Film Festival Circuit II: Eiga Sai 2015 and the introduction to Ryuhei Matsuda

Watching Eiga Sai has been an addictive habit and if I could turn back, I would have wanted to have attended the very first edition of Eiga Sai. But I think when it started I was still in college, so it would have been a little difficult to spend almost the whole day to queue just to ensure a seat. Nevertheless, I’m still happy that it’s my third year attending it and I have my former then current work to thank for it because it opened more doors for me to discover my Japanese addiction.

The recent Eiga Sai was also attended by director Yuya Ishii and producer Takuro Nagai of the opening feature “Our Family” (2014) starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kyozo Nagatsuka and Mieko Harada about a family in the midst of breaking apart but a sudden news of their mother being diagnosed with cancer brings them back together.

It is based on Kazumasa Hayami’s same-titled novel and Ishii’s follow-up project to the commercial and critical success “The Great Passage” (2013) starring Ryuhei Matsuda. Ishii shared that he made the film because he understands some issues and situations the Wakana family is going through and can be likened to his own family.

This year’s line-up also includes contemporary films “Parasyte,” “Wood Job,” “Thermae Romae II” and “Princess Jellyfish.” And under the savory Japan category are “It’s A Beautiful Life – Irodori,” “A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story,” “Patisserie Coin de Rue,” and two documentaries “The God of Ramen” and “Wa-shoku – Beyond Sushi.”

The Road to Ryuhei Matsuda

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It seriously makes me happy everytime I get to see one of my favorite actors at the big screen, even more so when it’s free, which is why I always make an effort to watch their film when it’s included in either the Eiga Sai or Korean Film Festival.

Just like 2013’s Eiga Sai where I first watched Kenichi Matsuyama at the big screen, who of course happens to be one of my favorite actors, this time, I was able to watch an actor who’s also very talented and popular for the first time who just became one of my favorites after seeing him in “Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko” (Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto).

The Great Passage opens the door 

Co-starring Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri

Unlike Kenichi Matsuyama, who I started following since I watched the first Death Note film back in 2006 or 2007, I have only seen or heard about Ryuhei Matsuda on Screen Red some weeks before the Eiga Sai started in Edsa Shangri-La Mall. I happened to chance upon his award-winning film “Fune Wo Amu” (The Great Passage) and Japan’s representative at the 2014 Academy Awards best foreign language film. But I wasn’t able to start the film so I ended up not watching it the first time. I saw it again few days after on TV, but again it already started.

And when the line-up for this year’s Eiga Sai came out, I saw his name in one of the films, and just like I always do I read each and every film’s synopsis and check out their trailers to make a shortlist. Fortunately, I ended up having the film on my shortlist because I like the trailer and the plot. So that’s the story of how Ryuhei Matsuda became one of my most favorite actors, next to Kang Dong-won who’s always been my top bias for the longest time, which means he already has pushed down some of my other favorite actors on the list who I have known longer than him. That’s how strong his effect on me.

Shota Matsuda in Hana Yori Dango 

Shota is the one in blue coat, first from right

But there is something else that totally sent me off the roof. That’s when I found out Shota Matsuda is his little brother. I’ve known Shota since the first Hana Yori Dango in 2005 but I think I saw the drama a year later, as I was motivated to watch the Japanese version of Meteor Garden that I so love. It just so happens that my favorite character is Hua Ze Lei in the Taiwanese version, who is Rui Hanazawa in the Japanese one that was portrayed by Shun Oguri. But in all honesty, I think Shota is the best looking among the four and and he’s perfect for Soujiro Nishikado’s playboy demeanor. Well that’s when until recently, I came to know about his beloved onii-chan.

I did kinda notice the similar surname but I didn’t pay much attention, and initially thought they just have the same surname but no relation. Finding out the real connection between them was a huge surprise, not that they don’t resemble each other, they do when you look closely, but more on the idea that they’re both very handsome and the fact that they’re even brothers – they share the same parents, same blood, growing up together makes it something close to a miracle. It’s not everyday, even in celebrity siblings that you get two brothers or two sisters who are both equally handsome and very talented. It was like my mind wasn’t very ready to take the awesome fact, totally blew my mind.

But then things took a different turn and I came to adore Ryuhei more than Shota. The very first thing I noticed about him is his tender cat eyes, they just look so mysterious and somewhat sad. His eyes speak volumes of things and stories in the most mysterious ways. And I love it when he smiles because I get to see his dimples and his silly laugh in the Mahoro series all got me. I find his features different from Shota despite having a resemblance to each other, because Shota is more of the conventional kind of a good looking guy and Ryuhei is not, which is why my vote goes to Ryuhei.

