Was invited to be a panelist in The Philippine Book Fair held at the University of Baguio a couple of weeks ago. The discussion was on truth-telling in creative non-fiction, with veteran journalist Babeth Lolarga and essayist Lissa Romero De Guia as co-panelist, and Professor John Jack Wigley as moderator. I was elated to be surrounded by members of the literary community–I felt like a “fan” in a Survivor: Fans VS Favorites season. I told the panel that I had wanted to take up creative writing in college back then, but was diverted to a path that led to med school. Still, I remembered walking through the hallways of the College of Arts and Letters and watching all the literary majors, feeling like I was Arielle on top of a rock who craves to be… part of that world. Took me almost 25 years, and I’m not really claiming that I am already part of that world, but I feel like I have my toe in the door.

Mrs. Lolarga told me that she and her husband had already finished reading Even Ducks Get Liver Cancer and that they had both enjoyed it. She told me that I am currently a “darling of Philippine Arts and Letters”. I mumbled a meek “thank you”, but what I really wanted to tell her was that you have no idea how long l’ve been craving, hungering, slobbering to be called someone’s darling but it never happened and my life is a mess poor me but thank you, Philippine Arts and Letters, I think you’re hot too. It’s amazing how you can turn a compliment into a moment of drama and self-pity.

Professor John Jack Wigley with his Filipino translation of Love In The Time of Cholera (Pag-Ibig sa Panahon ng Kolera) by Lampara Books and Mrs. Babeth Lolarga with her poetry collection Moon Hanging Low Over My Window and Other Poems by UST Publishing House.

Lissa Romero De Guia’s book is People I Have Been

There were so many fantastic books in the fair, but I had just purchased many new titles (still untouched!) in the previous weeks that I ended up getting Covet Thy Neighbor for leisure. It’s about a tattoo artist Seth who falls with love/lust with a guy who happens to be a Christian. I must have read about twenty pages before I got distracted by something else and stashed it in one of my bags. I wanted to recycle it as a Christmas gift, but couldn’t pick the appropriate lecherous recipient. Of course, we should never fail to notice the provocative name of the author, L.A. Witt. For the non-Filipino speakers, “lawit” is a tagalog word that refers to an object that’s dangling or hanging down, and is colloquially used to refer to a huge pendulous cock.

We went to the Mt. Cloud Bookshop the following day for the culminating activity of the bookfair, the Atang Festival. My friend Joti Tabula (of Alubat Publishing and is the patron saint of Philippine Medical Humanities) salestalked a couple of his friends to buy the remaining copies of my book, so Mt. Cloud is now out of copies–or, as I told Joti, since we have already created an illusion of scarcity, we can now open the crates and crates of the book in the storage. In the photo is Aldrin, former president of LIRA (Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo).

The Atang festival involved the preparation of pinikpikan, a native Cordilleran chicken dish. I heard that the chicken in pinikpikan is bludgeoned and eviscerated and exsanguinated a certain way, which somehow makes the dish taste wonderful (is it because of rhabdomyolysis?), and apparently keeps evil spirits away as well. I wasn’t really that traumatized as I watched the live performance. But I started yelping and murmuring “no… no… no… NONONO….” when the guy started bringing out and prepping… a blowtorch!

Categories: Blogs

2 replies

  1. Congratulations on the panel! I had a writing teacher who always told his students that if you’re writing, you’re already a writer, so you are already part of the literary world with your book (which hopefully will be available in the U.S. soon..?!).

    Liked by 1 person

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