the philippine readers and writers festival 2016


#GoReadWrite2016 Join National Book Store and Raffles Makati’s Philippine Readers and Writers Festival featuring Pulitzer award winning author Adam Johnson and bestselling authors Paula McLain and Anna Todd from August 26 to 28, 2016 at the Raffles Makati.

Admission is free! Attend three days of book signings, discussions, and panels about books, literature, and culture from top Filipino writers and artists.

All events will be held at the Raffles Makati with registration starting at 9 a.m. every day.

Click here for the schedule of events. Tag #GoReadWrite2016 to join the discussion.


August 26:

9:30am – 12:00pm
Lines of Flight:
The Practice and Limits of Realism in Philippine Fiction

Charlson Ong, Jaime An Lim, Dean Francis Alfar, Luna Sicat Cleto, Gabriela Lee, and Eliza Victoria.
Moderated by J. Neil C. Garcia
University of the Philippines Press

August 27:

10:00am – 12:00pm
Mundong Hindi Palaging Atin: Lunsad-Aklat ng The Lait Chronicles, Wounded Little Gods, at Instructions on How to Disappear
Gabriela Lee, Eliza Victoria, John Jack G. Wigley, Carl Javier, Dean Francis Alfar, Alan Navarra, Carlos Malvar, Joey Arguelles, and Ferdinand Pisigan Jarin

Full list of events here.

FAQs here.

See you!

and beyond

Reactions to Marte were of varying intensity and ran the gamut from “It’s astonishing!” to “This play should never have been staged”. Having written at least four books now out in the market, I’m not a stranger to less than stellar reviews. Still, I was surprised by how the negative-to-harsh reviews affected me. Is my confidence crumbling? Is my thick skin no longer thick enough?

Then it hit me. I write prose fiction. With prose fiction, the book or story is marked in my head as DONE following publication, and becomes psychologically separate from myself.

Above all, it is static. Interpretations of the text may change, but the text, every time you flip the page, remains the same.

Not so with theater.

I sat through four out of six shows of Marte and each one of them was different. An actor forgets a line or adds a line, the lights are changed to enhance a scene, the director changes a blocking instruction. A prop falls, gets snagged on a costume, goes missing. A fantastic performance tonight may be middling in the matinee show the next day. And vice versa! With theater, until the very last curtain call, you can’t breathe easy, you can’t relax, because until then you are not done.

It was the most physically and psychologically demanding creative project I have ever worked on.

And I loved it.

My deepest gratitude to everyone who joined me (willingly or unwillingly) in this production journey.

Marte class picture.


On the way to (Tagaytay) CCP.




Pre-show warm-up in Buff aka Backstage Extension c/o Direk Nic Pichay.


With my family before the last show.




Full house!



And a proposal.


Love you Team Marte!


Further reading:

5 new plays–and 5 nerve-wracked new playwrights

Another Baptism By Fire At The 12th Virgin Labfest

Virgin LabFest 13 Revisited:

Ang Sugilanon ng Kabiguan ni Epefania

Ang Bata sa Drum

Mula sa Kulimliman

* * *

What now?

Onwards and upwards.


The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival 

August 26 to 28, 2016

Raffles Makati

Manila International Book Fair

September 16 to 18, 2016

SMX Convention Hall

See you around!

marte – opening week

And we’re off!

My endless gratitude to everyone who watched our first two shows on July 2.

My heartfelt thanks as well to the following people for lending their time and talent. Their passion is intoxicating.

Juliene Mendoza (husband of cast member Stella Mendoza, and who also stars in Jose Socrates delos Reyes’ Dahan-Dahan ang Paglubog ng Araw ) for taking our photos.

Set designer James Reyes. (It was the largest and most complicated set under Set D. “Maximalist” sabi nga ni sir James. Hindi biro itong pinagdaanan niya hahaha.)

Director George A. de Jesus III. (His ideas made my story better and stronger.)

