Monday, November 10, 2014

Join The Pinoy Book Drop 2014

This month is National Reading Month! That's why the Filipino Reader Con is held in November and that's why there's an Aklatan (Indie Publisher Fair) and a Philippine International Literary Festival (all being held at Bayanihan Center, Pioneer St., Mandaluyong City this week).

So, what is this Pinoy Book Drop all about? The concept is simple. It's all part of sharing a reading experience with others. BTW, there's a hashtag for that, too, from DepEd (Department of Education) called #ShareABookPH.

My first book drop happened today at Starbucks, Robinsons Pioneer. The two books were: 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by David Niven, Ph.D. I got this book from a friend and I'm passing it on to others...hopefully so more people will be happy. The second book was an overeager purchase during a Scholastic sale. I bought The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes by Anne Mazer (sounds like Gone Girl's Amazing Amy, right?) together with other loot, thinking that I'd save it up for my daughter. The thing is she's three and this book might gather a lot of dust before she lays her hands on it. So, I'm giving it away for other young readers.

I hope my books find good homes.

So, c'mon and join the the fun!

These are the mechanics from the Filipino Reader Con website:

1. Pick a book (or two, or three, or yes, four!) that you wish to give away, or that’s okay for you to part with, for one reason or another. Make sure to check the pages for important stuff – anything you may have inserted there and forgotten but you may want to hold on to.

2. Download and print the customized bookplate that you’ll find below these instructions. It doesn’t have to be in color – black and white will work just as fine! Paste or stick one bookplate on a clear page or area of the book/s that you wish to give away. Yes, you can sign your name there, too, if you want.

3. Leave or “drop” the book/s in a public place, or basically any place where people are sure to see them: in a cafĂ©, in the office, at a restaurant, the gym, it’s up to you. (Well, maybe not inside a bookstore, yeah.) You know where someone is likely to see the book/s and pick it up, yes?

4. Before leaving the book/s where you “dropped” them, take a photo. If you’re leaving two or more books, be sure to take note of the date, time, and place where you left each one.

So how is everyone going to know that you have dropped a book somewhere? You can do any of the following:

(a) If you have a Twitter account, just tweet the title of the book, where and when you dropped it, and attach the appropriate photo. If you dropped two or more books, tweet about each title separately.

(b) You can also post about it on Facebook – on your own profile/timeline, if it’s set to public, OR on the Filipino ReaderCon page itself. Same details apply: title of the book, place and date of the drop, and photo. If you’re dropping two or more books, you have the option to include all the books in one go or post about the books individually. It’s up to you.

IMPORTANT: Please use the hashtags #pbdrop and #filreadercon and don’t forget to tag us at @PinoyReaderCon for every tweet!

5. The actual dropping of books will take place until the Filipino ReaderCon on November 14, 2014.

6. On the other hand, if you’re one of those who are lucky enough to find a dropped book, we encourage you to tell us all about it, as well! Tweet and Facebook any dropped book that you find – same instructions on using the hashtags #pbdrop and #filreadercon and tagging us at @PinoyReaderCon apply. ;)

Click on this link to get the special bookplate from FilReaderCon that you can use with your book drop.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Filipino Friday #4: Diverse Books

Hello! It's Filipino Friday once again. How time flies! Next week is already FilReaderCon!

This week's prompt: Do you think we have enough diversity in the books that we read? Are our choices enough to satisfy our different tastes? Are our writers able to present the variety of people, culture, lifestyle, interests and so on? How diverse are your reading interests, and are you able to find enough books to satisfy your reading needs? Do you think we need more diverse books?

My answer: My short answer is no. At least for Pinoy books.

But there's a whole background to it. First of all, in terms of an international viewpoint, the answer is yes. There are a lot of books out there. The catalog on Amazon is both gargantuan and labyrinthian. If you can find anything from literary fiction to gluten-free vegetarian cookbooks to dinosaur erotica...that must cover pretty much *everything.*

But I'm talking about Pinoy choices. Are there enough choices to, for example, satisfy my taste? I want more stuff like F. H. Batacan's Smaller and Smaller Circles. I want science fiction by Pinoys. Where are they? I want more literary horror stories like Yvette Tan's short story, "Seek Ye Whore: Lust In Translation" and more comics like Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo. I want more young adult books like Candy Gourlay's Tall Story and Shine.  My son reads The Magic Treehouse books...but there's no equivalent for the Filipino experience. I don't think we have enough chapter books for very young readers.

