Sydney Writers’ Festival 08 Part 2

May 23, Friday

Consul-General Maria Lazaro held a reception at her house on Onslow Avenue in honor of Sir Butch Dalisay and Sir Wendell Capili and invited all the heads of Filipino organizations in Sydney and the writers for Salu-Salo. And in true Islander fashion, I was nearly late. I had never been to that part of town, so hoping I was doing the right thing, I caught the bus to Taylor Square and from there caught another bus that cut across Kings Cross and dropped me off close to the Avenue.

I was brought up to the house by a guy who was waiting outside the little gate and the Consul General personally came out to greet me in the foyer and welcome me into her house. She led me to the patio and introduced me to everyone else, and we had wine and Filipino food and social chitchat (and I was neither too overdressed nor underdressed, so that was a relief. Anyway, everyone was pretty much a lot older than me so I think I would have been excused if I hadn’t looked like everyone else, hehe.) The social chitchat was interesting because I never had to do it so alone before and I think I barely scraped through sounding socially presentable. I mean, I was pretty much hobnobbing with some of the Filipino elite in Sydney, and I was never really famous for social diskarte at any time of my life. (But holding the champagne glass helped. It helps to have props, really.)

Anyway, I got to know the other Filipino writers as well and what goes on and about the Filipino writing scene in Australia. I also talked to the Vice Consul and ex-Consuls and had some questions (ahem, comments) about Philippine passports and stuff. It helped that the occasion was pretty informal because I was really, tremendously feeling my age (or youth, whichever works) and feeling rather out of place; I think everyone was at least ten years older than me or so, and was the head of what committee, had published which book, was the editor of another, or was the husband or wife of so-and-so. (And there goes the champagne glass again.) And I met Sir Capili again (the last time I had seen him was 5 years ago in UP) and Sir Dalisay again after the 2007 Palanca awards.

Definitely a good night and one huge learning experience. Afterwards I walked to the bus stop, realized that for some reason I had forgotten that the bus that had taken me to Onslow would NOT take me back to Taylor Square, and hence had to walk across Kings Cross myself back to the Square, which after 9pm at night I really wish I could have avoided.

May 25, Sunday

Launch day!

My family and I took the train to Casula and got to the Powerhouse Arts Centre a bit early so we hung around at the…erm, wilderness behind. (Casula’s quite isolated; I couldn’t see any other building in the area aside from the Powerhouse.) Anyway, Mark, Joy, her brother Allen, and her mother came over too after a bit to join my barangay support.

The launch began with some of the more prominent writers (Merlinda Bobis, Robert Nery, and Xerxes Matza reading Cesar Aguila’s piece, who couldn’t come because he caught the flu) talking about their work and Sir Capili relating the history of creative writing in the Philippines and its links with Australia. It was like being in university again, really.

Halfway through the seminar, my mother discovered that Amando Doronila (for the uninformed, one of the top political analysts in the Philippines; I had to read his columns when I was studying in UP) was among the audience as his daughter Noonee was one of the writers as well. This created some buzz in my barangay-support, which was particularly composed of my whispering to Mark, “Look, Amando Doronila’s here!” and him snapping his head up and going “What? Where??!!” in amazement.

Anyway, the book was launched afterwards by the editors and publishers and we all trooped out to the lobby for signatures and pictures and exchanging contacts with each other. Which was essentially the most fun I had in the Festival and the most surreal experience, actually getting to sign books that had my story in it. I met Mr. Doronila too, who gave me his contact details so that I could inform him the next time I return to the Philippines, and “we’ll meet.” (Wheee! Starstruck!) And I got a whole slew of contact details and business cards from the people around me who are pretty much in the business of writing and publishing.

I didn’t get to display my copies of Philippine Genre Stories as Kenneth had requested (there was no table for it), but I did give copies to Mr. Doronila, Cuong Phu Le (one of the coordinators for Salu-Salo; he’s a dear), Sir Capili, Erwin Cabucos (one of the writers), Merlinda Bobis (the current ruling Filipino-Australian writer. ‘Nuff said.), and Kon Gouriotis (the director of the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre). Whoo.

While waiting for the train back to the CBD, we met a journalist covering the launch named Kristine Lapez. She works for the Sydney branch of ABS-CBN and is currently a student at UTS, but she had studied in UNSW before, and before that UP, and before that at Hong Kong International School. Small world, huh? Mark, my brother and I had plenty to talk about with her on the train back.

So. First publication in a book. Have I mentioned I’m really happy about it? πŸ˜„

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