#MIBF2017: Second time’s a charm

This year’s MIBF felt different for a lot of reasons. (I’m still trying to decide if it was a good kind of different. Kinda overwhelmed still about the experience.)

For one, it’s been a while since I rode a bus to Manila. I didn’t miss the bus per se. I just missed sleeping in the bus (using my not-so swabe moves). Initially, Tiff and I shared stories about what’s been happening in our lives, but after a while, I fell asleep. The “sleep” involved a lot of head banging and me eventually relenting and laying my head on Tiff’s shoulder.

Bus ride @ 10:20 AM. We were supposed to leave at 9:00 AM.

When we arrived in SM MOA, it was a little after lunch already. Our main goal was to eat first (though Tiff insisted that “food is life but books are life-er”). We went around for quite a while before choosing to eat at Yoshinoya.

It was my first time to eat there so I challenged myself to eat stuff I wouldn’t usually order. In that case, it was steamed siomai and California maki. (I prefer my siomai fried and I don’t really like seafood unless, well, unless I like it.)

“For a change” lunch date

After filling our stomachs, we headed to SMX. When we arrived, we were welcomed by a ton of people. And by a ton, I mean 10x the number of people that was at MIBF last year. There were four layers of lines around SMX on both sides of the building. (I’m so proud of all the bookworms that endured the long lines. We’re so awesome!) It took us more than an hour to just get it. (I have never been more grateful for aircon when we reached the entrance.) (Note to self: Bring water and a fan.)

Hello, fellow bookworms!

Our initial plan was to go through everything per row. But when Fully Booked caught our attention, we just headed inside, disregarding said plan.

As expected, it was packed with people inside. It was really hard to find magic-y indie children’s books because of the crowd so I just stuck to my gut when it came to finding a book to buy. (But, in fairness, this year, their paying system was a lot better and faster.)

I bought Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur. Other than the aesthetically-pleasing blue cover, it said:

…where kindness can be a weapon, and children have the power to see what adults cannot.

The second stop was at National Bookstore (1st floor). The space was less crowded so my introvert self held up pretty well. It was there that I found the feel I’ve been looking for in children’s books. There, I bought Sharon Creech’s Walk to Moons.

I picked this up because 1) the author was the author of a poetry book Gianne gave me and 2) it felt right. (This is the problem with being an emotion-based spender.) Here’s a random quote from the book:

You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.

After going around the ground floor and not really seeing fiction books that we wanted to buy, we decided to go up. (I did see a lot of things I could give to a certain friend as pasalubong but I decided to just look around first before making a final purchase.)

Upstairs, it felt more fandom-y and for kids (which made it awesome!!!).

There was another National Bookstore there so we visited it just in case there were new books. Thankfully, the kind of books I couldn’t find downstairs were there. I found The Earth-Healers by Cyan Abad-Jugo and I just couldn’t not buy it because 1) it’s good Pinoy work and 2) Cyan Abad-Jugo! I read one of her books from my MIBF haul last year.

They looked at each other, unable to talk, for the spell of understanding had already faded. Still, what need were words among friends?

Afterwards, we wandered to the Make-a-Wish booth. There we donated for a cause and took a picture with Storm Troopers. Though I’m not really a big Star Wars fan (I did play the computer game though), I liked the experience because, not only did I help, but also, I was reminded of my childhood.

Yes, I look like a potato.

Just nearby was a HP-themed photobooth. It took us quite a while, lining up (we’ve been doing that the whole day) but in a fangirl sense, using the props and taking pictures was worth it. (My hair was deflated already though.)

Wearing a Hufflepuff cloak, I realized that maybe I am a Gryffindor.

It was already around 6 PM when we got out of there. By then, we just had a quick go-over of the rest of the booths upstairs. Adarna publishing quickly caught my eye because I’ve been trying to look for it downstairs earlier that day. From there, I bought Raissa Rivera Falgui’s Woman in Frame.

