Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Filipino writers go blogging to draw readers in

Sept. 16- I attended the Pistang Panitik lecture at the SMX beside Mall of Asia. Present were Filipino writer/bloggers Marnes Kilates, Dean Alfar, Vlad Gonzales and Sonny Villafania.

This happened within the event Manila International Book Fair (already on its 29th year). There were at least fifteen people who attended the lecture. It was basically meant to let people know that some of our Filipino writers have happily found a kind of second space for their writings, no longer bound by the question of where to put their writings when there are no available publishers around. For Dean Alfar, blogging, he said, reacquainted him with his writing gift, having had to set aside his creative guns to work for an advertising agency. Then his closest cousin died and when he finally started on his keys in his laptop, the words just flowed out. There was no turning back for him since then.

During the open forum, writer Abdon "Jun" Balde, Jr. asked if the writers in the panel were not afraid of de-valuing their creative work (i.e. novels, poetry) by posting it online. That their work would lose their value in print and people would no longer buy the printed copy. Alfar answered it by saying initially that he did not have such a fear, and went on to explain that, in fact, most writers in the U.S. had gone into posting whole novels online. But instead of losing out in print sales, the sales of their books actually went up. People did buy the real thing when they read it online and liked it.

I share Alfar's views on this. After the said talk, I went around. If you were there yourself, it would have seemed like Solomon's treasures, and any bibliophile would have hyperventilated and panicked. And the good news is, tadah: that Filipinos came and bought books. I saw students calculating in their minds what they could buy with their extra allowance, old people in wheelchair followed by their maids, mothers with their kids. Powerbooks and National Bookstore had the largest booths, but the other printing houses, whether school based (UST, U.P., St. Paul,) or private ones, did have their fair share of the sales (which, come to think of it, shouldn't be so surprising, as branches of Booksale, that second-hand bookstore, have already cropped up everywhere...which means they're thriving...which means Filipinos are buying books...and reading).

Developing the Filipinos' love for reading is still at the core of these writers's reason for going online, they admitted, and not for the blogging money. And yes, they are letting the world know that they exist in this corner of the world.

I left the book fair with a sudden craving for dark chocolates.

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