Monday, October 3, 2011

re the Filipino American International Book Festival

The first ever, Filipino American International Book Festival (FilAm Book Fest) was held in San Francisco Oct. 1-2, and was, in my opinion a success. Talk is that the organizers will do this again in two years, and I'm certainly hoping they do so because the event is a win-win situation to the authors, publishers, as well as the Filipino American Community.

The event started with a reception at the Philippine Consulate on Friday night. Cocktails were served and consulate people, authors, and publishers mingled. Ex-president Fidel V. Ramos was present to promote his biography as well as many writers, many of whom I know, such as: Isagani Cruz, Marily Orosa, Paulino Lim, Ambeth Ocampo, Butch Dalisay, Pete Lacaba, Cris Yabes, Felice Sta. Maria, Almira Gilles, Penelope Lopez, Oscar Penaranda, Edwin Lozada, and many more. Linda Nietes of Philippine Expressions was also present, as were Anvil Publishing folks represented by Karina Bolasco and Gwenn Galvez.

My husband kept pointing at a sign that said something like “No More Than 50 people Allowed in the Room” when in fact there must have been over a hundred people present. I wasn't sure if it was a political event, a literary event, or a book launch of Ramos' biography, but it was all energetic and fun. A lot of official introductions and talks took place, most of it lost in the organized chaos in the room. Throughout the room there was a lot of hugging and handshaking; and media people were busy taking pictures and doing interviews. It was, in short, like going to a class reunion – just a lot of good energy and high spirits all throughout. One must understand that out of the 100 some authors present in the Festival, around 20 flew in from the Philippines, and even among the US-based authors, some came from Chicago, or the East Coast. There were even a few who came from Canada and Europe; I met a Filipina from Copenhagen. I should also add that Philippine publishers were there and brought with them thousands of books.

The site of the Book Festival itself was in the San Francisco Civic Center and nearby San Francisco Public Library and Asian Art Museum. The outdoor area had a section for the food vendors, an outdoor stage, and booksellers and other booths. Fortunately, the weather was great over the weekend, mild enough so the authors and publishers from the Philippines were comfortable.

I shared a booth with John Silva (who just released the book, A Token of Our Friendship, Philippine Photos of Male Affection) and Marily Orosa, publisher of award-winning coffee table books. Even though there wasn't a huge crowd at the festival, those who showed up were very enthusiastic and snapped up books. By the end of the festival, John had sold out his book, and I sold out some titles. The books were, as the saying goes, "selling like hotcakes."

I was very impressed with the Festival visitors. In all honesty it wasn't a big crowd. Early Saturday morning, I started to worry because there weren't a lot of people. More people came mid-day, but the place really wasn't packed. However, those who attended were really interested in literature and books. They talked to the authors, bought books, and were excited and happy because they were in this literary event. I'm thinking here of Donna Bella whom I met at an earlier literary reading in Berkeley. I had invited her to the festival; she went, and was so happy, she glowed.

There were many students present, including Galileo High School students and Skyline College students who stopped by my booth. Parents, grandparents were there. And the wonderful thing about it was that they were truly interested in literature. It was awesome.

Aside from spending time in my booth, I moderated (along with Veronica Montes) the literary reading programs, HOT OFF THE PRESS on Saturday and Sunday. The literary readings celebrated newly published books by Filipino and Filipino American authors, including: Tony Robles, Almia de los Santos, Peter Jamero, Sunny Vergara, Gloria Ramos, Romy Honorio, Bob Flor, Geraldine Solon, Rafe Bartolomew, Angela Torres, Sarita See, Karen Llagas, Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto, Lilia Rahman, Tilay Angbetic, Emmie Velarde, Myles Garcia, and Samantha Sotto.

I was particularly delighted that the readers were all professional and kept to their 8 minute limit. Both events were quite popular and drew an audience of some 150-200 people each day.

I should add that there were numerous talks and activities going on, all very interesting. For instance, Ambeth Ocampo gave a provocative talk “Queridas ni Rizal: Love and Sex in Philippine History.” Felice Sta. Maria and Claude Tayag gave talks on Philippine Cuisine. Children’s storytelling went on with Almira Gilles, Dorina Lazo-Gilmore, and Sol Manaay. The members of Bindlestiff Studio, an all Filipino-American theatrical group in San Francisco, did several performances. The Babaylan Group had a Healing Arts Pavilion where they gave talks and had hilot sessions. The artist BenCab talked about his creative process. Barbara Jane Reyes, Reme Grefalda, Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, Marites Vitub, Ben Pimentel, Marivi Blanco, Leny Strobel, and many others talked in various panels.

There was also a Tribute Night honoring Carlos Bulosan, NVM Gonzalez, Bienvenido Santos, Jose Garcia Villa, F. Sionil Jose, Al Robles, Ceres Alabado, Fred and Dorothy Cordova, Evangeline Buell, Linda Ty-Casper and Nick Joaquin. In short there was something for everyone, and from what I could see visitors were not disappointed.
The organizers are numerous and I do not mean to leave anyone out, but I do wish to thank those I dealt with: Gemma Nemenzo, Penelope Flores, Oscar Penaranda, Edwin Lozada, and Mitchell Yangson. I hope that the organizers will hold another festival it in the future — for the good of the writers, publishers, book sellers, and the Filipino and Filipino American communities.

For more, here's a video clip about the FilAm Book Fest:
Photos from the top:
top - l-r: Cecilia, Almira Gilles, Penelope Flores, Ambeth Ocampo, Paulino Lim
next - l-r: Cecilia, Felice Sta. Maria, Marily Orosa, Ex-President Fidel Ramos, guest
next - l-r: Pia Lopezbano-Carrion, Jeremiah Ysip
next - l-r: Barbara and Paulino Lim, Lauren Brainard
next - John Silva taking a break
last - Jonathan Best and John Silva taking a break

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