Perhaps what drew the young woman to this painting was the incongruity of a girl, grave and formal, set within the vibrant, flowing curves of the carved art nouveau frame. Perhaps it was the sense of kinship she felt. For the young woman, Ning, was the daughter of an artist, dreaming of becoming an artist. She knew nothing of the girl in the portrait, only that the intensity captured in the glimmer of its brush-stroked eyes reflected her own.

By the time I’ve finished paying, I started to feel the need to end the day. It was six something and we’ve visited almost all there was to visit.

By then, I’ve only spent PHP 768 for four books (which was not a bad bargain at all). I only needed to check one last booth for the pasalubong  I wanted to buy.

I went down to UP Press to check out a certain book. However, when I got there, I found poetry books that I wasn’t able to find the first time I scouted the area. I saw about five poetry books that I liked but the problem was, I didn’t have enough money anymore. (The struggle was so intense!) I also found a ton of books that I wanted to gift to people (but then again, I couldn’t afford to give a book to all of them).

After much internal debate, I bought three books (and went over-budget). I bought one poetry book I really connected to, Merlinda Bobis’ Accidents of Composition and two others as gifts. (Due to this single purchase, I spent almost as much as I did from 2:30 – 6:30 PM. MIBF just wouldn’t let me leave as a responsible adult.)

Book haul! Not a bad bunch at all.

After that, it was time to travel back home. Tiff had work so I went to Lipa on my own (and almost got lost INSIDE THE BUS TERMINAL).

I over-exhausted my introvert body and soul so I almost couldn’t feel it on the bus ride home. As expected, I was knocked out to oblivion when I fell asleep.

Overall, I felt more in control with my choices this year. I knew what I wanted and where I wanted to go. I didn’t binge-buy for the sake of remembering that I went to a certain booth (unlike last year). I also knew how to survive expos this time so I knew what to expect.

I just wish there were more indie publishers this year. I really looked forward to their books. I wanted to meet them again too.

You can read about my first MIBF experience here.

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A quick escape to Tagaytay

Last Sunday, me and my girls had a quick get-together at Tagaytay. Though we all had our fair share of worries for the upcoming week, it just felt great to see each other again.

After our roadtrip to Tagaytay, we initially attempted to eat at Balay Dako. However, the place was booked and we were already hungry. (The view of Taal was spectacular though!)

We went to Carlos Pizza instead since it was just right beside BD. We ate outside with Taal just there.

Hello Taal!

Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take photos.

Before going down, we stopped over on one side of the road to take photos.

I loved that quick break. It was the first weekend that I just went out without really working on something. (The best part was, of course, being updated on each other’s lives despite not always seeing each other. Love you!)

Frames of Taal

Sometimes, we see things better when we have a limited perspective of the big picture. Maybe, it’s because darkness doesn’t only have a way of bringing out the shadows, but also, light.

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The games we play. These are two of my students playing chess in Tampuhan Cafe.

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Among a crowd of shadows. This picture highlights one of my co-teachers, standing outside the Taal Basilica.

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Secret passage. This one of my students posing at the Marcela Agoncilio museum.

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Taal Narnia. This one of my students, exploring the Taal Basilica.

 

 

 

Thoughts up on Manabu

Photo taken at Mt. Manabu summit

 

Last February 4, I joined a mountain climbing trip to Mt. Manabu with Team Tagaktak. It was a spontaneous trip (at least for me) since my sister notified me a night before the hike. Though I was tired from the work week in Manila, I said yes because I did want to return to Manabu after four years and I wanted to meet up with my Lavoxa friends.

So yeah. The hike happened like that, on a whim, but after it all ended, it felt like I needed to be there, like it was meant to happen. I won’t narrate the entirety of what happened. Instead, I’ll just write what I learned from the climb.

Travel at your own pace.

I started confidently, striding alongside those who have more recent experiences of hiking than me. I thought to myself that Manabu was the mountain of my childhood anyway and I conquered it before. But I was badly out of shape and I needed to realize that. It was only when I allowed myself to slow down and take breaks that I was truly able to experience the hike.