So, why is this important when we Pinoys can actually go over to Amazon or Kobo and take our pick of international books? Precisely because of the third question in the prompt: do we have enough stories that depict our people, our culture, our lifestyle, our interests? That's where my answer is no.

My own preferences are very diverse. I read fiction (mostly literary, sometimes of the thriller genre like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl), non-fiction (mostly business books, research on education and self-improvement, recently a book called The Vegetarian Myth, which I thought was very well written). I read young adult fiction like Hunger Games and Candy Gourlay's books. I am a fan of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ursula Le Guin, and Margaret Atwood. I also had an Anita Shreve period. I avidly follow must-read lists from Goodreads or on websites like Oprah's Book Club. I am always looking for something to read. I am the kind of person who naturally gravitates towards the written word, even food labels and product labels interest me. So, yes, you could say that I have a very diverse appetite for books. Currently, I think my need to read is currently satisfied, especially with such a wide array available in the international market. But my need for more diverse Pinoy books is still unsatisfied.

Diversity is a good thing. For life to thrive, there needs to be a healthy balance of environment and biodiversity. Even for the mind, I think the same is true. We need a healthy diversity of thought and experience to really thrive and flourish as human beings.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Filipino Friday #3: FanFic Felicity

And here I am posting for Filipino Friday on a Saturday. Sigh. As I said in my first Filipino Friday Post: Better late than never.

So, here's this week's prompt: Fanfiction is pretty popular, no doubt about it, but it has been received with mixed feelings by many authors and writers. Some don’t mind it, and even welcome readers who give their own spin on their work. Some writers don’t like it at all, to the point that they contact fanfiction authors to take their work down. Others use it as a jump-off point for their own writing.

How about you? What is your take on fanfiction? Do you read fanfiction, and if you do, what kind of fanfiction do you read? Do you write fanfiction, and why? Or are you against fanfiction? Enlighten us.

My answer: Reading and writing are not meant to be isolated acts. In the end, it is a story being told and a story being heard. It is part of human experience. Let that be my underlying principle.

So, on to fanfiction. I don't think there's anything wrong with fanfiction. It's a way to engage with a written piece of work. I think writers should embrace fanfic because it's part of a conversation. Once a writer publishes work, it belongs out there. It no longer belongs to the writer. That's just how it is. No use being in denial.

I think fanfic is a great exercise in writing. My very first fantasy novel (the one that I lost a long time ago) could be considered fanfic after reading Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea. I copied the style of archaic writing and world-making as well as the idea of mapping that world (which, if you think about it, started further back with The Lord of The Rings which I hadn't read at the time). I also got encouraged to write love stories when I first read Sweet Dreams books. So, there, gave away my age. Haha! One of my favorites was P.S. I Love You. I was such a fan. I later read her other books, The Summer Jenny Fell In Love and Winter Dreams. Fanfic is a good starting point, especially for a writer who's just starting out.

But do I read fanfic? Not really. But this is not to say that I would discourage anyone from reading it. That's totally different. It's just not my preference. I would rather read the original stories.

So, in conclusion, I think fanfic is great. It's a great creative activity for fans. Some worlds are just so engrossing they have to be built upon. It's a great activity for writers, especially when they are inspired by a piece of work and are just starting out in a genre. As a reader, I have a preference for original stories. But that's just me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Filipino Friday #2: Hello, Writer!

Yes! It's Friday and I'm finally writing a Filipino Friday post on the right day. Haha!

So, here's this week's prompt: As a reader, have you ever thought about writing a book? What kind of books/stories do you want to write? Or are you now a published author, and what compelled you to go fulfil this dream? How was your journey from reader to writer? How did you go about getting your book out there?

Here's my answer: Shameless promotion time. Haha!

Yes! Writing has always been a part of my life, just as much as reading. I started really early (grade school). I'm the type who keeps a journal. I started my first journal in Grade 2, as part of my school work. After that, I kept at it. I remember filling notebooks and notebooks with stories, poems, character banks, and even advertisements (yes, advertisements. I may have had an alternative career in copywriting)! Read about my favorite stories and my first attempt at writing a fantasy novel here (last year's Filipino Friday prompt).

Words make up my days. I say this elsewhere but I'll say it here again: your life is made up of what you remember. That's why I attempt to write whenever I can: it's life captured (and shared, when published).

