MEETING NEIL GAIMAN (2005)

I originally wrote this in the old version of this blog in 2005. It was originally entitled “Beso-Beso with Neil Gaiman” but non-Filipinos wouldn’t understand that “beso-beso” means “air kiss”, or cheek kisses among friends, like the Europeans do. I’m glad I found this account again, because this was 14 years ago and I had forgotten some of the little details that made the meeting interesting.

Incidentally, the book “Melinda” never came to light; I wonder if I heard wrong or if it was rewritten with another title.

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Brandishing his Omas 1950s flexi-nib fountainpen, he signed in burgundy ink on the frontispiece of my “Brief Lives” graphic novel (Sandman Volume 7): “Mona, Sweet Dreams — Neil Gaiman.” A salesgirl took our photo (I made sure I brought my digital camera), but I won’t be posting it here; it’s for my secret delectation. I’m so glad I didn’t do anything stupid like burst into tears or freeze. In a tiny voice I managed to say, “Thanks for signing, Neil.” He smiled and said, “You’re welcome, Mona.” Then I bent down a bit to make beso beso, and to my surprise it wasn’t an air-kiss — he kissed my right cheek. (All the girls were doing it, so I figured I’d get in on the kissing action, hehehe.) As I straightened up again, clutching my book in a sort of daze, I realized how exceedingly tired he was. Poor guy. He looked like he hadn’t slept for weeks and sported massive eye luggage. But he was determined to accommodate as many fans as possible.

YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! I walked out the bookstore with a spring in my step and with a stupid grin on my face.

(In your mind picture me jumping up and down on Oprah’s yellow sofa a la the delirious Tom Cruise, and you can imagine how ridiculous it looks. Of course, I didn’t really do that. But I tell you, it felt so great to be so amply rewarded for waiting in line at Fully Booked Gateway for nearly six hours last Monday, on the last day of Neil’s signing tour in Manila.)

Neil is such a simpatico person; incredibly kind, patient and generous to all his fans. I suppose he was pleasantly surprised to realize his fan base in the Philippines was bigger than his publishers had originally thought. I guess he didn’t expect that thousands of fans would want to meet him (I heard some fans even travelled to Manila from as far away as Davao and Cebu). Last night I read his blog and he said he “never felt more loved by so many people”, that Pinoys were more enthusiastic than the Brazilians in expressing their cheer, and that he was thinking of returning again to Manila, perhaps in a couple of years or so.

I was number 480 in a line of just over 600 fans who heroically lined up. When I arrived at Gateway, the line began outside Fully Booked on the third floor and snaked down two flights of stairs to outside the Aurora Boulevard exit to the front of the nearest 7-11. I tell you, the sight of that line would have discouraged a less determined person. I just felt that getting Neil’s autograph would be worth it. For the first two hours the line stayed put and I had nothing to do but stare at the changing cloud patterns in the sliver of blue sky between the mall and the MRT. My friend Juned advised via text: “Imagine you’re back in UP enlisting for classes.”

Originally, rules stated that one had to buy a book from Fully Booked in order to get a signing pass. Later on they changed the rules, allowing people to bring any Gaiman book they owned for signing. Those who bought a book and got a signing pass were then entitled to have two books signed. This was a good idea, since most fans, like myself, had already bought books prior to the signing promo. Changing the rules meant that more people would participate, and that any marketing data they would gather from the signing promo would be more representative of Neil’s fan base.

Waiting in line can get interesting, though. Two college girls behind me were looking at Neil’s picture on the back cover of my graphic novel. Later, as we approached Neil’s table, they looked at him and back at the photo and whispered to each other: “He’s that lolo (grandfather)-looking guy? But he’s OLD!!!” I wanted to laugh; and then I felt my age. When Vertigo first published Sandman I was just out of college. I was young enough to have borrowed and read the comics when they first came out but couldn’t afford to buy them at the time. These two girls each had a paperback copy of “Stardust” which (apart from the paperback of “Coraline”) was among the more affordable Gaiman books in the market (roughly PhP 350). Two lawyers lined up just ahead of me were clutching hardbound graphic novels that cost nearly PhP 2000 each (One was the Sandman Dustcovers book and the other was Marvel’s latest release, “1602”.) I couldn’t help but overhear that one of them even bought a VHS tape box set of “Neverwhere” from the BBC when he was last in London. Normally I’d be secretly peeved if it sounded as if he was gloating about his purchase, but he sounded so happy to have bought it even if it was in PAL-SECAM format and not compatible with his player, I couldn’t begrudge him his glee.