There are things you don’t give up on. (Find real motivation.)

At the time of the hike, I was on the brink of deciding to move on from something big. That was when I came to learn that I don’t need to put up with meaningless things. So maybe, it was by default that I also thought of giving up on the climb after my body gave away.

But the hike wasn’t meaningless. I just couldn’t understand what it meant to me initially. I needed to find real reasons why I should go on.

Partly, it was the team, specifically Sir Jun, who really pushed me to reach the summit (because they won’t leave me no matter how much I told them that I’ll be fine). But mostly, it was a bet with the mountain and a promise with myself. I told myself that if I was able to reach the summit, I’d be able to take the “next step”, face everything toxic and live meaningfully.

There is beauty in both knowing and not knowing your limits.

The hike was a wakeup call that I was so out of shape and that I’m not living a healthy lifestyle. Two stations in, I vomited and felt my spirit exit my body. My insides were shaking and my lips lost its color. Every cell in my body begged me to quit it.

I told Sir Jun this as he egged me to continue. Then he responded saying that knowing and not knowing your limits is equally important. Thinking that you still have it in you to walk an extra mile even when you’ve exhausted yourself, can push you to exceed your limits.

Take care of yourself.

One does not simply climb mountains. Despite being in bad shape, I was able to finish the course, yes, but if I want to do it regularly, I have to start taking exercise seriously. (I actually promised myself to return in a month with more fighting spirit and a better body condition but guuuuh. I’m sorry.)

People come together through labored breaths.

I’ll admit, I was pretty intimidated by Team Tagaktak initially. I’m not an outdoorsy person or someone who actively seeks to join groups like theirs. And I know that I often get mistaken for a timid introvert with different priorities in life.

But that day, I was just myself around them. Though I’ve been dragging the trip, they made it feel okay and encouraged me all throughout. They made stopping and resting normal and they stood by the code which is to never leave anyone behind.

I know I’d be fine if the left me alone in a rest stop or something but it felt good to experience their sense of loyalty and kindness first hand.

(A/N: Kinilig ako noong inadd ako sa FB group. First climb ko pa lang naman pero kahit pa.)

Away, you can be most honest with yourself.

As we hiked, everything was just fleshed out and real – the numbness of my feet, the mud inside my shoes, the thorns poking my skin. And then, the wind, the smell of grass, sunlight. In that setting, how can you resist admitting that you are in fact, just a girl trying to take a leap of faith?

You’ll find yourself in a different place just by turning around and facing the other side of the mountain.

When we reached the summit, I turned to the side facing San Pablo. The lights were dimmer, the wind was stronger and I felt magical.

It’s okay to depend on people.

(And it won’t mean that you’re necessarily a burden.)

It’s a matter of finding your own path, and being willing to dig deep in the mud if you have to.

This is my favorite part of the hike! We went down at night and I walked at my pace (which was slower) so of course, I got separated from the group. It was fine because I made paths of my own and led Lyka who was behind me. That really motivated me to do well and wow. It felt like I had a knack of finding my own direction.

The most rewarding thing is feeling sweat flow down your forehead.

(I’ve missed sweating that much for anything.)

There’s a certain song, rhythm you come to memorize in the dark, when going down.

(And because of that, you come to memorize the landscape.)

Bet against the mountain. Promise victory.

I finished the hike. I will return a better person and conquer it(myself) again.

My First Book Fair (37th Manila International Book Fair)

My body was sore when I woke up in the morning, and I’ll admit, it was pretty tempting to sleep in for a while longer despite the temptation of books that await me at the SMX Convention Center. Thankfully, I wasn’t that tired and insane to bail out on my friend, Gianne and so I rushed to meet her at McDo Buendia after a very slow morning prep session.

The mood had been different the day before. It was on Friday when I was filled with a primal craving for the printed word. I just couldn’t stop myself from smiling during random times of the day at the thought of being surrounded by books. I wanted to swim in them. (I just really, really, love books.)

