Aklatan 2013: The First All-Filipino Book Festival

Book fairs aren’t an unusual thing here in the Philippines, what with the Manila International Book Fair happening every year, and smaller reader and book cons organized by book enthusiasts all over the metro. Last September 7 was The Day for Filipino book lovers, Aklatan 2013.

What makes Aklatan notable is that it’s the first all-Filipino book fair in the country. Writers Ricky Lee and Eros Atalia said in a panel with Lourd de Veyra and Carlo Vergara said that they wanted to have a book event where local writers and their works were the stars. Ricky Lee felt that many local writers were often sidelined by foreign writers even in local events. Bookstores, while they carry Filipino titles, often lump them together as “Filipinana”, and making them more invisible to the public.

With Aklatan, Filipino writers, authors and publishers as well as their readers, are the stars.

I arrived just in time for the contemporary writer’s panel featuring the aforementioned writers. As expected, it was a laugh-trip talk but full of insights into these particular writers’ minds. In between the jokes and stories of Sir Ricky, Eros, Carlo and Lourd, were pieces of advice that were worth noting.

Depth vs. Variety
Ricky Lee is known to many Filipinos first and foremost as a screenwriter, and the books he had published were related to that field (“Trip to Quiapo” was an invaluable resource for me back in college). But to the younger generation, he is known as an author, a fact which he is pretty thankful for.

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Sir Ricky has also been holding writing workshops (mostly for screenplay) over the years. He noted that many of today’s youth have tons of ideas for a story, but not many are up to the task of going in-depth. Many are also content to experience things secondhand: through books, their laptops and social media. He notes that his is quite all right, but in order to put a better perspective or feeling into their work, he encourages them to go offline and experience life. Empathize, he said. Immerse yourself in the world around you and lessen the time in front of a computer.

He continues on to say that to be a writer, one must be ready to live the life of one. Many young writers these days have little patience, he says, and want instant gratification. It’s all hard work, and the journey and growth should be enjoyed.

On the other hand, Eros Atalia says that the beauty of not so being in-depth gives young writers freedom to play with concepts and ideas that mature writers may not have.

Carlo Vergara gives an age-old advice: Find your own voice. To paraphrase something he said in Filipino during the talk, you are the only one who can write about the stories that only you could tell. Learn, and have patience.

More writers talk
Other panels that were worth listening to were that of the Filipino Women Writers panel featuring Eliza Victoria, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Nikki Alfar and Mayette Bayuga. Bebang Siy wasn’t on the panel as earlier reported. Wait. Did I miss someone?

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The Comic Book Panel was headed by Trese duo Budgette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, Paolo Fabregas (Filipino Heroes League) and Manix Abrera (Kikomachine).

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I had to step out for a bit so I missed the panel of “Noong Hindi Pa Ako Sikat” (that would’ve been very enlightening, I’m sure!), but I did manage to catch the “Date A Writer” auction. Budgette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo got “sold” for a little over P3,000. Winner not only gets a date with both (Jollibee daw ba? Haha), but they also would get original art from Kajo and become part of a Trese story in the future. Awesome.

The event was a huge success, and it showed me that there are still plenty of people who love to read. Despite the advent of technology and the convenience of digital books, many still prefer printed books. There is also a happy balance between the two, allowing one to support the other and encourage people to pick up a book and read.

Til the next Aklatan!