Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Recap 3rd Filipino American International Book Festival in San Francisco

Lisa Suguitan Melnick at the mic, and Edwin Lozada behind her

THE 3rd Filipino American International Book Festival was held in San Francisco last October 2-4, 2015. It was presented by PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists), the San Francisco Public Library, the Filipino American Center (SFPL), in partnership with the Consulate General of the Philippines in San Francisco and other community organizations.

l-r: Nikki Alfar, Dean Francis Alfar, Penelope Flores, Veronica Montes, Cecilia Brainard, Lisa Suguitan Melnick

l-r: Penelope Flores, Nikki Alfar, Dean Francis Alfar, Veronica Montes, Cecilia Brainard, Lisa Suguitan Melnick, Marie Romero

The FilAm Book Fest is held every other year. I attended the first one in 2011 and the second in 2013. The first one was an ambitious undertaking which was attended by over 100 authors. There were numerous book sellers, food vendors, an outdoor stage, events and panel discussions. The second and third book festival events settled into a simpler affair, confined to rooms in the San Francisco Public Library, and with fewer authors and book sellers. The carnival atmosphere vanished but the events retained the literary, cultural, and academic atmosphere.

The Filipino American International Book Festival is important and I'm delighted that it has managed to continue under the leadership of a few people in the Bay Area. I should acknowlege Edwin Lozada, Director of the event, who worked hard to make the 2015 event successful.

L-r: St aff. Karen Llagas, staff, staff,Edwin Lozada, Cecilia Brainard, Eileen Tabios, Luis Francia, Barbara Jane Reyes, Erin Entrada Kelly, Nikki Alfar, Lisa Suguitan Melnick, Dean Francis Alfar

I admire the cooperation of PAWA, the San Francisco Library and the Philippine Consulate General, and wished that we had that sort of synergy in the Los Angeles area. I had occasion to mention to someone from the San Francisco Library that the huge LA Library hardly has events involving the Filipino American community.

l-r: James Sobredo, Lily Ann Villaraza, Dawn Mabalon, Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Oscar Penaranda

The Book Festival officially began with cocktails and a welcome program on Friday, October 2, which included greetings by Edwin Lozada, Filipino Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr., video clips, and two Filipino musicians who had such charming renditions.

I was able to reconnect with literary folk I know: Veronica Montes, Oscar Penaranda, Lisa Suguitan Melnick, Penelope Flores, Michael Gonzalez, Luis Francia, Gio Jose, among others, and of course Edwin Lozada, who in my eyes is one of the most unflappable human beings on earth. During the three days, he remained calm and smiling even when people kept turning to him with their problems and questions.

l-r: Jeannette Iniquez, Jaime Alonso Yrastorza, Luis Francia, Eileen Tabios, Tony Robles, Barbara Jane Reyes, Mg Roberts, Tessie Jaye, Daniel Roddick

The succeeding days' events started mid-day until late afternoon, with panel discussions and literary readings going on in various rooms and the Koret auditorium.  The Latino Room was used as the book vending and information room.

I moderated a panel discussion on Filipino American Literature in the 21st Century with Barbara Jane Reyes, Luis Francia, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Eileen Tabios as panelists. We had a lively discussion about their writings, the challenges they faced to get their work in print. We also talked about publishing, including a bit about e-books allowing a better reach to the public of FilAm works.

There was another discussion on Filipino American History in the 21st Century with panelists Oscar Penaranda, James Sobredo, Lily Ann Villaraza, Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, and moderated by Dawn Mabalon.

There were literary readings, such as Completely Mixed Up: Mixed Heritage Asian North American Writing and Art. I moderated two Hot off the Press Literary Readings showcasing the authors and their works published in the past year. There were many other events besides the ones I've mentioned.

l-r: James Sobredo, Barbara Jane Reyes, Candy Gourlay, Cecilia Brainard

Comparing this 2015 FilAm Book fest with the earlier ones, I note that there were fewer people in attendance this year. I should add that those present wanted to be there, and the event was meaningful to them. Earlier notice and more publicity would have brought in others interested in attending. I have friends in Canada and the Philippines who said that if they had known about the event, they would have attended.

I also observed that there weren't a lot of young people present. In fact the wealth of information and talent offered by the festival would benefit students (high school and college alike). An Open Mic Poetry Reading as well as a Creative Writing Workshop would encourage the younger set to attend future FilAm Book Fests.  But since the next event won't be until 2017, that suggestion can be on hold.

In the meantime, the organizers of the 3rd FilAm Book Festival can rest assured that they put together a credible and important event. Thank you!

l-r: Nikki Alfar, Cecilia Brainard

l-r: Cecilia Brainard, Candy Gourlay, Nikki Alfar, Dean Francis Alfar

Selfie taken at the Pina Exhibit at the nearby San Francisco Asian Art Museum

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Tags: Philippines, Philippine, Filipino, American, FilAm, books. festival, authors, writers,

This is all for now,

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