Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bestseller

I never thought I'd ever find my books on any of these lists. A good surprise. Thank you, readers!
For more information about Wounded Little Gods, click here.

Read the first two chapters here.

A photo posted by Eliza Victoria (@elizawriteshere) on

A photo posted by Eliza Victoria (@elizawriteshere) on

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

37th Manila International Book Fair

Photo from MIBF Official Facebook page
The recently concluded Manila International Book Fair, the longest-running book fair in the country, celebrated its 37th year. Which means the first book fair was held in 1979. Can you imagine? The MIBF feels as if it has always been there (like the universe) and only now did I stop to think and wonder about its roots. (And admire the fact that it's actually older than me.)

I grew up in the province before social media (and I was a very late entrant to the blogging game) so I only heard about the MIBF when I was in college.

How did it all start?

Here's the origin story from a 2013 Inquirer article (emphases mine):

The MIBF traces its roots to the old Philcite grounds in 1980, then known as Bookfair Manila, a month-long, was an in-door exhibit featuring exhibitors from all over the world. Back then there were few local publishers. Bookfair Manila was a joint effort of the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) and Philcite
“It was the early days of the exhibitions industry in the Philippines,” reveals Irene Lloren, president of Primetrade Asia, organizer of the MIBF. “Philcite was the only exhibition venue, and it was difficult to get people to go there, so events usually took the entire month.” 
Back then, reports Lloren, it was all pretty straightforward – books were put on display, and it was all about selling. “People would come in trickles, and the exhibitors would jostle to catch their attention. And at the time, exchange rate was only about P7-8 to the dollar; the generated sales for one whole of month of selling was a grand P5000!” 
In 1986, as the book fair grew in exhibitors, Philcite built on special events to draw more visitors. “We wanted activities to go hand in hand with book selling: story telling, writing workshops, book launches, and author signings – Og Mandino even came to town!” Lloren notes. 
As the local book industry flourished, and the annual book fair gained a regular following, it moved to bigger venues to accommodate both the exhibition and the crowd: the Philippine Trade Training Center in 1990; the Megatrade Hall in 1993; and World Trade Center in 2004-2007; and finally, SMX Convention Center in 2008. The event was officially named the Manila International Book Fair in 2003 because all bookfairs around the world are named after the city where it is held.
Read more here.

Below is a photo of the Philcite Pavilions.

Photo from Retrato
Photo from Inquirer Lifestyle
However, the term "Manila International Book Fair" already appeared in this 1980 Letter of Instruction signed by then President Marcos.
The CCMD [Center for Conference Model Development] to attend to all work necessary to accomplish the objectives set forth in this Conference Model especially the activities of the International Association of Universities-Philippine Organizing Committee (IAU-POC) on the holding of the Administrative Board Meetings, the Seventh General Conference, both of the IAU, and the Manila International Book Fair in August 1980 which is hereby declared “Book and Educational Technology Month”.
Read more here. The CCMD was transferred to the Development Academy of the Philippines in 1985.

Thirty-seven years later, and here we are:

MIBF2016

Click here to see the full list of exhibitors. According to Nida Ramirez, Publishing Manager of Visprint, we ran out of booths to rent, so hopefully next year Visprint will have its own booth.

MIBF2016

MIBF2016

MIBF2016

MIBF2016

MIBF2016 

Thank you to everyone who dropped by the Meganon/Visprint booth, to Tepai Pascual and the Meganon team, to Ms. Nida and the rest of the Visprint family. I've said this before, but: It's always heartwarming to hear people say that my words meant something to them.

My book haul this year was very small because the Sunday crowd was insane. I couldn't even roam around our own booth! (Which was great news for book sellers and authors, of course.) I hear the best time to go is on its opening day, a Monday. I should try going on a weekday next year.

Till next time.
  • Instructions on How to Disappear by Gabriela Lee (Visprint)
  • Lait Chronicles by John Jack Wrigley (Visprint)
  • Makinilyang Altar by Luna Sicat-Cleto (UP Press) - This volume was translated to English by Marne Kilates as Typewriter Altar, but I'd rather read the novel in the language it was originally written.
  MIBF2016

PS

Me at the MIBF:

What's your name?
*listens*
*name sounds familiar*
*1,2,3*
*realizes person is FB/Twitter/Instagram friend*
OH I KNOW YOU

Sorry about that!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Filipina Elsewhere: Crystal Koo

Read the series introduction.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bea Pantoja.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bianca Consunji.