The feeling was slow to creep back in that Saturday and it only really became real when we were on a multicab ride to MOA. Suddenly, my pulse sounded louder and I felt my true self surfacing. I was a writer, going to a book fair with tons and tons of books and awesome writers. This was home base.

When Gianne and I entered SMX, we kind of fumbled about for a bit. We went in at one entrance then we got out then in another before finally lining up for registration. To be fair, there were tons of people and we were too excited.

When we got in, I didn’t have a chance to have my first thought or reaction. It wasn’t a sea of books or a big library, and I wasn’t expecting it to be like that since I already saw photos, and still I was a bit overwhelmed with how big the publishing industry was. There were so many booths to visit, granted that they weren’t all fiction or my type but they were still books and I love the physicality and smell of them.

Trying to go about this smartly, Gianne and I came up with a game plan. The original game plan was to actually introduce Milktea Fiction, a publishing thing that Gianne and I came up with (milkteafiction.wordpress.com) while being our bookworm-selves. But, since I failed to print out le cards, we just decided to enjoy the fair and buy books.

In the morning, we planned to go around, take note of the stuff we want and then eat lunch to rationalize our would-be decisions. Then, in the afternoon, we’d splurge. Easy enough.

The morning was, well, overwhelming. Half of my mind was floating, reeling at the experience, while the other half was just so energized and excited that my body couldn’t keep up. With a mix of both, I was like a caffeinated zombie that my body, at times, was hesitating to function (haha).

Like I said earlier, it wasn’t all a sea of fiction books (which was the kind of books that first comes to my mind at the mention of a book) but it was really interesting to get a feel of the publishing scene in the Philippines. We’re a mix of educational, religious, mainstream and indie publishing. Romance was there, self-help too and some were even very cultural and with a distinct feel of Filipino.

There were also all sorts of readers in the market, I realized and the whole book fair was just really a reflection of their (our) needs. The publishers there exist and thrive, no matter how different their books are, because there are people looking for their kind of content. (This is valueable market intel for me and Gianne since, you know, we’re aspiring to be published and taken seriously.)

One of the best parts was chatting up with people at the Indie Publishing booth. (I could be there all they, chummy-ing them up if only I wasn’t too potato.) Shoutout to Sir RR of Lira and Ms. Mina V. Esguerra of Romance Class. You guys showed me that stories can come from anywhere.

If anything, it made me feel like there’s a solid chance for my dream to be a legit writer. At least I know that this industry, though it’s not exactly as I hoped for, is alive and that people really do come from all sorts of places just to buy books and read.

Aside from that writer-ish epiphany, I also had an enlightening experience as a marketer. I work for Fiera de Manila, Inc. and we specialize in events. Since I already have a bit of a background on tradeshows and conventions, I also saw MIBF from an organizer’s perspective – the booths, the layout, the suppliers, the programs and everything. It was a nice feeling to be so familiar of things like that.

When afternoon came, Gianne and I were prepared to make bad decisions. (Read: We were totally screwed.) We both set ceiling spend amounts and listed the things we planned to buy.

Having reasons to spoil myself a.k.a. having September as my birth month, I allowed myself to go over-budget. (Read: I lost self-control.) I ended up with 10 books, though three of them were for free.