Mahoro Films and Series 

Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benriken, the first film

I started with Ryuhei at the recent Eiga Sai through the second film titled Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto and third installment of the Mahoro series, one of the most popular and most successful series of film and TV adaptations from the the Naoki Prize-winning series of novels by Shion Miura.

Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi – the series

In this second film, Gyoten (Ryuhei) has been staying with Tada (Eita) in running his benri-ya (handyman business) in Mahoro, a fictional laidback place in Japan for two or three years since the events from the first film (2011) and the series (2013). They accept almost all kinds of odd jobs, from cleaning, organizing, walking pets, driving and more. And most of the time, the two get involved with their clients more than they should. Tada and Gyoten are both divorcees, with past stories they want to forget and run away from.

Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko – the second film

This time, the two buddies are tasked by the local gang leader Hoshi (Kengo Kora) to investigate a mysterious cult group that produces and sells organic vegetables. Things get more messy when Nagiko, Gyoten’s former wife with whom he has a young daughter named Haruka is placed in the care of Tada while she’s away overseas. Tada is scared of what Gyoten might do, especially since he knows Gyoten doesn’t like kids and even more so when he finds out the little girl is his daughter.

Scenes from the series

What I love about the duo of Ryuhei and Eita is that they really complement each other, this one of a kind chemistry I haven’t seen in male actors before. And because of their amazing combination, I feel as an audience that Tada and Gyoten would be at lost without the other.

At the time Gyoten met Tada again in years at the bus station from the first film, it was the right moment for the both of them. Tada, then still couldn’t moved on from the passing of his son that led to his divorce, while Gyoten was on his way to kill his parents because they keep asking Nagiko to see Haruka. I know these all now because I’ve already finished the first film and the series after seeing the second film of course.

It’s also a unique story of two former classmates who find themselves face to face with each other again and becoming best buddies in the process, helping each other out when one needs the other. I have never seen such a story in any of the dramas I’ve seen before.

It’s also very unpredictable and highly enjoyable, I could never guess what adventure would the two be involved with in the next episode. Well-acted, mainly from Ryuhei and Eita who carry the direction of the film and series, picturesque cinematography and fun-loaded, naturally funny story and episodes.

And because of everything, Gyoten Haruhiko has become one of my most favorite fictional characters ever.

I’m also very delighted to know that The Great Passage, in which he won a number of best actor awards will be out in English edition next fall by Amazon Crossing as I was told by a caring staff from Kobunsha, its original publisher when I asked a sample English translation of the novel.

Dia Internacional del Libro: Commemorates Don Quijote’s 400th year publication

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I haven’t had any special reason to visit Instituto Cervantes before, until I found out about the 10th edition of Dia Internacional del Libro (International Book Day). I specially got interested to attend because of the special activities laid out for attendees, in accordance to the commemoration of the 400th year of publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ second volume of “Don Quijote de La Mancha” (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote of La Mancha).

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Instituto Cervantes, Spain’s cultural center in the country has made the 10th edition of Dia Internacional more exciting this time and totally a different kind of book fair with La Noche de los Libros (The Night of Books), which was a whole evening of free entertainment that includes Spanish food games, jazz concert, poetry recitals, free Spanish classes, book market, and photo contest.

The Tradition of Books and Roses

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Internacional del Libro also happened to be on the 23rd of April, which is famous as St. George’s Day in Spain. During this day, people go to festive markets at the town center, particularly in Barcelona to purchase books and roses and give these to their loved ones. It also coincides with other cultural and literary activities, such as book signings and readings of Spanish literature.

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In tradition, men offer roses to important women in their lives, while women give books in return. And in honor of this tradition, the first 100 visitors that day received roses upon entrance at the center. Every purchase of books at the book market also came with a free rose and a free book of their choice, as well as participants of the night’s different activities.

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Re-Writing of Don Quijote

Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the first 100 visitors but then again I was lucky to be part of the Escribo el Quijote (Re-Writing of Don Quijote), wherein 500 book-lover volunteers took part in what they call the “Quixotic” endeavour – that is to hand-write Cervantes’ immortal novel, Don Quijote de La Mancha that is considered to be one of the world’s greatest novels ever written. Each volunteer had two minutes to copy few sentences of the novel that started from 4PM to 11PM. The final hand-written book was deposited at the Library Miguel Hernandez at Instituto Cervantes.

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This is where I got two roses, two roses because my turn was supposed to be at 8PM but it was already 9PM when I got to it. A senior official was kind enough to give me two in exchange of my patience and dedication to wait for my turn, though it was past the time it should have been.