The cast Stella Cañete Balucas Mendoza, Martha Nikko Comia, Jojo Riguerra, Kevin Posadas, John Mark Yap and Chino Macaraig. Plus a special appearance from Mara Paulina Marasigan (who also directed another LabFest play, Guelan Luarca’s Bait).

Stage manager Sabrina Manansala, projection/sound designer Joee Mejias and light designer Joseph G. Matheu.

And to the Virgin LabFest–Tuxqs Rutaquio, Nikki Garde-Torres, Rodolfo Vera, etc etc ETC — for the opportunity to present this little story to the public.

Early rehearsals at Silangan.


Photoshoot session.






Even more rehearsals.


Rehearsals and space adjustment at Teatrong Huseng Batute, the venue of the Virgin LabFest.






My books are also being sold for the duration of the festival. (Photo from Tuxqs Rotaquio.)






Photos below from Mark Arisgado, taken after the matinee show of Marte



Photos below from Trixie Dauz. (See Trixie Dauz Photography.)








My favorite shot from Trixie’s set.


I’d like to claim that the first two shows were a success, based on the comments of close friends and audience members who messaged me online and spoke to me right after the show–and also because the lights came on at the right time, the smoke machine didn’t malfunction–I’m probably not the best judge because I’m too close to this.

See you in the theater, and tell us what you think! We have four more shows to go.

July 7 – 8 PM

July 8 – 3 PM

July 13 – 3 PM

July 17 – 8 PM

Visit the CCP Box Office or Ticketworld Outlets. Tickets can also be bought on the day of the show–please line up for tickets one hour prior.

geeky birthday surprise

J celebrated his birthday recently. I wanted to give him a cake with his likeness as a topper, playing video games, but since I was working with a limited budget, I decided to go for cupcakes instead.

I found Swell Sweets through good old Google, and browsed their designs, as well as external reviews by previous customers. Gel of Swell Sweets replies promptly and is very nice. I was also able to speak to her on the phone after giving her pegs through email, and she described what she planned to do “to make it special”. (Actually, I called their phone number just to make sure the outfit actually exists before making my deposit. You’ll never know, these days.)

Their website is under construction, but the link above goes to their Instagram. Check out their cakes, cookies, and cupcakes! For cupcakes, they require a minimum order of two dozen cupcakes, for a maximum of two designs. You can email Gel through if you want more details, or to ask for a quotation.

J’s pretty happy with his PS4 and D20 cupcakes! PS4 is buttercream (my favorite) and the D20 is chocolate. Everything is edible except the stick and the wrapping.



We also had a nice overnight stay at Solaire Resort & Casino. We were given a Bay View window at no extra charge.

Look at that view.


We had a breakfast buffet at Fresh and the staff sang J a happy birthday. Thanks!




eliza victoria’s marte (virgin labfest 12, opens july 2016)

Eliza Victoria’s MARTE. Direction by George de Jesus III.

Tina, a factory worker on Mars, talks to factory neophyte Lorie about the cruelty and injustices she has witnessed–and lays bare her plans to leave the red planet.



July 2 (Saturday), 3 pm and 8 pm
July 8 and 13 (Friday and Wednesday), 3 pm
July 7 and 17 (Thursday and Sunday), 8 pm

• Ricardo Novenario’s “Daddy’s Girl,” directed by Nicolas Pichay
• Rick Patriarca’s “Hapagkainan,” directed by Chris Martinez
• Eliza Victoria’s “Marte,” directed by George de Jesus III

(Full list after the poster.)

Tickets are now available. PhP 350 for three one-act plays.

Buy your tickets: Ticketworld (online), Ticketworld OutletsCCP Box Office


Continue reading eliza victoria’s marte (virgin labfest 12, opens july 2016)

bulacan to bataan: visiting the shrine of valour and las casas filipinas de acuzar

The city makes you miss the idyllic pastoral life (which only ever looks idyllic when you’re looking from afar; after a while, it becomes tiresome and you miss the city again). I don’t look forward to the commute, or the lack of air-conditioning (listen to me whine), but I do look forward to the peace and quiet.

