Thursday, 7 June 2007

Manila Report

Everything about this trip was a first for me - first trip to the Philippines, first time using Power Point, and first time running a Workshop. Fortunately the smooth professionalism of SCBWI Philasia and the British Council more than compensated for my inexperience.

The morning after my arrival I met organizers Beaulah Taguiwalo and Nikki Torres for breakfast at the Malayan Hotel, together with Beaulah's sons Mark and Homer. Then we drove to the British Council to check through the details of my presentation, where the staff, headed by Myrha Pranga, were extremely helpful and generous.

During the afternoon Nikki took me for lunch in a busy modern Mall and showed me around one of the biggest bookshops, which had a good selection of locally published works by Philippine authors and illustrators. Most of these books seemed to be in paperback only, and many were adaptations of fairytales, I bought three titles,
A Rooster in the Sun by Becky Bravo, illustrated by Lyra Garcellano (I loved the illustrations) Lampara Books, Manila.

Why the Piña has a Hundred Eyes, as told by Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz (who I was later to be interviewed by). Tahanan Books, Manila.

Finally a modern reprint of The Monkey and the Turtle by the great Philippine reformist martyr José P. Rizal, Also from Tahanan.


We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Ayala Museum, well known for it's fascinating dioramas telling the story of the Philippines development - it was a tremendous education, my knowledge of Philippine history was woefully limited. Nikki patiently explained every one of the nearly 70 uniquely hand-crafted displays.

We also saw a marvellous exhibition of etchings (I wish I could remember the name of the artist).

In the evening I was interviewed for a newspaper by Neni Sta Romana-Cruz in a restaurant right in front of the museum. Neni proved to be a wonderful larger-than-life character exuding warmth, and dry wit. I actually felt like I should have been interviewing her!
L to R Neni, Nikki, Beaulah and yours truely

Dinner followed with Neni, Beaulah, her sons and Nikki. My menu choice included a traditional Philippine soup that came served from a teapot. Unfortunately I was so busy talking I mistook a chili for a green bean and munched away ... seconds later it kicked in with an eye-watering vengeance.

The soup - that green bean ain't no green bean!

"Drink some wine" suggested Neni, so I did, which made it even worse, naturally!




The next day was the workshop. There was a good crowd of around 25 people at the British Council. The Director Andrew Picken came in on his day off to deliver a great speech, and despite some initial microphone problems things went off to a good start. I gave two presentations, the first on the development of British children's illustration, the second on my own work. I'd intended to edit these down but the organizers encouraged me to show everything I'd brought so, combined with my tendency to ramble on I went massively over time, well into the afternoon. I hope everyone's interest was maintained!

The British Council were generous enough to lay on a fine lunch for everyone and I had chance to get to know some of the attendees better. Then I ran a workshop exercise on expanding characters to picture book ideas, finishing with storyboarding . Unfortunately there wasn't really enough time to deal with this in full, but everyone worked bravely away and a few finished ideas were produced at the end. The event ended at 7:00pm, three hours over schedule, after portfolio critiques. I've no pictures of the event myself, but there's a write-up from SCBWI here, and a very fun blog entry on it by attendee Joel Chua here.

Some of the attendees joined us for dinner in a fabulously decorated restaurant the other side of town (I don't recall the name), where books were signed and mutually exchanged. These included illustrators Pepper Roxas and Liza Flores, as well Neni, and editor Karina Bolasco from Anvil Publishing, who presented me with a generous pile of books. A wonderful crowd, and superb food. It was a great end to a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable trip, and (I hope) a successful event.

My sincere and deepest thanks go out to all those involved, especially to organizers Beaulah and Nikki, who ran things professionally and smoothly. They really thought of everything.

Next week believe it or not I'm off to Mongolia to run another workshop with co-SCBWI organizer Holly Thompson.