A decade later, Filbookfest is more relevant than ever
The first Filipino American International Book Festival, or Filbookfest, was held in 2011 during a fairly upbeat time.
The U.S. was still reeling from the 2008-2009 financial crisis but there was much optimism under Barack Obama.
Facebook was still considered a generally harmless social networking platform where people can connect with old and new friends without worrying about the spread of hateful, dangerous lies.
This was before the time of American politicians who called for the banning of books, used beleaguered migrants for cruel political stunts and embraced all kinds of brazen lies.
The sixth Filbookfest will be held on October 15 and 16 at the San Francisco Main Library.
It is taking place at a time when lies and distortions have become the norm in social and political discourse. And when books and writers play an increasingly important role.
The festival features prominent Filipino writers, artists and academics, including short story writer Lysley Tenorio, author Theo Gonzalvez, poet Barbara Jane Reyes, author-educator Janet Stickmon and theater artist and humorist Alan Samson Manalo.
There will again be a book marketplace which is always a treat for Filipinos and Filipinos American book lovers. There are author roundtables focused on books for young people and Philippine mythology and folklore. Inkstorm session will feature writers reading from their newly released work.
Another session will take on Filipino fiction today, and the art of Baybayin and Philippine Calligraphy. My friends Manalo and Gonzalves will lead what promises to be a fun panel titled “Gossip, Sex and the end of the World: Tonge in a mood and the Emegence of Filipino American Theater.”
The festival will be capped with a special guest, Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, the veteran journalist and CEO of Rappler, who has emerged as an important spokesperson for democracy and committed journalism. (I had the honor of interviewing Maria in a recorded session which will be broadcast on Sunday.)
The first Filbookfest took place shortly after the 55th death anniversary of Carlos Bulosan, author of the classic “America Is In the Heart.”
Well, there’ll be an opportunity to remember Bulosan next month when Filipino artists and writers gather in San Francisco for the first Filipino American Book Festival.
I remembered the great Filipino American writer and labor activist when I wrote about the first Filbookfest. It is even more fitting now to remember him at a time when some of the issues Bulosan struggled against — racism, white supremacy, the sinister attempts to derail democracy — have emerged once again as pressing, urgent concerns.
This weekend is a time to remember the power of books and writers in the struggle for freedom.