Crystal Koo is the very same Crystal I've mentioned in my posts about my recent trip to Hong Kong (which you can read here). I first met her in one of the Philippine Speculative Fiction launches. Her short stories have been published widely. She teaches at university and plays jazz and blues on the guitar. Here she talks briefly about gaining perspective after leaving home.

Take it away, Crystal.
I added emphases (boldface type, italics), links, and photos throughout the text.

Name: Crystal Koo
Current Location: Hong Kong
Website: http://cgskoo.wordpress.com
Age: 31

What was your job back in the Philippines?
I didn't have one, I left after my undergraduate degree.

What are you doing now?
I'm a university lecturer in Hong Kong.

Where/what did you study?
B.A. English Studies in the University of the Philippines.
M.A. Creative Writing in the University of New South Wales.

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?
For the experience. And expanding my credentials and income.

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?
Getting along with people is easy but finding your place in a new culture takes some time.

And what was the best thing that happened to you?
Finding myself. Apparently this is a thing that does happen. Perspective FTW.

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:
    the best place to eat?
Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I'll go with Mui Kee Cookfood Stall this time just for the name. Food's pretty good too.

Photo from openrice.com
They serve beer in ceramic bowls. Cute!
Photo from opensnap.com.

    the best place to visit? 
This is so difficult. I want to say my apartment. Or maybe the band room that we rent in Mongkok.

Photo from musicblazt.com

    the best thing to do? 
Make friends, connect with people. It's a big city.

Would you consider returning to the Philippines? Why? 
It's hard to say. At this point I'm pretty happy to be abroad. But maybe in the future when I'm getting a little long in the tooth and wanting some comfort and familiarity back?

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:
Make the most of it. Get to know the culture. Love the opportunities that come your way. And don't get arrested.


Thank you, Crystal!




Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Filipina Elsewhere: Bianca Consunji

Read the series introduction.
Read Filipina Elsewhere: Bea Pantoja.


I know Bianca from our college days as Journalism majors at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. (Wow, I make it sound like it's so long ago.) (It kind of is?) Here she talks about the "humbling" experience of being an NYC intern in her late 20s, being lectured by an editor for correcting copy, ending a long-term relationship, and finally fitting in.

Without further adieu--
(Just kidding, Bianca.)
I added emphases (boldface type, italics), links, and photos throughout the text.

Name: Bianca Consunji
Current Location: New York City
Age: 31

What was your job back in the Philippines?
I was a magazine editor and lifestyle writer for a major broadsheet.

What are you doing now?
I currently work at Bustle, a women's website, as Director of Video. Prior to that, I was a video producer at Mashable.

Where/what did you study?
I got my master's degree at the Columbia Journalism School and specialized in documentary filmmaking/longform journalism.

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?
E.B. White wrote, "There is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last -- the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company."

It was a New York-or-bust situation, mostly because I don't drive (and therefore couldn't live in most of the other states), but also because New York seemed like a place for dreamers. You don't get out of a big city like Manila to move to small town America. I was restless working in the magazine/newspaper industry and didn't know how I could possibly reset my career. I was unhappy all the time, and constantly yearned to leave the country. I did a couple of international courses here and there, a few months in Germany, a conference in Vienna. Small things. Then one of my instructors in Berlin told me that if I wanted to make a real difference in my career, I should study abroad. I looked up journalism schools and Columbia came up at the top. I applied to school, got a scholarship, learned video production, got an internship that turned into a job, got another job.

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?
Moving to a place where nobody knows you or anything you've done was both a blessing and a curse. No one cared if I wrote for a national newspaper in the Philippines, or had several years of experience. I was an intern at 28 years old, and that was extremely humbling. My first boss was two years younger than me. One time, I spotted an error in the copy and let the editor know so she could change it. The story said something like "without further adieu" when the writer clearly meant "without further ado," but instead of making the changes, the copy editor gave me a two-minute lecture on what the phrase meant. I knew what it meant, but I think there was something about getting edits from a foreign intern that didn't sit well with her. People are also constantly surprised that I could pretty write well to a degree, partly because I'm from another country, and partly because I'm a video producer by profession. Sometimes I want to yell: English was my first language! I was a writer long before I even touched video! But then I just accept that it's part of shedding my old identity.

