“All about book lovers and PIstahan revelers” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Aug. 5-11, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of August 5-11, 2015

All about book lovers and Pistahan revelers

What’s the cheapest way to transport yourself to another world? For many people, the answer still remains the reading of a book. Every year, on August the 9th, most holiday-themed websites declare that specific date as “Book Lovers Day,” while a minority of sites say that Book Lovers Day is on the first Saturday in November. Anyway, if you’re a true and seasoned book lover yourself, I’m sure you don’t mind celebrating it on both days, right? For the dedicated reader, one can never read enough, so one doesn’t stop reading — as time and inclination permit.

While researching about some trivia on books, here are some facts I have uncovered: Barbara Bush’s book about her English springer spaniel, “Millie’s Book,” was on the bestseller list for 29 weeks. Millie was the most popular “First Dog” in history. Dr. Seuss wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” after his editor dared him to write a book using fewer than 50 different words. Edgar Allan Poe introduced mystery fiction’s first fictional detective, Auguste C. Dupin, in his 1841 story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Ghosts appear in four Shakespearean plays: “Julius Caesar,” “Richard III,” “Hamlet,” and “Macbeth.” Frank Baum named “Oz” after a file cabinet in his office. One cabinet was labeled “A to N,” and the second was labeled “O to Z.” Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind between 1926 and 1929. In her early drafts, the main character was named “Pansy O’Hara” and the O’Hara plantation we know as Tara was called “Fountenoy Hall.” (http://corsinet.com/trivia/k-triv.html) We thank Ms. Mitchell for reconsidering the name options for both the iconic heroine and the plantation. “Pansy” O’Hara does not hold as much gravitas and defiance as “Scarlett” O’Hara, and we couldn’t imagine the plantation being named anything but “Tara.”

As for me, my book-reading trajectory started with Nancy Drew mysteries like “The Mystery of Lilac Inn” or “The Hidden Staircase” when I was in the 2nd- 3rd grade. By 4th grade, I was already reading Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley High Young Adult (YA) romances. During the summer vacation before my 5th grade, I finally cracked open a paperback that’s just lying around the house being ignored by me for the past three years: “Mist Across the Moors” by Lilian Peake, my first Mills and Boon romance. I was 10 years old and all I could think about after reading it through was: that wasn’t so bad. Now here’s the “bad” thing: I wanted more of those prefab book romances from then on. It’s a good thing that there’s a library nearby, and I had the luck to have a neighbor who has a lot of Mills and Boon and Harlequin paperback romances. Throughout the years, I’d like to think that my reading tastes have acquired some sophistication. It turns out that after surfing the net, what I considered guilty pleasures before are now popular bestsellers in their own right, for example “A B N K K B S N P L Ako?!” by the facetious yet mysterious Bob Ong and seven other books penned by him are dominating one Goodreads list, with only Dr. Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” to break the top-ten sweep. Bob Ong’s prose in the vernacular is about keeping it real, poking fun at himself and society in hopes of triggering self-reflection and perhaps positive change among his readers. (But what if we find out that “Bob Ong” is actually a pseudonym for a female writer? Just throwing it out there.)

Book Lovers Day being observed on August 9 every year, right at the mid-beginning of summer, it’s not really hard to celebrate the spirit of this holiday. Just find a cool and quiet spot, grab your favorite book, crack its spine somewhere and start reading. Sometimes, though, you’re looking for a certain book, or sometimes a book finds you. In my case, I found a whole book store, a veritable gem in the Mission St. – 6th St. area in San Francisco, CA in the form of Arkipelago Books. Owned and operated by Ms. Marie Romero for the last 20 years, Arkipelago Books is housed within the Bayanihan Community Center at 1010 Mission St. Within such a limited space, you’d never guess at the untold literary and assorted other treasures just displayed in an orderly manner in the book shelves: from hard-to-find Filipino cultural titles on colonization to more pop books on gods and “aswangs” to shirts to DVDs to “tubaws” and basket-weave backpacks. As part of the Arkipelago Books’ outreach every year, you can find Tita Marie in her usual booth at the annual Pistahan Festival, held every second weekend of August at the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. You can get in touch with Arkipelago Books at (415) 553-8185 or arkipelagobooks@yahoo.com

This year is the 22nd Annual Pistahan Parade and Festival and the theme is “Home Away from Home.” Whenever it’s near Pistahan time once again, I couldn’t help but look back on how I first got involved as a volunteer with this yearly Filipino-American cultural event. It was the year 2006 and I had just won first place in an international poetry contest in Las Vegas. Coming back to Hayward, I was surprised to get a letter from the Filipino American Arts Exposition (FAAE) through its President Al Perez. News travels fast. Apparently, FAAE is extending an invitation to me to be one of the “Pistahan Centennial Awardees” on the strength of my winning poetry. My grand-prize winning poem was called “Villanelle of a retired overseas Filipino worker.” FAAE was asking if I was willing to create my own float (“carroza”) and to join the parade during the first day of the Pistahan festival.

On the day of the Pistahan parade in 2006, my family – Dad, Mom, and my youngest sister – borrowed a pickup truck and enlisted the help of neighbors and friends of the family in the general design and movement of the vehicle. I remember Ernesto P. and his brother helping us out, as did Tito Ramon and Tita Mellie Ebriega of Pittsburg, CA. Dr. Antonio Nolasco of Milpitas was also there with his wife and boys in a touching show of support. I remember waving to the Market Street crowd in my improvised Filipiniana dress — blue almost-floor length denim with lavender tulle butterfly sleeves, anyone?— and distributing photocopies of my winning poem. That year, 100 of us in the roster of Centennial Awardees were honored and presented to the crowd at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

Loving the experience so much, especially the feeling of being among my fellow Filipino-Americans, I decided to come back the following year as a volunteer. My Mom and I helped distribute food to the VIPs and the parade participants. We braved standing for long hours and donning aprons, and we did this for two consecutive years. During another year, we volunteered in the Baybayin artist Kristian Kabuay’s pavilion. The following year, I helped out in the Heritage Pavilion and have been choosing to volunteer there ever since. This year, I signed up for the chance to work with Ms. Kat Mulingtapang, my energetic pavilion manager, again.

So: book lovers and Pistahan revelers, kitakits sa Pistahan 2015 at the Yerba Buena Gardens!

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

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