  1. How Sound Becomes A Name by Marc Gaba (Indie Publishing) – This was the first book I bought and it’s a collection of poems. I got it because I felt a connection to the title. It felt like this guy wrote through the senses just like me.
  2. LÁMANG edited by Edgar Calabia Samar (Indie Publishing) – I got this for free and I was like, aw. You could tell that they were not only for the sale but also for getting their content out there. That’s the heart of indie, folks.
  3. Aninaw edited by Ronaldo Carcamo (Indie Publishing) – Second free book! Are these people awesome or what? (They are people from LIRA and they write Filipino poems, which honestly, I’ve been hesitant to tackle before they gave me the idea.)
  4. Pag-aabang sa Kundiman: Isang Talambuhay by Edgar Calabia Samar (Indie Publishing) – The author was there when I bought this so I got it signed. Ugh, he seemed so cool and I wanted to ask for his card but I hesitated. I couldn’t tell him that I knew him because I didn’t… yet. Anyway, I’m looking forward to read his collection of Filipino poems (and to stalk him… este, know more about him online.)
  5. Rurok edited by Enrico Torralba (Indie Publishing) – It’s another Filipino poetry book for free!
  6. Paper Planes Back Home by Tara Frejas (Indie Publishing) – This one stood out from the Romance Class side of the booth. Other than being blue, I bought it because it didn’t feel like the usual contemporary books I used to buy. This one had a solid synopsis, almost poetic and I wanted to see how that fits into the whole publishing world. (Let’s see how I’ll fit in too.)
  7. The Looking-Glass Tree by Cycan Abad-Jugo (Anvil Publishing / National Bookstore) – Okay, shoutout to JC Galang because his illustration was the one that convinced me. It was so haunting and simple and the lines were beautiful. It felt so Filipino and mystical and I haven’t been promised that before. I’m really looking forward to this.
  8. The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (Fully Booked) – Anything with a blue cover, the word ‘magic’ and a distinctness to it could win me over. Gianne also told me that the author wrote with a kind of innocence and I wanted to feel that. (In the first place, I wanted to write like that too.)
  9. M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman (Fully Booked) – It’s obvious why I bought this. Plus, Neil Gaiman is awesome. I thank Gianne for speaking so highly of him that I was persuaded to read his works.

Just a quick segway before I list down the last book. The Fully Booked journey had been a battle. Gianne and I had to line up for 15-20 minutes in a crowd of energized sweaty booklovers (I understand the passion) before we got to the cashier. We only got two books because we didn’t understand the concept of how the sale worked. (Read: We thought the full price was already the discounted price.)

  1. Moving Onwards and Upwards (Adarna) – The cover was, you guessed it, blue and it had pretty typography and art alongside the story. This was a feel good buy, despite it going over budget.

In the end, I spent a lot, exhausted my feet and shared the same air with more people that I could imagine. But, I’m happy with my haul (they were mostly blue) and I loved the alive-ness I felt inside MIBF. The memory was the best part and I’ll keep that forever. (Thanks, Gi.)

Here’s more shoutouts to Tahanan, Rex Bookstore, Summit Media and the Filipino-feeling booths got to visit at MIBF! Thank you also to the organizers for doing this every year. I’ll be back for the 38th.

(The lesson was this: keep the dream alive. You’ll get there.)

Tagaytay: Seventeen on the 17th

To celebrate my sister’s birthday, my family went to Tagaytay for Mass. It was the perfect excuse for a road trip and a perfect excuse to indulge with the view of Taal Lake.

Initially we were going to go to Our Lady of Lourdes’ Church where my dad stayed for a while during his seminarian days, but the traffic congestion didn’t allow us. Instead we visited the Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church that we went to, a few years back.

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Ina ng Laging Saklolo Church in Tagaytay

After hearing Mass, we went to Nuvali to window shop. Luckily for us, we encountered a setup for the Sikhayan festival and we got to see some native products and artworks. I didn’t get to take many pictures of the event center except for these:

Then after that, we had our photo shoot at Starbucks before heading to check out more stores.

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Next on the cover of Times magazine

There was one vintage store that pulled me in. Everything was either an owl, porcelain or something I couldn’t explain. It was like Narnia magic or something like that. And thanks to that beautiful experience, I got lost. Or to put it more precisely, my family lost me.

Instead of panicking, I let myself get lost. I wandered around.

But, before I knew it, I already went around the whole place twice. I even got back to the car twice and they still weren’t there. These pictures are proof of my boredom:

They found me after my third return to the car and apparently, they did some real shopping. But they didn’t shop for me because I wasn’t there. 😦 So I ventured for milk tea with the birthday girl and that was the most perfect thing.

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Birthday girl and milk tea!