The crowd kept their good humor, though. Several times as the line moved, we saw a good-looking young guy counting people in the line. He turned out to be named Jaime, and was apparently the manager of Fully Booked Gateway. I joked to the two girls behind me: “Sa kanya na lang kaya tayo magpa-sign? Cute pa naman siya.” (“Shall we have HIM sign our books instead? He’s cute.”) The two promptly developed a crush on him, entertaining themselves taking pictures of him with their camera phones. As for the two lawyers ahead of me, they joked that Bro. Eddie Villanueva could only get 2000 people to attend his people power rally, while everybody else would have preferred to wait in line for Neil Gaiman.

I guess for a lot of people meeting Neil Gaiman was a positive, life-defining moment. The last time I felt like this was when I had waited in line to get tickets for seats I wanted at the first Sting concert in Manila ten years ago. Of course my collection is far from complete, and Neil has two books still to be released, “Melinda” and “Anansi Boys.” And who knows? Maybe one day soon they’ll screen “Mirrormask” here. Or release it on DVD. Like many fans, I’ll be waiting.

In the meantime, I have introduced my mom to the pleasures of reading Neil Gaiman. (Really!)

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MANILA FOUNTAIN PEN SHOW 2018

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This year marks the 10th anniversary of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, and what better way to celebrate than to hold the first ever Manila Fountain Pen Show? In previous years FPN-P had been holding smaller pen sales events every Fountain Pen Day (first Friday of November), as if in preparation for this bigger event. The show was held at the SMX Convention Center in SM Aura, last Oct. 27, 2018.

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Photos by Mark Tiangco.

Long lines greeted us at the opening of the show, until about lunch time. It was heartening to know that there were a huge number of fountain pen enthusiasts waiting patiently to get in! Entrance was free, but donations were received at the gate for Save the Children.

Inside it was jam-packed. People crowded every booth, eager to take advantage of the promotions. All the workshop sessions were full.

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Photos by Ronin Bautista.

Special items exclusive to the pen show included the Manila Copper ink, mixed by Straits Pen of Singapore. Part of the proceeds of the ink sale were donated to Save the Children.

Photos by Leigh Reyes.

The Fountain Pen Network-Philippines 10th Anniversary fountain pen is an Edison Mina in tortoise acrylic. Remaining pieces from the original pre-order were sold at the pen show.

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10th Anniversary Pen. Photo by Kailash Ramchandani.

Sponsors for the Manila Fountain Pen Show included Cross Philippines, Montblanc Philippines, Pengrafik, Straits Pen of Singapore, Lamy Philippines, Everything Calligraphy, Noteworthy, Scribe, Faber-Castell Philippines, Troublemaker Inks, Parker Philippines, Philippine National Bank and Calibre Magazine. Other vendors/service providers included Kasama PH, Shibui PH, Gav n Sav, Guia’s Vintage Pen Corner, JP’s Pen Spa and Nibworks, and John Raymond Lim (nibmeister).

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Cross Philippines.

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Montblanc Philippines.

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Noteworthy.

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Gav n Sav.

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Guia’s Vintage Pen Corner.

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Faber-Castell Philippines.

Photos above by Tintin Pantoja.

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Scribe. Photo by Mark Tiangco.

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Troublemaker Inks.

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Straits Pen of Singapore.

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Shibui PH.

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Pengrafik.

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Kasama PH.

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Everything Calligraphy.

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Lamy Philippines.

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The paper bar.

Photos above by Ronin Bautista.

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JP’s Pen Spa and Nibworks (J.P. Reinoso).  Photo by Tin Marie Reyes Poral.

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John Raymond Lim (nibmeister). Photo by Edber Mamisao.

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Calligraphy Workshop. Photo by Mark Tiangco.

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Calligraphy Workshop. Photo by Rica Palomo-Espiritu.

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Leather pen case workshop. Photo by Ronin Bautista.