I started writing poetry quite early too. I feel, up to now, that poetry is a concentrated kind of literature where I best express myself. But it's also one of the least profitable types of literature as well. Frankly, I don't care. I still write it.

My poetry has been published before. I'm really happy that I have a couple of poems published in two editions of U.P.'s Likhaan series. I also have one poem in A Habit of Shores, edited by one of my idols, Gemino "Jimmy" Abad. The poem title is rather long: "A Filipino Writer of English Poems to a Filipino Writer of Spanish Poems." It was written for a Rizal Centennial poetry contest in Ateneo de Manila (which I won...a long time ago). I have another one in One Hundred Love Poems, edited by Sir Jimmy and another of my literary idols, Alfred "Krip" Yuson. This latter poem is probably what you'd call my most mainstream and memorable poem. It's called "Seven Years Later, Driving Home." In other words: marami sigurong sawi sa Pilipinas. Haha!

I won't forget, though, the first time I got two poems published in a magazine. It was before I submitted my poem to the Rizal contest. I submitted it through my friend, Tats Locsin. Seeing my words printed on paper in a national publication was very thrilling. But my hope was: let it touch lives. The title of one of the poems was: "Lost Afternoon," about how even love is subject to time, a favorite theme of mine. I was going through a phase then.

I submitted another two poems to Panorama and they got published too. But that was it. Nothing published for a very long time.

A couple of years ago, I attended a seminar on producing results with velocity and I thought to myself: why don't I publish my books? I had a rejected manuscript for a chick lit story (too dragging, too serious...hahaha!) and I had a lot of poems that were unpublished, just languishing on this blog. So I published them on (a self-publishing platform in the U.S.) and I even got a couple of printed proofs in the mail which made me almost faint with excitement. My friend, Maisa dela Torre, illustrated my book of poetry.

My book of poetry is Gift: Poems. And my love story is Artemis Lets Go. I even did a little book launch in Fully Booked, BGC. The books were self-published so I couldn't use Fully Booked's distribution system and cashier. They needed a publisher or a company to sign the contract. I just printed a few copies and sold them to friends and family who showed up at the launch. My aunt, all the way in Virginia, also ordered several copies of my poetry book to give away as Christmas gifts. Yay!

Last year, I also collaborated with two other writers, Buding Aquino-Dee and Jenny Ong, to come up with a children's book that highlights how breastfeeding is part of family bonding. It's called Snuggle Wuggle Wee. It was such a joy to write! Sales of the book will fund more breastfeeding activities by the the non-profit organization, L.A.T.C.H. (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, and Help). A Filipino version, translated by a poet who happens to be my favorite Philosophy teacher, Bong Oris, is on the way.

I still won't make money out of writing. Not yet. But I don't mind. It's not why I write. And I'm learning! It also won't stop me from continuing to write. I found a way to DIY and I still got my books to some people. That's what counts. "Wildly popular" isn't really my end goal. As I've read in Stephen King's book On Writing: write for yourself. And here I am, still writing. I've submitted a couple of short stories to two anthologies for publication next year. I'm looking forward to the launches of those.

Also, NaNoWriMo is coming up. Maybe it's time to shake off the dust from a languishing manuscript and put it out there, in the world. There are a lot more choices available to writers nowadays, especially with the advent of digital distribution systems.

My conclusion: a reader may not always become a writer. But a writer...a writer will always start out as a reader. And a writer will always need to continue reading because of an incurable love for words and stories.

Disclosure: I work with a digital distribution system for the Pinoy market, buqo. But you'll see from my story, above, why I'm so passionate about books and getting authors to their audiences.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Here Comes The Sun: Beach Stories to Brighten Your Day, A Review of Sola Musica

Sola MusicaSola Musica by Mina V. Esguerra
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I am friends with the authors.

I pre-ordered Sola Musica last August but only got the chance to read it recently. I really loved it. It's set in a fictional beach music festival in Anilao, Batangas. Each author contributes a story to the setting. The first story is Spectators by Chinggay Labrador, the second is Georgia Lost and Found by Mina V. Esguerra, followed by A Captured Dream by Ines Bautista-Yao, and the last story is Break by Marla Miniano. But feel free to read in any order, depending on what strikes your fancy.

