So today was the second annual Filipino Readercon, under the theme "United We Read". It's my first time to attend Readercon, since I wasn't around last year, and also my first time to return to Makati since I got back from Singapore, and to visit the Filipinas Heritage Library since I was in high school. (So yeah, there was a lot of "first time since" moments today.) I generally enjoy events like these, for two things: first is the community of readers and writers, whose business is with the written word. We talk about books and readership, about language and literacy and the value of storytelling, about being teachers and librarians and booksellers and bookstore owners, and it's just great fun to meet and keep in touch with people.
For the morning session, I was with my friend Carl (he who navigated during the morning because I had absolutely no frickin' clue where the Filipinas Heritage Library was) and later on, his assistant Lucre from the UP Press. I also saw old friends and acquaintances like Jasper Ong from Avalon.PH, Paolo Chikiamco of Rocket Kapre fame, TRESE creator Budjette Tan, and of course, former boss and mentor Dean Alfar. And one of the highlights of my day was finally being introduced to the awesome Tarie Sabido, whose work with YA lit in the Philippines makes her one of my heroes.
One of the things that stuck to my mind even until now is the idea of a reading culture. Listening to people talk about their own stories and how they intertwined it with books and the love for words and storytelling is something that I think is both remarkably intimate and at the same time, a way of creating a community. Many of us were the weird kids in school, or those who didn't really quite fit in - our heads were in the clouds and our feet rarely touched the ground. To me, one of the most important things I took away from the panels I attended and the speakers I listened to today - well, when Carl wasn't vibrating in his seat from too much caffeine - talked about the importance of reading: as a livelihood, as communication and confession, as a business that aids in values formation and intelligent discourse, and of course, as the great love stories of our lives.
In one of the panels, one of the speakers spoke about being introduced to "stories about wonder" as a child. Many of us have taken journeys down this road, and I felt their stories echo in mine, in books that have been shared through time and space, and for a moment there, I felt like saying, "Okay, guys. This is where I belong. These are the people I want to be when I grow up and take up this advocacy and becoming a better person through stories." And this kind of personal reading culture is something that I also want to explore - how did I get here and what were the things I read that made me the reader and writer I am today?
And I am thankful that there are conferences and avenues like these, where authors and readers and educators and literary facilitators and publishers are able to connect and converse and exchange ideas and thoughts about the state of the book in the Philippines. These are conversations that are important and worth having, because these are germs of ideas that have the potential to grow and take root and take shape and become more than just something in one's head. And readers are usually fantastic conversationalists and have the best stories to tell, and there's nothing more satisfying to do and more magical to experience than to listen to storytellers spin words out of air.
Oh, and before I forget: last Friday was leveling up of friendships with the other DECL junior faculty when a bunch of us watched "The Expendables 2" as a group. Granted, it is not a high-brow or literary film, but it was an awesome experience watching this movie with a bunch of people who share similar brands of humor and who will snark and make fun and actually get the jokes present.
So basically, this weekend was just enjoying the company of the people I work with, people who are my friends and who are (hopefully) going to be around for a very, very long time; people who I used to work with and people I admire. It's a good place to be. I think I'm starting to learn how to be happy again.