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Photo by Ronin Bautista. L-R: Butch Dalisay, Rica Espiritu, Arnell Ignacio, Teresita Herbosa, Marvic Leonen

A panel discussion was held toward the end of the day, on the topic “Why Fountain Pens?”. Among the speakers were collectors Prof. Jose “Butch” Dalisay, Jr., Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen, Atty. Teresita Herbosa (great-granddaughter of national hero Jose Rizal), artist Rica Palomo-Espiritu, and OWWA administrator Arnell Ignacio.

Here’s a Facebook video of Justice Marvic Leonen’s discussion. “We can choose the parts of life we can slow down. The fountain pen is my instrument of revolution to recapture my humanity.” And here’s a Facebook video of Butch Dalisay’s talk. “These pens are not just inscribers of words but are bearers of stories.” (Will add other videos to this blog as soon as they are processed.)

All in all, for a first pen show and a modestly sized one at that, the Manila Fountain Pen Show 2018 was successful and well-attended! Approximately 600 people attended the one-day show.  Everyone agreed that next year, the pen show should be in a bigger space, given the huge amount of interest in fountain pens, inks, stationery and accessories.

Many thanks to all the sponsors, the organizers, and the volunteers who made this pen show possible!

To see more photos and social media posts on the Manila Fountain Pen Show, use the hashtag #mnlfountainpenshow2018.

 

 

 

LOVE SONG

This is a poem I wrote circa 1988, which was published in Caracoa 19, the poetry journal of the Philippine Literary Arts Council. I lost my only copy of the journal, because I lent it to Prof. Franz Arcellana, and was unable to get it back because he died shortly after. I also misplaced the record book where I kept handwritten copies of my old poems, so here is the reconstructed poem. I managed to reconstruct it from memory, after not having read it for about 20 years.  I have the uneasy feeling that there are words missing, but this is all I can remember.

LOVE SONG

These arms, like branches
Have been broken
From time into time
In hesitant memory.
Consider that, possibly,
There is resilience
In a heart familiar even with
Unintended calumnies.

The maw of hopefulness
Expands into a gaping, rimless danger,
Closing in split instants
To assiduously screen the sunlight.

Another of you might possess perhaps
The willing strength to
Uncoil my wires of distance.
Invisibly, among the glass chimes
There comes from time into time
A love that brooks no
Resistance.

01 October 2018

Copyright 2018 Mona Caccam

 

MONSOON

There is a slight wind,
Sussurating through the curtains.
The sky is the color of stone.
In moments the scent of petrichor,
Green and earthy, rises into the
Warm, wet air. Soon apparent is
The scent of the river.

I am on my third folding umbrella,
Having lost the first two.
The rain and sweat have mingled
On my back. It will be this way
For almost half the year,
A time of consecutive typhoons.

Time to enjoy the last of the
Summer fruits. They add their
Perfume to the smells of the
Monsoon.

06 June 2018

Copyright 2018 Mona Caccam

ASKING FOR DIRECTIONS

As seconds tick by, our paths are
Split, into those that
Require thought and courage,
And those that warrant
Heedlessness. There will be
Consequences.

So we sometimes stray
After spending time as sheep.
Life is not always so
Orderly; getting answers to
Questions can be like pulling
Teeth. Eventually we find
Our way.

Apres-moi, le deluge:
A cascade of memories shaping
The day.

04 June 2018

Copyright 2018 Mona Caccam

STAREDOWN

The sun’s yolk blooms above
Your eye, coaxing mirages from the
Middle distance.

The long stare brings no relief.
Neither of you are ready
To lower his gaze first.
All around, images are sharp in
The heat

But doubt can cast shadows. Leaning
Under its eaves cools any ardor,
Saving words for other times
Of challenge.

01 June 2018

Copyright 2018 Mona Caccam

DO IT ON THE GRASS

It is only in the soulless cities
Where the roads are an even grid. Where
The houses look the same, where it is easy
To get lost.

If you must run after the sunshine
Do it on the grass. The warm yellowness
Brings the thaw, cuts your sleep and
Coaxes growth.

The dust-devils go round like dervishes,
Scattering color as you blink your eyes.
Following the water brings you to yourself,
Throat dry after play, after wandering.

22 May 2018

Copyright 2018 Mona Caccam