Four very different perspectives but all so inspiring. I loved how little details from one story would randomly show up in another story.  Also, don't miss the playlists in the appendix of the book. They replace the regular "about the author" and give a new perspective to each author. Each story features songs and the bands, adding texture to your reading experience.  With Spectators I listened to Coldplay right when the band was mentioned in the story (Song: Amsterdam). It's well-researched. I loved all the little details about bands setting up! Mina's average-Georgia has a surprise waiting for her in the story. It's so relatable (ex. Awkward silence in a car with a guy that you’re not sure likes you back. Familiar situation. At least, for me). Plus there's this giant balloon. Memorable metaphor. Watch for it. Ines' A Captured Dream is all about girl power, but with a twist! What can I say? It's about literally taking one's power back. Now, who wouldn't want that? Marla's Break was so charming. I loved the unconventional-modern-family of Nat. Also, it's full of insights on teenage angst and finding out who you really are.

So, all in all, it was a gift of stories and music to me. And since we're on the topic of music, if I could pick a song to describe the book, it would be "Here Comes The Sun," the Nina Simone cover.

All in all, I treasured my reading time with this book of short stories. It made me want to look for tickets to the festival. Haha!

View all my reviews

Monday, October 20, 2014

Filipino Friday #1: Surprise, Reader!

It's not Friday anymore but it's better late than never. 

Really excited for this year's ReaderCon which is now part of the NBDB's (National Book Development Board) Philippine International Literary Festival (PILF) happening from Nov. 12-14. Right after that, Komikon on the 15th. All happening at the Bayanihan Center along Pioneer St., Mandaluyong City. 

Here's the prompt:

Surprise, Reader! Hello, it’s the first week of Filipino Fridays 2014! Whether it’s your first time to participate or not, tell us a bit about yourself. More specifically, tell us about your favorite book discoveries for this year. Any author you started reading this year that you can’t get enough of? A book you didn’t think you’d like, but you ended up liking/loving? Any book series that you just have to get your hands on? Have you discovered anything new from Filipino authors this year?

About myself:
I'm a delinquent book blogger and a reading addict. I just happen to work in the book sphere through buqo, a Filipino digital bookstore app. :-) This is the second time I'm participating in Filipino Fridays. 

Author I started reading that I can't get enough of: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan working in tandem for The Strain trilogy. I couldn't put the books down.

A book I didn't think I'd like but ended up liking/ loving: The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. I expected to hate it because I've chosen to be vegetarian several times in my life. I was only curious when I got the book. I found that it was written with a lot of compassion for vegetarians and the motivations of a vegetarian. And it got me even more interested in agriculture (especially here in the Philippines) and how else to be more conscious of my impact on the environment. 

A book series that I'd like to get my hands on: Um, please, George R.R. Martin, please release your next Game of Thrones book already. I've been patiently waiting. 

Discovered something new from a Filipino author this year: 
  • A lot, actually. First off, I discovered Coming To Terms edited by Lorna Kalaw-Tirol. It's an old book. But not old to me. I loved reading the book and seeing how another generation faced mid-life. 
  • Next, I discovered Taming Romeo by Clare Ayala. It's a steamy read set in the West Coast with a wonderfully colorful immigrant Filipino family. I'm glad Clare is releasing the second book in the series, Claiming Carlos, this time focusing on the sister of Evie (Taming Romeo's protagonist), Choco. 
  • I also fell in love with the books by Candy Gourlay. Tall Story was such a wonderful read. My husband finished the book ahead of me. That's a feat because my husband doesn't usually read fiction! And I'm in the middle of Shine, her second YA book. Loving it so far!
So, that's it. Looking forward to the next Filipino Friday!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What I Learned From "How To Change The World" (A Course Offered by Wesleyan University via

Poster for Creek Clean Up by author

I thought the course, How To Change The World*, had an audacious ring to it. That was why I took it. I wanted to find out if it was possible for me to make a difference, wherever I happened to be in my life. I’m so glad I took the course, despite some hesitation (and distractions) at the start, because I ended the class with an actual project that will make a difference in my immediate community.

It directed my focus on action

The course was divided into six weeks, with the fourth week serving as “rest” week so students could catch up with the readings (which were voluminous!). These were the topics, in order, that covered the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth weeks:
  • social goods and the commons (resources belonging to a whole community, or even the whole world),
  • poverty and development,
  • climate change and sustainability,
  • disease and global health care and,
  • women, education and social change.
It was a broad coverage but it pretty much captured the biggest issues we face as human beings. I liked how the whole course started with the premise that we human beings share a commons, whether it is our biology, our planet, or our systems. It was a good springboard and context for tackling everything else. With every topic, the main questions that we were asked as students were:

What do I know?
Why should I care?
What can I do?

