My FB news feed has been filled with friends’ posts of their visits and loots from the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF), which was held over the weekend at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
This would be the third year in a row that I have failed to go to the MIBF for my supposedly annual pilgrimage. I had been away from Manila, mostly due to my consultancy work, during the MIBF season in the last three years, making me miss great book finds and deals. For a writer whose books (“True Love Weds” and “Real Time: Devotions for Filipino Youth” both published by CSM) are also on the shelves during this time, I have terribly missed the funfair that is the MIBF!
I looked back at what I’ve missed over the last three years from not being able to go to the MIBF and here is what I have realized:
Pleasant reunion with friends. The MIBF has become a reunion of sorts with friends whom I have not seen in ages. It is funny how each MIBF, I get to see how life has been for my friends: schoolmates have become executives or business owners, single friends have become spouses, married friends tag their brood along to shop for children’s books, friends whose kids used to be tots sit at the coffee shop with their own haul while waiting for their teenage kids to finish their own book shopping, etc. Sometimes, my friends would be so generous as to buy a book or two for my kids just because they were happy to see them after a long time! Whether they’d be chance meetings or planned (because I needed to hitch a ride), it was always a pleasure to see people who have once been a part of my life of all places, at a chaotic and crowded book fair!
Playing the author part. As a writer, my task during the MIBF is to promote my books and make sure my readers and network of people drop by my publisher’s booth. When there’s a new book, my job is to be present during the book launch and book signing events. Call it a brief claim to fame, but glamorous as it seems, being an author is hard work. The book unveiling on stage and the autograph signing are just the tip of the iceberg. The real part of being an author is the yearlong manuscript writing and editing prior to publication. Of course, it is every author’s reward to see people get your book, line up to get your autograph and have a photo with you. These would be the “perks of the job.” The challenge is how to always look selfie-worthy after a long day of book signing and booth manning.
Practicing restraint. The hardest thing for me whenever it’s MIBF season is how to keep myself from spending all my money in one day! My husband and I have agreed to set a budget every time we go to the book fair. We have also agreed not to use the credit card so we can really stick to our agreed budget. Even then, it is quite challenging when you see all the good literary treats under one roof! I tend to cry in despair, “So many titles, so little time! So many books, so little budget!” I think what three years away from the MIBF has done for me was to really stick to my book budget for each year. It also helped me make a firm resolve to read all the other books I have bought in previous MIBFs that are still sitting in my personal library waiting to be dusted and read!
Passing on the love of reading. I love MIBF season because it is this one time in the year that I can show my kids how passionate I am about reading. Of course they see me read everyday at home, but at the MIBF I get to introduce them to titles and authors that I still don’t have in my library and wish to own one day. I get to show them how to buy books: search for good authors; look for the rare titles; spend your money wisely. My kids have since enjoyed going to bookshops to check books of good quality. They have also acquired the desire to collect book series and save up for books they really wish to own. Some things are really just caught, rather than taught.
Preparing for more. I dream to write again each time I visit the MIBF. I miss meeting my writer and editor friends at the MIBF corridors. I miss the excitement of looking out for what book will be launched each year and which of my author friends will be on stage to unveil their latest piece. My editor Joy Solina and my publisher Church Strengthening Ministry (CSM) have been so gracious to me, constantly encouraging me to go back to writing. My last book with CSM, “True Love Weds” was published in 2005 and was revised in 2010. Seven years is a long hiatus. Yes, it is time to enter my writing den and start cranking up my rusty writing gear. My FB news feed this past weekend is a stark reminder to long for more.
Pushing for a dream. I also read on my FB news feed how many from the south hope that they could come to the MIBF. Deep within, I dream of an MIBF which reads “Mindanao International Book Fair.” Of course, I can also dream of a Visayas International Book Fair. I wonder how and when this dream will come true. Are there other dreamers out there like me?
Congratulations to the organizers and exhibitors of the 2017 MIBF! Congratulations to all my writer-friends who launched their new books this year! Congratulations to my book-loving friends who brought home awesome finds and great stashes of good reads! May many more Filipinos go crazy over book fairs and may the Philippines truly become a reading nation!