event is for] people who have forgotten the joy of reading, and those who have not experienced the joy of reading."

 

Ng shared she noticed a trend in her country among kids who read, not for pleasure and entertainment, but to "pass exams." 

"It's a totally different culture," she said, pointing out the difference between readers in the UK to those in Southeast Asia. 

"For a majority of families here, we never had that luxury or that environment. It's all about academics -- how to pass your exam, how to get good grades." 

She had hoped to change that reading culture through Big Bad Wolf. 

And with the help of Gawad Kalinga executive director Luis Oquinena, they were finally able to bring that exact same mission here in the Philippines. 

Below are the five things Ng and Yap learned from their first foray here in Manila: 

1. Right down to business: Pinoy readers go for specific authors

Yap described book lovers here as "deeper readers" compared to other markets such as Malaysia. This meant that they forego "surface deep" general knowledge titles to browse fiction -- a "testament," he explained, "as to what a mature English market" looked like. 

Readers attend the preview of the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale at World Trade Center, Pasay City. Mark Arvin Lazaro, ABS-CBN News

2. "Stray" books may hurt business, but that's not a bad thing

They were initially disappointed with the large number of visitors who would leave books they decided not to buy at a corner instead of returning them to where they found them, but Yap said that this meant they were "attracting the correct crowd." 

Since their mission is make books affordable, seeing readers with "limited budgets" come and support their festival is enough to move him and Ng. 

Stray books are a big problem for Big Bad Wolf. Additional manpower was required to sort over 200,000 stray books. Jeeves de Veyra

3. Holding Big Bad Wolf here gave them a glimpse of the best of Filipinos 

Ng said she was overwhelmed by the gratitude Filipino readers made them feel for selling heavily discounted titles. "Every single person I was introduced to say, 'Thank you for being here.'" 

"For the past 10 years, we do receive a lot of appreciation and thank you notes, but never have I, for once, received thank you's from every single customer," she added. "That really touches me."

4. Missing Chinese New Year celebrations with their families a worry

Ng shared that it was very hard to tell her mom that she won't be home for Chinese New Year, but she just couldn't pass up this opportunity to finally bring the festival to the Philippines. 

Working with Gawad Kalinga, Ng hopes Big Bad Wolf was able to "create," "inspire," and "empower" young Filipino readers. 

"When a child gets the correct book, that child will be the next president of the country through dreams and being inspired," she said. "Reading and books should not be a luxury item and to certain upper-class people." 

BookXcess executive director Jacqueline Ng and managing director Andrew Yap pose for a photo with Luis Oquiñena, executive director of Gawad Kalinga, one of their partner foundations. Kristina Tayam, ABS-CBN News

5. Manila is a city that never sleeps

Yap said that the only reason they decided to open for 24 hours here for two weeks was so that people who work during odd hours will have a chance to visit them. 

"As long as one customer comes in after midnight, the battle is won," he said. "There are a lot of people who work at the call centers who sleep during the day and work at night. And they will never get to come here if we don't open 24 hours."