And what was the best thing that happened to you?
When I first moved to New York, it was with the understanding that it was going to be a temporary situation. I was in a long-term relationship, and as with any long-term relationships, we had kind of planned on getting married, starting a life together, etc. Going to NYC was just a stop on a pre-planned route to stability. Of course I was devastated when we broke up, but it also felt like the skies opened and the possibilities were limitless -- I didn't have to return to a life that increasingly felt out of sync with my own dreams.

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:
The best place to eat? Smorgasburg, the weekend food market in Williamsburg. It's super packed, but you can get a good selection of food without breaking the bank. Some of the stalls have gone on to brick-and-mortar shops because they got a very dedicated following from Smorgasburg. I can't recommend a particular restaurant because there are too many good ones.


Smorgasburg
Photo from here.


Photo from here.


The best place to visit? On a warm weekend, taking a picnic basket, a (hidden) bottle of wine and a frisbee to Central Park or Prospect Park is a good way to see the locals.

The best thing to do? Take in a show, whether it's a big Broadway musical, a performance at New York City Ballet, immersive theater like Sleep No More, or a jazz band at a dive bar.


Sleep No More
Photo from here.


Would you consider returning to the Philippines? Why? 
Not anytime soon, and for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the media industry in the Philippines has a lot of catching up to do, particularly for online video. If I want to get any better at my job, I'll have to stay here in the meantime.

More importantly, for a lot of my adult life, I didn't feel like I really fit in, whether it was as a college student or a glossy magazine editor. That changed when I found friends who were funny, ambitious, hardworking, dorky, and above all, frank about what they wanted from life (and their friends). I think that many people whom I grew up with had a hard time saying what they really meant, and it was exhausting to constantly try to figure out what people wanted from me.

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:

Hustle and leave your ego at the door.


Thank you, Bianca!




Saturday, September 3, 2016

Filipina Elsewhere: Bea Pantoja

Read the series introduction.


You may know Bea from the gorgeous The Dalaga Project. Here she talks about uncertainty, London winters, food markets, and writing about a Filipina secret agent.

Take it away, Bea.
I added emphases (boldface type, italics), links, and photos throughout the text.



Name: Bea Pantoja
Current Location: London
Website: http://www.bea-pantoja.com
Age: 28

What was your job back in the Philippines? 
I was a digital editor/freelance writer, mostly in beauty/lifestyle.

What are you doing now?
I'm writing a biography about Magdalena Leones.

Magdalena Leones.
Photo from here.
She was a Filipina secret agent who carried funds, crucial supplies, and intelligence through dangerous enemy territory in Northern Luzon during World War II. She was only one of five women, and the only Asian, to receive the Silver Star (the US Army's third-highest military decoration for valor) for World War II.

Her story fascinates me because she grew up and fought in a crucial period of Philippine history, when notions of nationalism and cultural identity were being put to the ultimate test. As a Filipina who mostly grew up abroad, I feel like her story is connecting me to the history I never knew--and, perhaps, the history that many Filipinos were never taught. For example, everyone knows MacArthur promised to return, but without agents like Magdalena Leones risking their lives to establish a connection to the outside world, he would have never been able to fulfill it.

Where/what did you study?
I'm still a graduate student at City University London, studying Creative Nonfiction Writing. The course gives students the opportunity to work on a novel-length work of creative nonfiction, which for the purposes of the course serves as an umbrella term for different genres. Aside from biography, other classmates are working on memoirs, investigative journalism, travel writing, and historical nonfiction.

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?
I was very lucky in that my parents could still sponsor my education, and over the years I realized I really wanted to focus on writing. City University offers 2-year MA writing courses (most universities only do 1-year MAs), and my boyfriend lives and works in London, so studying in London made the most sense to be able to follow my *~dreams~* and my *~heart~* at the same time.

Besides, I was in personal and professional limbo at the time, so returning to a more structured environment helped pull me out of that. It's certainly a privilege, one I feel both relieved and guilty to have, to be able to say, 'Hey, I want to put writing first, and I want to do it in one of the most amazing cities in the world.' But you certainly don't need to do it to write!

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?
In my experience, uncertainty was and continues to be a huge part of it. It's no secret that a lot of that is tied to immigration status.

So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow visa issues, work restrictions for international students, how long you can stay after graduation, finding a job after graduation, finding a job as a student, etc. Especially as the UK's policies are always changing.