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In part of the celebration for Don Quijote de La Mancha’s 400th year publication, a special set menu, the La Cocina del Quijote was prepared by Chef Juan Carlos de Terry that is based on some of the dishes and wines mentioned in the novel on April 17th at Terry’s Pasong Tamo, Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati.

I took home two books as well from Anvil Publishing (Confessions of a Volcano by Eric Gamalinda and Reading Korea: 12 Contemporary Stories), which entitled me to another rose. I have yet to start reading them though, as I’m still occupied with another book.

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That day’s buddy was my cultural events buddy Myleen. I initially planned to go by myself but I invited her to come along and good thing she was free. We didn’t get the chance to check out the library though, which is something I should come back to.

We both had fun being part of the Don Quijote re-writing activity while listening to jazz music in the background, discovering new books to journey in, watching groups of people and friends chatting, and just simply wandering around the place.

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I forgot to mention it was held outdoors, and they have this garden with a well at the center surrounded with trees, and it was simply picturesque at night. We even found a tree with flowers that’s like cherry blossoms, though we aren’t sure if it is a Sakura tree.

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Instituto Cervantes also held a film series on migration last month featuring films such as “Edna” (2014) starring Irma Adlawan, directed by Ronnie Lazaro about real and imagined fears of overseas Filipino workers; “El tren de la memoria” (2005) by Marta Arribas y Ana Pérez about migrant Spaniards leaving the country to different destinations; “Extranjeras” (Foreign Women) (2003) by Helena Taberna about migrant women in Madrid; “Flores de otro mundo” (Flowers From Another World) (1999) by Iciar Bolain about a group of women in search of stability and companionship and men in search of wives in a small town in central Spain.

It was followed by the film cycle, Great Books on Screen in all Saturdays of June. It included films adapted from novels: “La Colmena” (The Beehive/1982) about stories of people in Madrid 1942, post-Spanish civil war; “La Lengua De Las Mariposas” (Butterfly Tongues/1999) about an extraordinary relationship of a shy boy to his compassionate teacher; “Obaba” (2005) about a woman and her journey to Obaba, a small town in the Basque Country; and “Soldados De Salamina” (Soldiers of Salamina/2003) about a young novelist who has lost inspiration and became a journalist to investigate a true story that took place at the end of the Civil War and involving an infamous writer and an anonymous young soldier.

To know more about Instituto Cervantes, check out their website at manila.cervantes.es, facebook.com/InstitutoCervantesManila and @ICervantesMnila.

The Gift of Books, Itachi and Sasuke Goodies

I’m writing this post at 11:15pm, Dec. 31st just before everything starts over again.

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I’m thankful for these great gifts of experience, adventure and knowing great people who are like real friends to me; although they’re fictional people. Most of the time, these people are the kind of people I’d really like to meet and be friends with. They’re the kind who are not so easy to find in the human world, so I’m really grateful for these wonderful stories of life, of love, of friendship, and everything else in between.

The most memorable character for me this year is Tsukuru Tazaki. He’s so close to who I am and I feel so connected with his story, despite not exactly having the same dilemma and ordeal he had to go through.

At present, I’m reading my first non-fiction book and travel related  one but still so Japanese. I’m enjoying it a lot, having to know more about the country I hold so dearly – my favorite country Japan.

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I also thank my Uncle Luvin from the States, who paved the way for me to be able to get Haruki Murakami’s latest release – The Strange Library; as well as this very beautiful (Naruto) Itachi messenger bag and this bad-ass looking Sasuke’s Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan necklace. But of course, before Uncle Luvin; it is God I have to thank for all these.

This year might not have been the best with an unfortunate event, but I’m looking forward to starting over again. I do not want to promise, instead I will keep on trying and learning from mistakes everyday; and hoping my Christmas wish that I always prayed for during the nine-day Misa de Gallo mass will be awarded to me by God this new year.

Happy New Year everyone and God bless!

Updating this post with some photos earlier during the New Year’s Eve dinner or media noche. Well, I don’t usually post photos of myself but it won’t hurt to do once in a while. I had to take the photos myself and I’m not so good with taking selcas; as I’m not with any family member, but it’s still good. And since I’m not photogenic, I had to take a couple of shots to finally capture some decent ones.

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I suddenly noticed earlier that my glasses and my shirt are the same color. That was not intentional.

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The only ones I personally prepared are the macaroni salad and the ham. The apple crumble, chicken and pancit malabon were take-out orders.

The candles, they’re called prosperity candles. I’m not sure if this tradition is done elsewhere too, but the practice is you light all (7) candles: red (health), blue (peace), yellow (intelligence), violet (spiritual growth), pink (love), green (money), and orange (career) at 11:30pm and put them out at 12 midnight. The smallest candle or the one that melted the quickest symbolizes the good fortune that the new year will bring you first, followed by the rest.