The course was not theoretical though it did not lack in theory. We were challenged to read the facts (I confess that I was really not able to finish all the PDFs and papers that were presented in the syllabus) but beyond that, we were challenged to take action. This, I believe, is where knowledge matters most: when it is put into practice. All the knowledge in the world will not be able to make positive changes. After learning new insights, new methods, new approaches, it makes sense to apply it immediately to one’s life. This was the value I saw in taking up the course. It was designed for application. At one point, I realized that I made a mistake in submitting a multimedia presentation for peer review. It meant that I would not get extra credit. I complained on the forum and one TA (teaching assistant) reminded me that doing the work counted more than the grade. What a wake-up call. Because I’m such a nerd, I wanted that “with distinction” certificate. But the certificate won’t matter if my participation won’t create any actual change in my community. I drew the line and, from then on, I focused on the quality of my work, whether or not I got a good grade.

I looked around with new lenses

All the topics were very relevant to me, coming from a developing country that seems to face all of the issues presented in the syllabus. While the course directed me where to look, what became clear to me were immediate opportunities in my own neighborhood. In the first week (when the commons was the topic), I was able to zero in on a polluted creek across the condominium where I live. I started contacting people I never thought to contact before: a foundation that helps rehabilitate rivers and creeks, the kagawad (local officials) in my barangay (smallest local government unit in the Philippines), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction from my local government. They were very willing to work with me to organize a clean up. This initiative snowballed with the DPWH volunteering a crew, despite the fact that they work on a national and not on a local level, and a small business offering to donate effective microorganism (EM) solution to be applied to the creek. I was amazed at what actually could be done in my own neighborhood. Citizen action didn’t seem like such an overwhelming task anymore. My barangay eventually got in touch with a company that does corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, Li & Fung Ltd., a multinational supply chain management supplier, and, all of a sudden, we got 20 more volunteers for the creek clean up plus food donations. All in all, the project that will be implemented on August 16, 2014 will have 55 volunteers coming from both government and private sectors.

I appreciated the beauty and necessity of the grassroots and “the small”

In the course of taking up How To Change The World, a friend of mine (who also happens to be one of the volunteers for the creek clean up) introduced me to a book, Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher. I immediately felt an affinity with the book. Schumacher believes that using economics as a measure for development or progress is a mistake. There must be better ways for measuring wellbeing. Also, these measures must take sustainability into account. This book was published in 1973 but I find that it is very relevant today. It pointed me to the answer to “how to change the world.” The answer is: one village/ neighborhood at a time. While sweeping movements do make a difference, touching hearts is very essential in creating lasting change for the better. This can only be done at close quarters. Modern technology favors the “mega,” the “big,” and “scale” but going back to the “small,” the intimate, the community-based is actually what will make the difference in creating a sustainable structure that favors actual people and our environment.

I now see that it’s time to change our measures

It made sense that the last topic that we took up in the course focused on gender equality. Empowering women and girls not only improves the lives of everyone but it gives women the opportunity to contribute from positions of leadership (either in private business or in government). They call attention to things like child care and the environment. From this topic, I discovered the work of Marilyn Waring, New Zealand feminist, politician and author of If Women Counted, a feminist analysis of modern economics. She advocates changing our measures for progress.

In business parlance, there is a saying that “what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.” Even in matters of development, I believe the same thing also applies. However, our tools for measurement reflect the kind of societies we want to build. If we measure for economic factors only, we will not take into account such things as wellbeing and sustainability. I believe it’s time for human societies to change their measures. And once again, we do this one community at a time, until it becomes the model that we use for larger structures like countries and regions.  And so, to close, if you ask me: how do you change the world? My answer is: one community, one village at a time. It takes focus, it takes really seeing and observing what will make a difference to people in my immediate neighborhood, and it takes work at the grassroots. It takes you and me doing something about the things that matter to us most. When it comes to changes we want to see in the world, it will not be about GDP (gross domestic product) but about our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our kids, our planet.

Go take the next course and see how *you* can change the world. 

*Note: I took up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered for free by Wesleyan University (via from June 21 to August 14, 2014.  The course was taught by Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan University President. It tackled major issues facing humanity and it was based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in New York. There will be a 2015 version of the course based on the upcoming 2014 Social Good Summit.

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