A Pinoy literary fiesta in San Francisco
In six months, San Francisco will be, temporarily, the heart of the Filipino literary world.The first Filipino American International Book Festival—or simply FilBookFest—will be held here October 1 and 2 at the San Francisco Main Library.
We’re talking about one big Pinoy book fiesta that would highlight the latest and best from Filipino authors all over the world.
And the timing is perfect.
Filipino writers have been drawing attention international and in the United States recently. Miguel Syjuco’s critically-acclaimed ‘Ilustrado,’ winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize, has been short-listed for the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Bay Area poet Tony Robles, author of the wonderful children’s books ‘Lakas and the Manilatown Fish,” and ‘Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel,’ is a finalist for this year’s Pushcart Prize with his story ‘In My Country.’
Journalist Criselda Yabes’ ‘Below the Crying Mountain,’ winner of the U.P. Centennial Literary Prize, was long-listed for this year’s Man Asian Literary Prize. It’s a powerful novel about a tragic, but sadly little-known, chapter in recent Philippine history, the burning of Jolo in the 1970s.
Cris has just published her latest book ‘Peace Warrior, On the trail with Filipino Soldiers,’ an in-depth look at life in the Philippine military.
Last weekend, a new book, ‘Filipinos in San Francisco, written by the Pinoy Educational Partnership and Manilatown Heritage Foundation, was published in San Francisco.
(I’m particularly excited about this book because I and the other members of Pinoy Pod, the San Francisco Chronicle podcast on Filipinos, are featured in it. Actually, just our group photo in front of the San Francisco Chronicle building taken by Pulitzer Prize winner Kim Komenich. The image was the cover photo of Filipinas magazine five years ago.)
The Bay Area, with nearly half a million Filipinos, one of the largest Pinoy communities outside the Philippines, is the perfect venue for a Pinoy book fiesta. FilBookFest is drumming up support through a series of author conversations and readings at local libraries throughout the Bay Area, especially in areas where there are huge Pinoy communities, such as Daly City and Pinole.
I had a chat with my friend and former San Francisco Chronicle colleague Pati Poblete, at the Pinole Public Library. We talked about her book, “The Oracles,” an engaging and funny memoir focused on her growing up in an Ilocano household with two sets of traditional grandparents. (It’s a fun read and I highly recommend this book.)
Former Daly City Mayor Mike Guingona, one of the most prominent Filipino American political leaders in the region, talked to Benito Vergara about his book, “Pinoy Capital,” which is about Daly City’s history as a center of Filipino Americans including Isagani Cruz, Ambeth Ocampo, Butch Dalisay and Margie Holmes.
Several National Artists are also expected to attend including critic and poet Bienvenido Lumbera, poet Virgilio Almario, novelist F. Sionil Jose and visual artist Ben Cabrera, known as BenCab.
The two-day event will also feature exhibits, video screenings and, of course, lots of Filipino food. A highlight of the event will be a ‘Tribute to Philippine Cultural Greats,’ which would include a gala dinner to pay tribute to ten Filipinos “whose talent and achievements have brought great pride to our nation.”
The festival’s key organizers are the Literacy Initiatives International Foundation, a Bay Area non-profit focused on cultural and literary issues, particularly the Filipino-American community; the Filipino American Center of the San Francisco Public Library; and the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco.
Partner organizations include the Philippine American Writers and Artists, or PAWA, the Filipino American National Historical Society, the Filipina Women’s Network and the Book Development Association of the Philippines, as well as major Philippine publishers led by Anvil Publishing.
FilBookFest organizers recently held a launch party at the Philippine Consulate in downtown San Francisco. (I missed the shindig, thought I heard it was a blast.)
Lead organizer and author Gemma Nemenzo was there to talk about the big plans for the fiesta. And so were well known Bay Area writers including Penelope Flores, Maya Escudero and Edwin Lozada.
Yeah, we love to party, and the FilBookFest could very well be just another excuse to do so. But it’s certainly more than that.
As Bay Area poet and fiction writer Oscar Penaranda, said about what the book fiesta is also about, “The best weapon against our invisibility is our literature.”
(For more information, check out the FilBookFest site at www.filbookfest.info.)
Copyright 2011 by Benjamin Pimentel. On Twitter @KuwentoPimentel.