It’s really hard though to decipher which one is the smallest since the candles got a little mixed up when they melted. But I think orange is the smallest, then pink, blue, green, red, violet and yellow.

Orange is for career, hurray! I think this one got me a little excited, crossing my fingers and praying it will be. Pink for love, but not so much a priority. Blue for peace, oh yes peace of mind. Green for money, so I could travel more and buy more books; and Naruto manga and some goodies, and save more. Red for health, good health is always a blessings. Violet for spiritual growth, guidance from God. And last but not the least, yellow for intelligence; to learn new things and new experiences for the mind, body and soul intellect.

First Thoughts – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

I recall being so excited when I first read a synopsis of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage last year. I knew it from then that it is something I should get my hands on and will be included in one of my best Murakami books.

I did not have this particular reaction with 1Q84 though when I first heard about it. I don’t really know what is wrong with the story that somehow it doesn’t appeal to me, for now maybe. Maybe it’s just my taste or maybe something is wrong with me that I’m not all excited with what it is about.

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Picture credits to kmn04books.wordpress.com

After finishing Claire Tomalin’s Invisible Woman yesterday, I started reading Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki earlier over a rice cake and hot chocolate.

I particularly love this passage on page 8.  A unique sense of harmony developed between them – each one needed the other four and, in turn, shared the sense that they too were needed. The whole convergence was like a lucky but entirely accidental chemical fusion, something that could only happen once.

At this early part of Tsukuru’s story, I identify with some qualities of his friend Shiro, whose family name means ‘white root.’ She’s slim and tall, with a model’s body, graceful features of a traditional Japanese doll, with silky lustrous long black hair, a skilled pianist, a serious person, dislikes drawing attention to herself, beautiful, and dreams of becoming a vet.

And while I don’t have a model’s body nor features of a Japanese doll, not even a long silky black hair, nor am I beautiful or a skilled pianist, and does not dream of becoming a vet; but as I picture her in my mind and the things we have in common, I think if she’s ever real I can really be good friends with her.

But still, I connect the most to Tsukuru who views himself having no special qualities or a striking personality, a weird kid, with incurable boredom, whose only real interest are train stations, and who thinks there is something about him that is not exactly normal.

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It is like getting to know someone who thinks the same way as I am. I don’t particularly have his profound adoration to train stations but I do love beautiful train stations like HongKong’s MTR – I adore it. I can literally spend all day hopping on and off at every station. One reason I also love the cover design of the book is the use of train station colors and stops. I could say I’m an average train station enthusiast compared to Tsukuru. However, we both have the same view of thinking that we are colorless.

A big thanks to my brother Jorge who bought the book for me.

photo credits panorami.com

photo credits panorami.com

So many books, so little money

I managed to still go check out the books at the Manila International Book Fair on its last day today. Good thing, they had the book fair extended until 10pm for those who didn’t make it yesterday or Friday due to the typhoon.

Last year, I bought one novel “Please Look After Mother” by Shin Kyung-sook; Naruto Vol. 62 although I bought this one at the anime convention; one book from OMF Literature; two from Black Ink Comics; one chick-lit that I gave to Salia; and three from Lampara. 

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This time, however, I decided to go with two novels: Haruki Murakami’s “Blind Willow Sleeping Woman” because it’s my first Murakami short story collection and Shin Kyung-sook’s “I’ll Be Right There,” because I think it’s as good as the the first book of her I read or even better. And because I bought two novels, it’s more expensive but both came with discounts. I was still able to save from the discounts.

Now, I’ve got a line-up of books waiting to be read with these two new additions. I still have yet to finish “The Invisible Woman,” although I’m halfway there.  And my copy of “Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami, courtesy of my brother Jorge and my aunt Mary Ann will be arriving soon. These two will have to wait a little longer, as I’ve decided to read “Tsukuru Tazaki” after “The Invisible Woman.”

And last but not the least, I got these really cute To-Do List ng Pasaway and Chorva pads from Tahanan Books. I so love their paperbag, so I decided to buy the bigger notepad so I can have one.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to buy any manga this time. I just recently bought a hefty and expensive one with Rurouni Kenshin Big Volume 6 during the Asian Premiere of Kyoto Inferno. I almost wanted to get one earlier but I didn’t have enough with me. I decided as well to not attend the Best of Anime Convention this time. I find the entrance ticket quite expensive really. Although if I arrived much earlier today, I still would have checked it out. What I like about the convention are the live performances and the manga library courtesy of the Japanese Foundation. Last year, I bought Naruto Vol. 61 at the convention, although I saw a pile of manga titles at the Fully Booked booth but I had to decide between another novel and one manga.

