The 34th Manila International Book Fair is back!  We went yesterday, on the first day, and were surprised by the number of people at opening time.    It’s good to know Manila has its share of voracious readers of all ages!

For the past few Book Fairs, my decision has been to buy books by Filipino writers – we must support our own – with the occasional international trade paperback.  Prices were slashed by 20% to 50% for most outlets.  My haul above was quite modest, given my limited budget and the fact that I’m running out of bookshelf real estate.  From Anvil Publishing I got Manila Noir, an anthology edited by Jessica Hagedorn (20% off), and Jose Dalisay, Jr.’s Killing Time In A Warm Place (50% off, since it was the only copy available).  “Killing Time” will go to a friend in the US, after I’ve had Butch Dalisay sign it at one of our fountain pen meets.  I also got Anna Maria L. Harper’s Agueda: A Ballad of Stone and Wind from University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Publishing House.  That one was P400 (I wonder if it’s because UST just turned 400 years old?).  It’s in my local book club reading list.  For my father I got  Matthew Pearl’s The Poe Shadow (20% off, from Fully Booked).

I also went to Cosmos Bazaar’s stall, where they were selling Pilot Pens galore. I got two Pilot 78Gs and a Birdie (fountain pens, for P220 and 180 each).  The sales staff gave me a Pilot GreenRoller rollerball (with refills available at National Bookstore) and a 5-inch Pilot teddy bear on a keychain as promo items!

One thing I noticed about the Book Fair this year is that there seem to be less exhibitors, but these exhibitors had bigger stalls.  The food area was also much smaller.  Albergus catered as usual, but served undercooked pinakbet as a side viand with their lunch, not to mention undercooked rice.   However, their roast beef was excellent.  Maybe  on the other days of the Book Fair their food will improve, and we were just unlucky to have had lunch there on opening day.

It’s worth a visit!  The 34th Manila International Book Fair is from Sept. 11-15, 2013, 10:00am to 8pm, at the SMX Convention Center, SM Mall of Asia complex, Pasay City.




One of the members of our Manila fountain pen group decided to start a small book club.  We had our first meeting last weekend, where we figured out what books we’d all like to read.  We’ll focus on a book each month, focusing initially on Filipino writers writing in English.  There are so many good books out there, but it’s a shame not to read the writers of one’s own country.  The guys in our group made a request not to have to read romance novels, and the rest of us heartily agreed (hahaha!).

This May we’re tackling the late Kerima Polotan‘s 1961 Stonehill Award-winning novel “The Hand of the Enemy”.  In June we’ll be reading her collection of essays “Adventures in a Forgotten Country”.  Both books are published by the University of the Philippines Press.  Also in our list is Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.‘s Killing Time in a Warm Place (Anvil Publishing), a novel based on his experiences as a Martial Law detainee.  (Incidentally, Butch Dalisay is the founder of our fountain pen group.  We’re asking him to sign our copies.)  We’ll follow with National Artist Nick Joaquin‘s May Day Eve & Other Stories.  Next up is Esteban Javellana‘s 1947 classic “Without Seeing The Dawn” (which was made into a Tagalog tv mini-series when I was a child).  We’re also reading young Palanca winner F. H. Batacan‘s mystery novel featuring a “Jesuit priest who is also a forensic anthropologist as sleuth”, Smaller and Smaller Circles (UP Press).  Then we’ll read another classic of  Filipino immigrant fiction, Carlos Bulosan‘s America is in the Heart (Anvil Publishing). Just so we don’t get stuck on novels, we also picked a book of essays edited by Erlinda Panlilio, The Manila We Knew (Anvil Publishing). Then for something totally different, there’s Resil Mojares‘s Isabelo’s Archive (Anvil Publishing), a compilation of essays and notes on Philippine culture and history, based “on Isabelo de los Reyes’ groundbreaking attempt to build an archive of popular knowledge in the Philippines.”  And then there is Bambi Harper‘s new historical novel, Agueda (University of Sto. Tomas Publishing House).  There is also Luis Francia‘s History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos to consider.

The titles or order of reading might change.  But it’s good to have a reading list.  If we didn’t sit down to plan this, we wouldn’t know where to start! We can’t always meet in person, but we can always email our reading notes to each other.

From this list you can see we all have this common interest in literature, history (national and personal) and culture.  Indeed, in Jose Rizal’s words, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa kanyang paroroonan.” (He who does not look back from where he came will never reach his destination.)