I traveled with my closest high school friends from April 27 to 28 from Bulacan to Bataan to Tarlac and back again. We met up in Malolos City early in the morning of the 27th to travel to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan. We stopped by the Mount Samat National Shrine, also known as the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valour), in Pilar, Bataan, since it was a special request by our designated driver. (Since he’s the driver, and he owns the car, we actually have no choice. I’m glad we went, though.)

Mount Samat National Shrine

The shrine complex and the Memorial Cross were built to honor the Filipino and American soldiers who fought during the Battle of Bataan (January to April, 1942).

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

  • Entrance is PhP 30 per person.
  • The elevator has been under repair since early this year, so we were not able to go to the top of the Memorial Cross.
  • There is a museum in the basement of the complex.
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
Manila was declared an “open city” during the Japanese occupation in order to avoid further damage.
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
Gen. Edward P. King, Jr. was an American military officer who led the Bataan troops against the Japanese. This is a photo of his surrender. I can’t keep my eyes off the man on the left with his face in his hand.
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
Fairy lights illuminate the Death March route and the sites of struggle.
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
POWs in UST wash their hair.
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
“Salute to the Japanese soldiers when you meet them…Don’t be fooled by false propaganda.”

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Above: Japanese propaganda, according to the Americans. The truth, according to the Japanese. I wonder what the Philippines would have been like if they just left us the f– alone. But alas, history happened.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

I kept reading this as “azucar” due to the azucareras of nearby Tarlac, but this heritage resort is named after its owner: The Houses of the Philippines by Acuzar. Jose “Gerry” Acuzar & team started dismantling, transporting, and rebuilding Spanish houses and mansions in Bataan in 2003. The houses came from Manila (Tondo, Binondo and Quiapo), Quezon City, Bulacan (there were a LOT of houses from Bulacan), Pampanga, La Union, Ilocos and Cagayan.

  • We got two rooms at a discount. We paid PhP 1,800 per head. (There were eight of us.)
  • The room we got was HUGE. Taking a bath will literally tire you because of all the square meters you’ll have to cover.

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

  • I did not read up on Las Casas, so I was surprised by how large the resort was (400 hectares). There is a jeep and a tram that goes around the resort to bring guests to and from their hotel rooms.
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

  • Precisely because I did not read up on Las Casas, I didn’t know it’s near a beach or that it has a pool. Bring swimming gear, for the love of god (or you’ll end up buying overpriced swimming gear on the way to the resort).
  • They have a nice pool.

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

  • We rode a Banana Boat and I scratched my face when we fell into the water. I hate water sports. Whose idea is this? I thought we’re just here to soak up some culture???
Look at me, so happy. Pre-gasgas sa face.
Photos from friends (Las Casas)
Post-gasgas sa face but still smiling because there’s a camera. #mahapdi
  • Cafe Marivent is where you’ll have breakfast if you’re an overnight guest. We decided to have lunch here as well. A bit of a bad idea. Food is expensive and comes in small servings. If your group has a car, you’re better off driving to the Bagac Public Market. (Which was what we did for dinner. Consider: Halo-halo at Cafe Marivent costs PhP255. Halo-halo in the public market is PhP75. Sa palengke ka na lang, di ba.)
  • They serve a pretty good buffet-style breakfast.
  • Bringing food inside the resort is discouraged. Corkage fee is a whopping PhP500 per head.
  • During the tour: Wear footwear you can easily remove and slip back on again. You’ll be asked to remove footwear before entering the casas.
  • For pasalubong: They sell pearl jewelry and some good cashew butter at their panaderia. Bread is expensive. They sell cheese bread for PhP50 a pop! But I thought the sweet and creamy cashew butter at PhP265 a bottle is worth it.

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
Lola Basyang tells a story in front of the Lola Basyang Bridge.

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

There is a Heritage Tour that meets here (see photo above) every hour. I enjoyed the tour. I love old houses and historical tsismis.