If only the organizers decided to extend the anime convention, especially since most people couldn’t come due to the bad weather. The same thing goes for the Manila International Book Fair, as there are requests on Facebook to have it extended until next week because they couldn’t come. As for me, I’m lucky because I was still able to go to one of the events.

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A Korean novel,Naruto and other manga

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I’ve read quite a lot recently. Finally, I’m done with Please Look After Mother just yesterday cause I can’t read everyday and just got the time to finish off the remaining few pages when I went to see Mr. Go.

I finished Naruto Vol. 61 pretty quick. I was so engrossed reading my first manga and first Naruto manga. When I bought this last month at an anime convention, I didn’t know it was a latest volume, that I found no anime episodes for it. The episodes only came out like some weeks ago.

I tried two local manga called Black Ink Shortcuts and enjoyed it despite how short the (3) stories are. Would have been better if they could make something as long as a regular manga volume.

In the world of books at the Manila International Book Fair

34th Manila International Book Fair

SMX Convention Center

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I started reading English fiction novels during high school with Harry Potter and the Sorcere’s Stone.  Reason why Harry Potter is such an influential literary figure to me as it was the first ever fiction I’ve read. Most of the book I like came from the influence of my third older brother who shares the same interest in books. He recommends me books and most of the time I get to know new titles from him. However, I’m not really the type to buy new books every month or week. I’m really picky when it comes to books as I don’t want to waste money with a book I won’t like.  I may not have a huge collection of books but I treasure the ones I’ve collected so far.

I don’t really go to book fairs too, this was my first time. It’s something I can write about so I decided to go. And upon seeing that the MIBF has some events too like workshops, I got more interested. I would have wanted to attend like 4 or 5 forum/workshops but the others have fees. For the first time again since the last writing workshop I had for free with Rhea, I managed to attend Lampara’s first Children’s Writing Workshop. I had fun with the speakers and it was nice to learn something new, though I have never written any children’s story.

A children’s story is not as simple as it seem.  One of the speakers said that not because it’s a children’s story you always have to choose the usual and that you also need to think outside the box.  One should make the kids be the main character and not just simply wallflowers in the story just like Harry Potter. Harry and friends we’re mostly seen on their own not getting help from their parents.

I was happy to find out that they provided certificates as that is what I’m after too and they provided snacks too. I  also took home a give-away but I later found out they actually gave a catalogue though there were 2 GCs. 🙂

During the Q&A, Lampara’s publisher mentioned about translating Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight into Filipino. He said he was fine with them in Tagalog but others seem to cringe at the sight of these novels in Filipino. I admit, I’m one of those who wondered why they have to translate the books in Filipino. But then maybe they wanted to make it more understandable especially for kids who are not so accustomed with English.

After the workshop, I went back to the fair and finally bought Shin Kyung-sook’s Please Look After Mother.  I’m not familiar with the author but I think the fact that she’s Korean attracted me to it. I first saw the book on Wednesday at Fully Booked’s booth and read the synopsis. Well it’s not a love story of a couple but I find it really interesting.  It’s about a family dealing with the disappearance of their mother and along the course of finding her, the grown-up children find out things they never knew about their mother. So I came back after the workshop and bought it.

I also bought a local made comics from Black Ink Comics at Precious Pages booth. It is so much like a manga, I mean the illustration just that it’s very short and a 3 story in 1 type.  I did like reading it but then since it’s just really short I quickly finished it. It was a feel good and sweet (3) stories but I hope they can make it longer though, something that would be as long as a manga volume.

And yes, I bought two children’s book: My Father, the Shape Shifter and Tuwing Sabado. I also got one from Psicom publishing, another local made chic-lit 14 Sundays, the classic Christmas Carol and Little Pink Book on Gab which is sort of like a guide book for girls on their speech manners.

This Diary ng Panget is such a trend in local lit right now. Nung una akala ko, manga paano ba naman ang cover manga style eh hindi pala. But Psicom actually has a Filipino language manga but of course, illustration is very much Japanese.

Manga/anime magazines, learn to speak and write Japanese and how to draw manga are so much cheaper here than buying at Fully Booked.

This is another creative booth. Dr. Seuss

Tahanan Publishing wins the best booth for me. It’s so pretty parang fiesta. It’s like Pahiyas Fiesta here.

At the Lampara Writing Workshop Meeting Rm 8, SMX Convention 2nd Flr

At the Lampara Writing Workshop Meeting Rm 8, SMX Convention 2nd Flr

Food for the day: Chicken satay and morning glory