That's why I think at least before studying abroad, especially in the UK, you should have a clear sense in your mind of why you are studying abroad. Are you hoping to get work experience abroad? When (*whispers* or if) do you plan on coming home? Because, as a Filipino, unless you are in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines or medicine/nursing, the odds are stacked against you being able to find work after graduation. It's fine if all you have to worry about is yourself, but when family and partners are affected, it makes forward planning a little more stressful.

Oh, and winter. London winters aren't as grim as Scotland and Northern England, nor as violent as winter in parts of North America, but the continuous dreariness and early sunsets (3:45PM in the heart of winter) can really be tough to bear. On the bright side, you feel less guilty for staying in so you can catch up on writing! And you learn to appreciate the warm days; there's an almost collective exhilaration when the days lengthen and the trees bloom green again.

And what was the best thing that happened to you?
Honestly, I think stumbling across Magdalena Leones' story has been the best thing that's happened to me. Before I knew about her story, I was struggling for topics. I was convinced I was going to write about jelly. "Like jam?" my friends asked. "No, like jell-o. The wobbly stuff." "What about jelly?" "You know, just like why it's there and stuff." My tutor said I was "absolutely mad." Let's just say my state of mind at the time left something to be desired.

But 2016 was certainly the year of Realizing Stuff (thanks Kylie Jenner!). Researching Magdalena's life has given me focus and purpose and direction in a life of uncertainties. Her story challenges me as a writer, because nonfiction is an interpretation of reality, but I write to escape reality. Of course, there are still nights I lie awake thinking, "This is crazy. What am I doing?" Then I'll grudgingly realize that without this work, I'd be even more adrift.

Oh, visiting Europe for the first time is up there. I've done short trips to Spain, Italy, and Prague and each has been more amazing than the last. I hope one day I can do extended trips, but the great thing about being in London is the convenience of visiting Europe over the weekend. Well, for now. We'll see how Brexit changes things.

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:
    the best place to eat? 
I love food markets! There's one for every occasion. Of course you have the bigger ones like Borough Market and Camden Market (open on weekdays), Broadway Market in London Fields or Maltby St. Market on Saturdays. Shoreditch and Hackney usually have seasonal hipster street food markets with bars. And of course, the Christmas markets around the city are bursting with roasting meat, warm cider, and mulled wine. I would say just look up what food markets are open at the time of your visit, though the first three mentioned are regular fixtures.

Broadway Market.
Photo from here.

I don't eat out enough to recommend many restaurants but Dishoom is pretty good, and has the best chai I've ever tasted (it's spiced and full and rich without any saccharine sweetness). Oh! And for afternoon tea--if you have the budget, definitely book an afternoon tea at Sketch London--it's an experience. For something more budget-friendly, the tea at Original Maids of Honour at Kew Gardens includes a Maid of Honour tart, a Tudor pastry that was allegedly one of King Henry VIII's favorites--like, he stole the recipe and locked it up or something. Worth the trip. Plus, you can walk off all the starch at the Royal Botanic Gardens!

Sketch London's Afternoon Tea set.
Photo from here.


High tea set from Original Maids of Honour.
The Maid of Honour tarts are in the foreground, next to the cuppa. (They kind of look like egg tarts no?)
Photo from here.


    the best place to visit?
If you're prepared to walk, I would do as much of Central London as I can in a day by walking along the Thames on the South Bank, starting in Westminster and moving east. You'll see a lot: Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben; the London Eye (though I'd pass on riding it); Southbank Centre, Tate Modern (sit at the coffee bar on the top floor and have a coffee overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral, and Millenium Bridge), Shakespeare's Globe. Stop at Borough Market near London Bridge for lunch, then keep walking until Tower Bridge. Then you can cross Tower Bridge to see the Tower of London. Then, if you still have time/energy, head into the City of London, where St. Paul's, the Bank of England, and office buildings named after kitchen appliances and penises await.

The Coca-Cola London Eye.
Photo from VisitLondon.com 

    the best thing to do?
Honestly though, the best thing to do is explore London by foot, if you can (London is also a very accessible city). Walk whenever you can, and wherever you can. You'll find yourself stumbling into a hidden mews lined with stone houses, light spilling onto flowerpots crowded on a Juliet balcony. Or you'll find a stretch of quiets green around a church, seconds away from a busy street, that may or may not have a small graveyard too, if that's your thing. Walk Regent's Canal west towards Camden and Regent's Park, or walk it east towards Hackney and Victoria Park. Walk down the South Bank. And no matter what, don't forget to stop at a proper pub. All the better if it has food!

