The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival 2016

Last Friday, I attended the Philippine Readers and Writers Festival, hosted by Raffles Makati and National Book Store. It was my first time, so I didn’t have any expectations except to be inspired from the local and foreign writers who were going to speak.

I attended the festival’s first day, and I missed the first talk I wanted to hear because I was late. I missed Leloy Claudio’s Teaching History and Current Events to Millennials, an important talk given how misinformation is prevalent in social media these days. I managed to catch the latter part of Pam Pastor, Mae Paner, and Noreen Capili’s Untold Stories Inside: Writing About What You Love and Sharing it to the World, where Paner told us that we should write all the time, and to write things down because we are “write-rs” and not “remember-ers.”

I met my ex-officemates from TeamAsia (I had my last day the day before), and we had a late lunch, so Merlee Jayme’s Everyone Can Be Creative was brimming with people by the time we arrived. I was sad because I wanted to hear the story of an ex-convent girl turned chief creative officer at a communications agency, but I also felt happy knowing a lot of people turned up. Instead, we attended Carla Pacis, Cyan Abad-Jugo, and Sophia Lee’s Teaching Young Adult Literature, where Lee mentioned how characters should be flawed and multi-dimensional, instead of fitting tired stereotypes (i.e. protagonists are pretty and villains are ugly).

The next talk we attended was a panel hosted by CNN Philippines Life, called The We and the I: Stories Beyond the Page. The website invited photographer Shaira Luna, illustrator Dan Matutina, designer Mark Higgins, director Jade Castro, and furniture designer Ito Kish to talk about stories that don’t necessarily use the written word. Sadly, I had to do a French exit because I had to interview Anna Todd and Paula McLain, two of the authors National Book Store flew in to do signings. I did get a thought-provoking tote bag from CNN Life, though!

Readers and Writers

I met Todd at Writers Bar, where we talked about her After series of books. She’s an inspiring figure because she started publishing her story as a One Direction fan fiction on Wattpad. One billion reads later and there’s a bidding war between publishing houses and four follow ups. After tells the story of Tessa Young, an optimistic college freshman who falls in love with a troubled guy.

I then met McLain at Long Bar to discuss Circling the Sun, a reimagining of the love triangle between “Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator, safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton, and Karen Blixen, author of the classic memoir Out of Africa.” McLain is a soft-spoken lady and I believe we made a deep connection as we talked about the power of imagination and how to harness it even if you lead an ordinary life.

After having my books signed, I rushed back upstairs to catch The Great Homo Huddle Queries on Queer Pinoy Publishing, Post-Orlando and Post-Geraldine, hosted by the wonderful Team magazine. Editor-in-chief Paolo Lorenzana (who celebrated his birthday!) was joined by poets Wanggo Gallaga and Lakan Umali, author Loreen Ordoño, and singer B.P. Valenzuela to talk about how important it is to have a strong queer voice in local media.

Looking back, I realize that I was not able to complete a single talk, but I am happy to have attended because it awakened my inner writer, the one that hungers to tell a good story that does not necessarily relate to public relations.

One of the festival’s speakers is AA Patawaran, who wrote the inspiring book Write Here Write Now. It is one of my favorite books about writing because it is written so eloquently, so stylishly. In one of my favorite chapters, he said, “Experience is food for the heart and so they say a writer has to open himself up to the whole gamut of human emotions, from deep sorrow to boundless joy, from nagging doubt to unwavering certainty, from murderous passion to killing ennui.” Now that I have more free time to pursue my passions, I am excited to see, not just look at, what the world has to offer.

Riding in Cars With Boys By Beverly Donofrio

Riding in Cars With Boys Beverly Donofrio

 

I’ve read my fair share of coming-of-age books, but few have captured my attention the way Beverly Donofrio’s Riding in Cars With Boys did. It’s the “confessions of a bad girl who makes good,” and the book made me cheer for Beverly as she dealt with being a teenage mother in the 60’s. It’s an honest look at growing up, and it’s inspiring because Beverly is a young mother who thought all hope was lost.

Riding in Cars With Boys is an autobiography of Donofrio, a noted memoirist, children’s books author, teacher, and essayist. Her list of accomplishments is admirable, but her family background is humble, painted vividly by Donofrio in the memoir. She grew up in a patriarchal Italian household, but her sassy nature got her into a lot of trouble, including getting pregnant in high school. Stuck with a deadbeat husband and no future in sight (her parents couldn’t afford college), Beverly is forced to mature while dealing with the challenges of raising a child.

It took a while for me to appreciate this book, but I’m glad I finished it. Beverly’s story is inspiring, and it’s special because it’s the story of millions of people, who have to deal with idle spouses and the temptation of drugs, men, and good times. You feel like all hope is lost, but Beverly gathers enough courage to face the odds against her. It’s a well-written piece that illustrates triumph through hard work. The timeline spans from Beverly’s childhood to her son’s last summer before college, and when you finish the book, you realize that it’s not just her son who grows up, but Beverly as well.

