Words Expressed - Pagdiriwang 2006
When Oliver mentioned that he would be attending the Pagidiriwang Fest in Seattle, of course I beat feet down to the Center House to check things out.
Coordinators Maria Batayola and Robert Francis Flor put together an impressive lineup of writers:
From the left - Toni Bajado, Lawney Reyes, Peter Bacho, Rick Barot, and Maria Batayola.
I was late arriving to the event owing, not so much to Pinoy time (which was surprisingly absent - the entire event was scheduled for 10:30 am and /it started at 10:30 am/. I was totally thrown off!), but to being unable to navigate the upper rooms of the Center House. I wandered the halls looking for Conference Room B for about 15 minutes until I finally arrived halfway through Toni Bajado's reading. Still flustered from being lost and late, I unfortunately do not remember her writing so much as the quality of her voice, gentle and insistent.
I'm hoping to find a copy of Lawney Reyes' White Grizzly Bear's Legacy. Lonnie is a Colville-Pinoy and related to us that he didn't know about his Filpino ancestry until later in life. He always figured his father was just from another tribe across the river from Spokane.
Peter Bacho picked up on the theme of Indo-Pinoys with his reading from his new book Entries. In the entry he read to us, he spoke of the last cavalry charge of the Philippine Scouts during WWII. Quite fitting as the earlier opening ceremonies honored the Filipino WWII who are still living. My grandfather was part of that last charge and is something I hope to write about soon.
Oliver had told me about Rick Barot, so it was good to finally hear him read. It was cool to have the only two Pinoy Poetry Faculty in Washington State at the same reading. His imagery in "At Point Reyes" was clean and vivid with such lines as "Among the seaweed were finger bones/of driftwood, some feathers, flame-blue." Next door to the writers, though, they were celebrating the WWII vets with loud song, making it really hard for Rick to read. When they finally quieted down, Maria made him do an encore to make up for it.
Maria was definitely the ringleader/mother hen of the group, mostly known for her playwrighting, but reading from her poetry book-seeking-a-publisher. I had a good chat with her later in the day about performance storytellers and the need to connect Pinoy writers in Washington more strongly.
From the left: Robert Francis Flor, Oscar Penaranda, Oliver dela Paz, Geronimo Tagatac, and R. Romea Luminarias
Robert Flor was our MC for the event, and from the stories of the other writers, the chief invitor. He's another playwright/poet with a deep history with the Filipino community of Seattle. His poem "The Plagues" cut to the heart of living/working in the seedier areas of Central Seattle, an area quite different from the suburban life I lived in Federal Way.
I was surprised and happy to see Oscar again, thinking it wonderful that he had travelled so far to attend the event. He read a section of Seasons by the Bay with a long preamble that marks as much his personality as his writing. I cornered him later to ask about whether the Filipinos on the Manila Galleons were slaves, and though not bought and sold, he said that conscription was not much better than slavery.
Finally, Oliver read both from Names Above Houses and from Furious Lullaby, in addition to some newer work. Oliver's work builds on layers of images, creating scenes from strong nouns stacked one on top of the other. Like Rick's work, Oliver's poems are ones to be read again and again, savored and explored over time, adding yet more books to my "Must Get Soon" list already happily burdened by other terrific authors.
We were well past two hours of continual reading by the time Geronimo and R.Romea read, and I admit that by the time of their readings, my brain was quite exhausted. Geronimo's novel Weight of the Sun appears to have that blending of character and environment that I try to put into my own work. R.Romea on the other hand writes protest poetry with a gentle hand, an unlikely, but very effective marriage of activism and artistry. We spoke later in the day and when he found out I wrote, he asked to read my work, and I was thankful to have something to offer on Haruah.
After the readings was a panel discussion which I missed. I had abandoned my family to wander the festival earlier and was afraid they were bored to tears. Instead, I found them quite happy watching the dance performances and checking out the food booths.
Other glimpses from the Festival:
Ringing the bell 108 times for Philippine Independence day.
Pandango Sa Ilaw is one of my favorite traditional dances.
Described as "Recycled Teenagers," these gals showed the young ones how it's really done.
The Vets, though, were the stars of the day. I hope to interview them over the coming months for my oral-history-project-in-progress.