Will you return to the Philippines? Or will you stay abroad? Why? 
I'm going back to the Philippines for an extended research trip early next year: hoping to meet some of Magdalena Leones' family, visit the places she lived and traveled, and also visit other important WWII sites. Then back in London to finish the course. But in the long run, I'd love to be one of those authors whose bios end with a line like, "She divides her time between England and the Philippines." I miss my family too much to not include the Philippines in some way in my long-term plans. But then again, uncertainty is the biggest challenge. We'll just have to see after my course is over!

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:
Try to set some expectations of what you hope to get out of the experience before you apply, but leave yourself some room for change. Definitely set some goals before you go of what you want to accomplish by the end of your course. Do you want to gain experience that will help you get a better job in the Philippines? Or pursue further employment/education where you're going? If it's a creative degree, do you want to build your network? Finish a project? Find funding? Why this course?

Knowing these before you apply for a course can help; for example, if you want to go to the UK and know you want to come back right after, you might be eligible for the Chevening scholarship. But if you're trying to get a job after your course, you may have to start hustling months before your classmates, because it's just that much harder when you're an international student.

Talk to the university about what resources they have for international students--if a school doesn't have a dedicated department proportionate to its IS population, that might be a warning sign. Talk to other international students about their experiences, especially at the schools you're looking that.

But on the flipside, if you decide to pursue it, embrace the new experiences! Explore your city/place as best as you can. Respect that cultures may be different, but try not to 'hide' your Filipino-ness just to fit in (though, perhaps hypocritically, I've still not found the courage to fry bangus in my apartment huhu).

As an international student you are always saying hello and goodbye; find some constants in your life, whether these are people or hobbies or habits, that ground you.

And, most importantly, before you pay for something, always check for a student discount.



Thank you, Bea!
(I asked each interviewee to send me a fun/wacky photo. I think this is the very picture of fun/wacky. Haha!)





The Filipina Elsewhere Series

I wanted this space to go beyond the personal, so for the next few weeks (perhaps with the personal posts thrown in between?) I will be posting a series of interviews I'm calling Filipina Elsewhere.

What is Filipina Elsewhere?

Filipina Elsewhere is a series of email interviews I conducted two weeks ago with young Filipina women who are currently living abroad. Some of them I've known for years. Some of them I've met in person once but with whom I've communicated regularly on social media.

They got to where they are through various means: Some of them saved up money, or got scholarships to be able to work and/or study abroad. Some come from a place of privilege (and are distinctly aware of it). Some of them felt lost in Manila and found meaning somewhere else. Some of them, after traveling halfway around the globe, are still looking for meaning now.

I asked them the same set of questions:

What was your job back in the Philippines?

What are you doing now?

Where/what did you study?

Why did you decide to study/work abroad?

What was your biggest challenge when you went abroad?

And what was the best thing that happened to you?

If I were to go fly to where you are, what would you say is:
    the best place to eat?
    the best place to visit?
    the best thing to do?

Will you return to the Philippines? Or will you stay abroad? Why? 

Your #1 tip to those thinking of studying/working outside the Philippines:

Their answers that I will post here will at most be lightly edited, with links and/or photos added.

Why this series?

I have several reasons:

  1. I want to check up on my friends.
  2. I've thought about studying abroad--and I got stuck with just thinking about it. Especially when I saw the forms and the fees and the requirements. I want to hear from ladies who actually got up and did what they had to do.
  3. It's already hard living as a young woman with big ambitions, and I want to know how they handled the challenges, alongside the challenges of uprooting themselves. 
  4. I'm curious.
  5. And I think you'd be interested.

One of the surprising responses I got from this was: Thank you. I needed that. We all have that one story we want to tell, and sometimes telling it is enough to get us through the days.

I would like to thank each of them for their time and generosity.

Lastly

Don't mistake this as a call for Filipinas to leave, or a judgment on those who decided to stay, or fly away. This is just a series of stories, and I love stories.

This, at the very least, is a call to live: to examine your life, to examine what you really want. The answers these ladies will be giving here is an approximation of that daily interrogation, that deep self-examination you need before you make a decision as big as leaving your home country.

PS
Also

I want to hear about other food places. These ladies have some great recommendations.


Shall we?