Celebrate: The Art of the Special Occasion by Lucia Van Der Post

Celebrate Lucia van der Post

 

I love hosting parties, so my friend Nikko gave me a copy of Lucia van der Post’s Celebrate: The Art of the Special Occasion. The South African author, columnist, and socialite writes about how to throw different parties, from Christmas parties to birthdays, anniversaries, christenings, and even funerals and memorial services. Van der Post also recounts the best parties she’s been to, giving readers tons of ideas and inspiration when throwing their own get-togethers.

It’s hard to read this book if you’re outside the UK because most of her tips only apply to London. Plenty of times van der Post recommends restaurants, caterers, items, and businesses in London to add a magical touch to any proceeding, but if you’re resourceful enough, you can find (or make) your own version here in the Philippines. As a novice host, some of the ideas are way over my head (like serving champagne and foie gras), but I still picked up a few ideas here and there. After reading about picnics, I threw a small picnic with my man for our 10th month together at Ayala Triangle in Makati, complete with a red checkered blanket. I’ll write about it soon.

Even if a lot of the recommendations are exclusively based in London (and if her sample parties are of the posh kind, like renting a castle for the weekend or going on safari), van der Post stresses that good parties are not always about money and the finer things in life. Some of the most spectacular parties are the simplest ones, where you have a bowl of pasta, a pizza, and some bottles of beer. For me (and I’m glad the author agrees), the true measure of a successful party is the number of laughs, stories, and connections shared. And it’s a kind that you can get anywhere, even outside London.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay Suzanne Collins

 

Mockingjay is Suzanne Collins’ finale to The Hunger Games Trilogy, the series that follows Katniss Everdeen, a 17 year old girl who unwittingly starts a revolution when she becomes a tribute the annual Hunger Games, a televised fight-to-the-death competition between 24 children from 12 districts. As expected, Mockingjay is the darkest of the three, but this sweeping finale ends the trilogy not with a bang, but with a gentle kiss to the night. And it was extremely satisfying.

In Mockingjay, the repressed districts wage full-on war with the Capitol. But not all districts are united, and Katniss must become the Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion, to bring together all 12 districts and take down the central government. But Katniss realizes that she is merely a pawn in the proceedings, and she may not agree with the cause.

If The Hunger Games was all about introducing the concept (and the love triangle of Katniss-Peeta-Gale), and Catching Fire was about the spark of the revolution, Mockingjay is the revolt. It has the same violent feel of the previous two books, but this one is more mature and political. But what I admire about this book, and the trilogy in general, is how simply it was written. It’s a heavy read in restrained packaging, making it easier to focus on the story and the action. Having the series seen from Katniss’s perspective also makes the experience more immersive.

I watched all the films from the series, and the last installment (Mockingjay Part 1) left me hanging. The last of the film series will come out this November, and I wonder how Francis Lawrence will translate the last few chapters on screen. I also wonder what I’ll do after the last film. Maybe I’ll do what I did after the Harry Potter series ended: wait for the next good franchise.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire Suzanne Collins

Because I watched the Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 film adaptations without reading the books, I decided to go back to the start and read The Hunger Games. And while The Hunger Games is light and lovey-dovey (in spite of pitting 24 children against each other in a fight to the death), Catching Fire takes on a darker tone that becomes the spark to a revolution.

As Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark emerge as victors in the 74th Hunger Games, an annual and televised fight in a controlled arena, those living in the oppressed districts take Katniss’s final actions in the arena as a sign of defiance, even if she had other motives. Katniss unwittingly becomes the face of a simmering rebellion she can’t control. To silence her, the Capitol holds something special treat during the 75th Hunger Games. She’s going back in the arena.

The political subtext I mentioned in my “review” of The Hunger Games gets even stronger in Catching Fire. Here, the call to revolt is heavier. But what I do like about The Hunger Games trilogy is that it doesn’t paint Katniss as a hero. She is reluctant and takes the role of Mockingjay (the symbol of the rebellion) with her own agenda. After all, she is a 17 year old girl.

It’s hard to write a “review” of Catching Fire when I’ve already finished Mockingjay, but the second book serves as an excellent transition to the climax of the trilogy. I already can’t wait for the final installment of the film series. I wonder if I’ll cry the way I did in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Rogue December 2014

Rogue December 2014

 

Before you officially start 2015, I recommend you start it with Megan Young, Miss World 2013, who appears on the cover of Rogue‘s December issue. The issue is a love letter to Philippine TV, with in-depth articles on Judy Santos, the rise and fall of Claudine Barretto, the hit show Goin’ Bananas, and an oral history of Ang TV with Guila Alvarez, Antoinette Taus, Angelu de Leon, Baron Geisler, Jan Marini Alano, Jolina Magdangal, Tom Taus, Nikka Valencia, Winnie Cordero, and Joy Viado.

There’s also an insightful essay on the death of Filipino sitcoms by Jose Javier Reyes, a winding ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ featuring German Moreno, and an interview with Tony Tuviera on Eat Bulaga!