While waiting you can check out the games in the entertainment room. (The second floor is part of the tour.)

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

According to Mica, our tour guide, Las Casas has 27 heritage homes. The hour-long tour will give you background info about the houses’ origins and previous owners, and how they ended up at Las Casas. Among the houses featured is the home of Jose Rizal’s mother, Teodora Alonzo (Casa Biñan); the house that served as the first University of the Philippines (Casa Hidalgo), and the home of the Novicio clan (Casa Luna), to which the Luna brothers’ mother belonged.

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
Outside Casa Hidalgo
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
Inside Casa Biñan
Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas
Mica sharing some juicy Alonzo family tsismis.

Below is a not very good shot of the exterior of Las Casas’s newest luxury casa. You can rent all three floors for PhP150,000 a night, and you’ll get a butler and unlimited cookies and coffee.

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

A better shot, using my friend J’s GoPro:

Photos from friends (Las Casas)


Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

A recreated Escolta.

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

Pastoral pee.

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

We woke up early the next morning for a walk along the beach.

Look at this Venice-like view outside our room.

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

My friend presenting the West Philippine Sea. Guests are allowed on the beach from 6 AM to 6 PM only, for their own safety. The pool is open until 9 PM.

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

Dambana ng Kagitingan + Las Casas

More than the place and the history, I enjoyed hanging out with my friends, whom I have known since 1999. We talked about everything from our idiotic teenage worries to amortization payments to ophthalmology appointments to maintenance meds to Wacky (don’t ask). A few years more and we’ll be talking about menopause and rheumatism.

I can’t wait.

Photos from friends (Las Casas)

summer komikon 2016, or there’s so much good stuff our budget flew out the window

It’s good to be back! I missed last year’s Summer Komikon so I made it a point to attend this year and ask kind folks online what good titles are out there.

There were a lot.

Summer Komikon 2016

What we got:

  • Lost (Rob Cham, Anino)
  • 12:01 (Russell Molina and Kajo Baldisimo, Anino)
  • Kare-Kare Komiks (Andrew Drilon, Anino)
  • Amorsolo Esperanza & Andres Celestial (Elbert Or, Anino)
  • ZsaZsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila Blg. 2 (Carlo Vergara, Visprint)
  • Congratulations, You’re a Girl! (Grickenfish, self-pub)
  • Bits & Pieces (Grickenfish, self-pub)
  • Ugh 1 & 2 (Hulyen, self-pub)
  • Gekorr (Pancho Karambola, self-pub)
  • Alaala ng mga Anino (Mike Esteves and Mikey Marchan, self-pub)
  • Ligaya (Fatima Bergonia and Adrienne Onday, self-pub)
  • Aswang de Manila (Ianthe Pimentel and Kevin Samala, Blue Indie Komiks)
  • Buhay Habangbuhay (Paolo Herras and Tepai Pascual, Meganon Comics)
  • + a couple of books from Charles Tan (not sold at the event–thanks Charles!)

We were very happy with our purchases and will spend the next few days going through them. My early raves and recommendations: Lost, 12:01, Congratulations, You’re a Girl!, Bits & Pieces, and Ugh. I hope to find the time and energy to review them one by one.

Thank you to everyone who dropped by the Visprint table! (Apologies if I forgot your name/got your name wrong/called you by a different name/asked for your name when I should obviously know who you are. It’s embarrassing. I’m really sorry. I’m bad with names.)

Summer Komikon 2016

Photo from Kyra of Visprint

Summer Komikon 2016

Summer Komikon 2016
Photo from Kyra of Visprint
Summer Komikon 2016
Photo from Mira
Summer Komikon 2016
Photo from Honey

I’ll add more photos here as soon as I get them! (I remember posing with Alexandra Trese.)

We escaped the summer heat and dropped by Greeka Kouzina (which I also recommend) for dinner. It’s a short walk away from Bayanihan Center.

Summer Komikon 2016

Summer Komikon 2016

Summer Komikon 2016