This one’s for the books

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LAWYER Alberto Agra, at his heaviest

Alberto C. Agra is everything but a businessman.

He is a lawyer by profession; an educator and professor by vocation; and a devoted student taking up his PhD in Leadership Studies, major in Public Management at Ateneo School of Government.

As a certified specialist on public-private partnerships (PPP) and regulations, he is president of Forensic Law and Policy Strategies Inc., a private policy think tank offering services in the fields of PPP, regulation, policy, law reform, advocacy and governance.

He is an author of books and policy papers on PPP, local government and election laws. He is an avid dog lover, being the present head of the Chow Chow Club of the Philippines. He is a husband and a father of two young adults and of course, in recent years, he is best remembered as a former Secretary of Justice.

But entrepreneurship is uncharted waters for Agra who has always preferred the law and teaching to anything else in the world—until the idea to publish “couture books” presented itself.

And today, as a healthy 51-year-old who is ready to take the world of business and publishing.

“To run my own business was  never in my horizon, I never had to train for business, because I have always been into leadership, into law. This was not planned at all, but at the way things are going so far, I am appreciating the learnings that I have been getting,” says Agra, now president of Kape Teybol Buk Publishing House, dedicated to printing and releasing out-of-the-box coffee table books, e-magazines, and other forms of literary works.

Kape Teybol Buk Publishing House is Agra’s joint venture with renowned photographer Jun de Leon who himself has published 13 coffee table books to his name. While Agra takes care of the business side, De Leon is expectedly in charge of the creatives, as photographer for some of the books, and as creative director for others.

While global naysayers declare that publishing is a sunset industry, Agra is confident that their positioning on coming up with couture, out-of-the-box publications will see this new venture through.

For instance, the company’s first labor of love is called “No Body is Perfect,” a coffee table book that features more than 50 personalities—government officials, chief executives, celebrities and athletes—young and old, who are bound together by one vision: a shared passion for healthy living, the commitment to stay fit, and the resolve to advocate well-being.

COUTURE publications: Out-of-the-box publications are next in line.

“These are individuals who have either lived a healthy lifestyle all-throughout their lives or have changed their lifestyle into one that is nearly perfect,” Agra describes the book’s concept.

Journey to wellness

Serendipity had put together these two collaborators, however apart the worlds they move in may be. Fitness and wellness that bonded them and turning 50 years old was a pivotal point for both.

Jun de Leon allayed his fear of turning 50, old, and sedentary when he started to engage in activities that he had long been wanting to do, among them wakeboarding and diving. Now 58, De Leon has never been more passionate about life and the things he does and still plans on doing.

Agra, on the other hand, turned 50 years old in April this year. In September 2012, the words “50 at 50” were persistently dancing in his mind.

COUTURE publications: Out-of-the-box publications are next in line.

“I wanted to lose 50 pounds by the time I turned 50 years old because I want to live longer. I weighed 235 pounds and was a XXXL. I was told about this integrative health program, not a weight loss program,  which is really a combination of diet, food supplements and medicines. Exercise is optional but I chose that option and I go to the gym four times a week while I play tennis and badminton on other days. In 30 days, I lost 7.5 inches around the waist, and 30 pounds.  By January 2013, three months before my birthday, I was able to shed off 50 pounds,” recounts Agra, whose clothes have since then undergone three downsizing alterations already.

To date, Agra has successfully shed 60 pounds (from 235 to 175), lost 14 inches in his waistline (from 47 to 33), now wears slim medium tops, and has lowered his blood pressure (from 130/90 to 100/70)—all in less than five months.

The book No Body is Perfect is thus a fitting first publication for Agra’s and De Leon’s publishing house. Through this first project, the partners hope that others may be inspired to recognize their imperfections and limitations, change their lifestyles, and try to reach their own measure of “perfection.”

Learning by doing

Although new in the business, Agra is ready to take risks, confident that he will do well through learning by doing. That much he trusts his partner De Leon.

“I know the difficulty will be in raising the funds for the projects. That is why every publication will also eventually have an e-version, and they will be photo heavy rather than text so that people will appreciate them more. So far, it has been an exciting ride for me in my new role as publisher,” Agra quips.

With their first project recently  launched, the neophyte book publishers are all fired up for Kape Teybol Buk’s projects in the next two years, among them “Burdado Plus Magazine,” the first online tattoo and lifestyle magazine in the country; “100 Ways to Love Your Husband,” a book that describes how wives can show how much they love their husbands; a “cook-shoot-serve”  book about healthy food and recipes photographed by wife-homemaker Karina Versoza using a smartphone; “Mama’s Boy,” a sequel to Jun De Leon’s “Our Father”; a coffee table book dedicated to mothers, featuring 50 notable sons-male celebrities, businessmen, public servants, and ordinary men who proudly honor and love their moms; “Lovely Bones,” a coffee table book about 50 dog owners and lovers and their canine companions; and “Simbahang Gabi,”  a compilation of façade and aerial photographs of about 50 Catholic churches in Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao that are lighted up during the yuletide season.

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