And of course, Megan headlines the entire issue, slaying the editorial with her dusky beauty and lithe frame. I was there during the cover shoot and spent the afternoon with her and director Adolfo Alix, Jr., who interviewed her on her year so far. I love how she’s so down-to-earth and committed to her crown, which encourages beauty with a purpose.

I also wrote about the ideal home theater system somewhere in the pages. There are tons of great features, but I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games

 

I remember reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games before the film adaptation came out, but for some reason, I never got around to reading the sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Odd, because I really enjoyed the book the first time I read it. I even remember falling in love with Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from District 12 who is as sweet as the breads he bakes. This was before my man and I got together, so I was falling in love with random people, including fictional characters. But if you’ve read the book, you’d know exactly how adorable Peeta is.

Even if I haven’t read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I went to see both films (blasphemy!) and loved it. Which brings me to the question: why have I not completed the series?

So before the second installment of Mockingjay premieres, I decided to read the books. And since The Hunger Games came out two years ago and the last installment of the film series will come out next November, I started from the beginning.

If you’ve been living under a rock and have missed what is probably the biggest book and film series since Harry Potter, The Hunger Games trilogy is about Panem, a post-apocalyptic North America where 12 districts, each specializing in a certain kind of trade, is controlled by the central government known as the Capitol. Each year, the Capitol holds the Hunger Games, a televised fight-to-the-death competition between 24 tributes (two per district). The Hunger Games are a punishment for the districts, who once revolted against the Capitol. For the 74th Hunger Games, the tributes are Katniss Everdeen, a young hunter, and Peeta Mellark, the son of a well-to-do baker.

The books are tagged as YA, but The Hunger Games is incredibly morbid. When you put things in perspective, these are 12-18 year old kids locked in a controlled arena, with weapons like bows and arrows, axes, maces, and knives to kill each other. They also have to contend with the arena, which is rigged with various traps and weather conditions. These are televised in the whole of Panem, where those from the Capitol cheer and bet on the tributes, while those back home watch their friends or relatives get slaughtered.

Even before reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay, you can catch a whiff of the political subtext that permeates throughout the trilogy. An oppressive government, unhappy constituents who are forced to kill each other to the entertainment of the rich, and the chance at revolution. The Hunger Games on its own is entertaining, but to fully appreciate the message of the trilogy, which is the power of revolution, you have to read the whole series. I’m already reading Mockingjay and trust me… watching the films is not enough.

IKEA 2015 Catalog

IKEA

 

I first heard about IKEA’s catalog when a video went viral of a Swedish man showing off his new gadget: the IKEA bookbook. According to chief design guru Jorgen Eghammer, “Once in a while, something comes along that changes the way we live. A device so simple and intuitive, using it feels almost familiar.” It was meant as a parody of everyone’s obsession with tablets, and as someone who is averse to technology, I thought it was hilarious.

 

 

I was excited to get a copy because my man and I were flying to Hong Kong for a few days, and there was an IKEA there. I make it a point to visit an IKEA because I love their showrooms, the distinctively Scandinavian design, and of course, the price points. On my solo trip to Hong last year, I got two bags of potpourri and floral-print paper napkins.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have the free catalog in Hong Kong. They only had a buying guide which you had to return at the counter.

But my man being the sweetheart that he is, he ordered a copy online and got it for me on our seventh month together (I got him a blow dryer because he always blow dries his hair whenever there’s one around). Shipping took longer than expected, so he only got it right around the time we were marking our eight month, where he got me a copy of Wallpaper City Guide: Manila. I gave him an origami otter, his favorite animal.

 

IKEA 2

 

So the catalog is IKEA’s lookbook of their 2015 collection. It’s divided into rooms, with styled looks (similar to what they do in their showrooms) and individual items at the end.

It’s so beautiful. You have to admire IKEA for their ability to create pieces that marry both form and function. Scandinavian design is known for its simplicity and functionalism, but IKEA adds that special fun touch while keeping in mind the living space. I bet IKEA is popular in Hong Kong because space there is at a premium (as of 2012, Causeway Bay has the most expensive rent in the world, overtaking New York City).

Pieces are affordable because designers usually start with a price point and design around that. They deliver the furniture in flat packs for you to assemble yourself, lowering the price even further. They are also environmentally conscious and sustainable, making each purchase guilt-free.

 

The rocks I sourced from a trip to Puerto Galera
The rocks I sourced from a trip to Puerto Galera

 

From the top view
From the top view

 

The tin pail came separately
The tin pail came separately

 

On my trip to Hong Kong this year with my man, I bought a clip-on reading light (which I have yet to install because I need to add a shelf first over my desk), a glass bottle, four white roses, a tin pail, and a fake shrub. I love the idea of putting greens in my room because it makes it look alive. For those who are too lazy to maintain actual plants (or do not have access to regular sunlight), I advise you get the synthetic kind. But make sure you get the ones that look halfway real, because there’s nothing sadder than obviously fake plants.

I plan to redecorate my room little by little in the coming weeks, and I have a small guide with me for inspiration. The catalog is free in (some) branches, but you can also view a digital version using the IKEA app.