Solidarity in Literature Without Borders: Philippine PEN Congress Ends

One cannot speak to everyone, but here are the people who self enjoyed spending time with, the past few days:

  • Karina Bolasco:   Anvil Publisher and Star, star, star.
  • Nguyen Bao Chan from Hanoi:  She read after dinner last night.  Her voice is magical.
  • Jose Wendell Capili:  Self hung with him today.  Wendell, you make everything fun.
  • Erma Cuizon:  Self of course knew of Erma’s work because she included one of Erma’s stories in Going Home to a Landscape.  Yesterday, self bought a copy of the anthology Erma edited, The Cebu We Know and has been avidly reading it.
  • Marjorie Evasco:  Self listened to her read, with awe.
  • Shirley Lua:  One of the conference organizers, and absolutely tireless.  Today tried her to the max, as she had to hand each writer their honorariums and collect receipts, a thankless job if ever there was one.  But she was still smiling in the late afternoon.  Thanks a bunch, Shirley!
  • Ruth Elynia Mabanglo:  Even though self and Ruth were both listed as writers from the USA, Ruth demonstrated that Hawaii is a world unto itself —  and she gave a powerful reading.  Self knew her from the time she attended a conference at the University of Hawaii.  Ruth, it’s been too long.
  • Charlson Ong:  Self has been reading him for ages, ever since his very first book.  She finally, after all these years, got to meet him in person and he is just so nice.
  • Carmen Sarmiento:  She was on the same panel as self, the panel on “Writing and Writers in the Americas.”  Her topic was Filipino komiks, a topic self found absolutely fascinating

The two people who self met for the first time and who made self feel immediately welcome were Susan Lara and Danny Reyes.  To tell the truth, self arrived in Cebu severely jet-lagged and more than a little tired.  She probably wouldn’t have made it through the first day without the welcoming presence of these two generous writers.

The Celebrity Ballroom of the Montebello Villa Hotel was full to capacity for practically all of today’s sessions.  Hardly anyone left, even during the Q & A, which self considers a really hopeful sign and bodes well for the Filipino writing community.   Self would also like to thank the waiters who were so conscientiously passing out snacks (ensaimada , ube!  A bowl of Batchoy!  Dinner rolls!) and serving lunch and drinks throughout the day.  One, without being asked, placed before self a hot cup of tea minutes after she sat down after finishing her presentation!

The Montebello Villa Hotel people were so sweet.  This afternoon, after her panel, self found a woman standing in the lobby, preparing puto bumbong from a cart.  She seemed pretty lonely, so self ordered a plate, which came with hot tsokolate for only 35 pesos!  This woman even brought self a copy of today’s paper (The Philippine Star), and self got to peruse it while sitting next to a window overlooking the hotel’s lush garden.  There was a bougainvillea bush that was about three stories high and just bursting with magenta flowers —  the biggest and most beautiful bougainvillea self has ever seen.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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