Went first thing upon opening yesterday.  Runs from Sept. 12-14 only.  It’s at the Convention Center building (SMX) of SM Mall of Asia.

First things first:

1.  Bring enough cash because there is NO ATM inside this building.  You have to walk outside to the supermarket area and withdraw there, so make sure you bring an umbrella.

2.  Visit the loo before entering the fair.  Otherwise, there are conveniently located toilets outside the trade halls and also inside, in the middle back.

3.  Also, if you want to conserve your money for books instead of food, eat beforehand.  Or you can buy from Albergus Catering, which does offer really good value for money food, with tables and waiters!  You line up and pay, self-service.  The waiters clear your table so the turnover is quite efficient.

We chose from the “Guest Menu”  where, for P130 (exclusive of drinks), I recommend either the Roast Beef+Pancit+Rice meal or the Fish in Basil Cream Sauce+Pancit+Rice meal.  Drinks are around PhP 40/can softdrinks or C2 iced tea.

Now, to the books:

1.  If you went to the National Bookstore booksale last month, it continues here, with 20% off on all regular priced items, and bigger discounts for selected items.  Cash and credit transactions.  You can use your Laking National card here too.  Promo items for every PhP 1000 purchase.  I got a Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” promo messenger bag!  Quite useful for putting all your purchases in.

2.  Same discount structure at Powerbooks. Some books you are looking for in National but can’t find in that booth might be available here. You can also avail of an outright purchase Powerbooks Powercard for PhP 100 and claim the discount card after 3 weeks at the Powerbooks branch nearest you.  Cash and credit accepted, as well as BPI Express Payment.

3.  Goodwill has lots of lovely children’s books!  Lovely discounted prices as well!  Cash and credit too!

4.  Anvil Publications has imported and local publications on display, also with wonderful discounts. Local publications are available in bookpaper or newsprint.  Cash and credit accepted.

Please watch out for my friend Jag Garcia‘s book (written with colleagues Melanie Casul and Michael Kho Lim) “Media Kit” volumes 1 and 2.  Great basic textbook for people who want to learn how to make effective audiovisual presentations or have ambitions to become scriptwriters or filmmakers.  Well-written, simple and concise.  In this age of digital information, this is one affordable information resource to always have by your side.

Another recommendation:  This is the time to take advantage of adding to your Ambeth Ocampo popular history collection!  Start with “Rizal Without His Overcoat” and go through each of the national heroes in Ambeth’s list.  If you buy his books you get a bottle of Claude Tayag’s “Claude 9” brand sauce free (random flavor)!

Yet another:  The late Doreen G. Fernandez‘s book of food essays, “Tikim”.

5.  Best Value For Money Filipiniana booth:  Bookmark.

I got a “Field Guide to the Common Mangroves, Sea Grasses and Algae of the Philippines” by Hilconida Calumpong and the Smithsonian’s Ernani Menez for my uncle Joey who is the barangay captain of a tiny Negros coastal town featuring a DENR-recognized mangrove sanctuary.  It has glossy full-color photography, which sold for an unbelievable discount price of PhP 250 (regular price: PhP 400).  Super sulit geeky Pinoy science book for an international audience.

Also available:  “Marine Reserves in the Philippines:  Historical Development, Effects and Influence on Marine Conservation Policy” by former DENR Sec. Angel Alcala for an even more unbelievable sale price of PhP 100!!!

Splendid selection of Filipiniana available.  Fantastic pictures and paper quality.  The coffeetable book “Philippine Ancestral Houses” edited by Gilda Cordero-Fernando is available in paperback for PhP 1000!!!  (That’s actually reasonable, folks, because the hardcover edition is worth at least PhP 3-4000 and is a collector’s item.) I thought it was out of print.

6.  Check out other university press favorites, University of the Philippines Press and Ateneo de Manila University Press.

7.  Other booths are specialty books and feature some seriously scary prices so just think that they are actually targeted at school libraries and not the ordinary consumer.

8.  Not books, but next to the stage there is a booth for Pilot pens and pencils.  I recommend for all those with an office supplies fetish like myself the Pilot ENO 0.7mm mechanical pencil which has erasable colored pencil refills!!!  I got one, plus red, green and blue refills (3 colors, one pack).  Other refill colors are light blue, lavender, pink, apple green… so yes… indulge…

Honestly, one day is not enough.  If someone offers you a free pass valid until Sunday (tomorrow), get them!  Only your wallet limits you.