It is difficult to sift my thoughts and choose which of them are worthy of being put into words. I will try my best. At this time probably Neil is getting read to leave Manila and go to Australia for his next stop. I wonder what contrast he would think of again when he gets there and what comparison he would have between the Philippines and Australia.
I also wanted to have the pictures ready before I start posting. Despite the political instability in the country, the three days were surreal for me. It was a huge breather from the usual boring routine I call my life. I don't want it to end, but then sometimes we all just have to let go. But the memories will always remain. =)
Day 1: Rockwell Tent
9 July 2005
Post-shift meeting ended earlier than I expected. The odds are in my favor that early Saturday morning. I was on my way from work when my sister texted me that Neil Gaiman passed by in front of the queueing fans at about 9:30 AM and said hello. Fans shouted "leather jacket!" when they saw him holding the famous Gaiman leather jacket with him. I planned to rest awhile when I got home but reading that text made me excited that I hastily took a bath and went to the Powerplant Mall. Got there and met some friends. Had lunch since I know it's going to be a long day ahead, especially since I came from an almost 10-hour shift the night before.
I donned my black Fully Booked volunteers' shirt and really cool ID and went to my post. After dealing with really difficult fans, who would force themselves and their opinions on me just to get a Gaiman signature on their group, and after a few irritating encounters with the so-called VIP's, the program started at about 3PM. "The Late Isabel" performed songs and since Neil was late, they performed more songs until fans screamed for them to stop. Neil was late because he was unable to print a part of the "Anansi Boys", his new book, that he's gonna use for the reading. The trailer of "Mirrormask" was shown on three big screens. When Neil finally came on stage, we can certainly see how overwhelmed he was (he even said Filipinos were like "a wall of noise"). We were just awed by his presence.
Neil reading "Anansi Boys" from his handy laptop
He answered some questions and read a few parts from "Anansi Boys" so well (I think because he's so used to radio plays). I just remembered how British accent turns me on. People were laughing and clapping and sometimes Neil had to shush the crowd. Maybe he's just not used to our noise. Haha! Neil ended up signing for about 700 people from the expected 500. Neil was cranky at about past 11PM and requested people to take pictures without flashes and to have only a maximum of two book per person signed. There were fans from far places like Cebu, hard-headed fans who insisted on having 4 books signed despite Neil's request and there were considerate ones who brought 7 books but ended up having 2 books signed. At that time, I admired Mr. Gaiman more for not letting his fans down despite the fact that he was not informed of the extra 200 people more on the line. He was also surprised that Fully Booked allowed 4 books per person when he is used to 2 or 3 books max. He even had his 10-minute dinner by the monoblock table (the same one we used!) while standing up! Imagine that! Cowboy Neil! No whines whatsoever! Kaka-bilib! It was nearly midnight and when the remaining people gave Neil a round of applause, I can't help but wipe a tear or two.
the booksigning began
I was a really disappointed since I expected the volunteers to have their stuff signed as well but since there was no time, we all went home without even having to shake his hand. My sister had two of our books signed. I was glad she did not sign up as a volunteer at least she had a Gaiman moment that day. I met a lot of my friends there, met some of my online friends in person (hello Lainnir and Starshuffler!) and some people I know but never expected to be there. I tried my best to help out and I was so exhausted. I reached my record of 30 hours without sleep again. We went home a little past 1AM. I heard the signing lasted until about 1:30AM. Poor Neil! =(
I thought I'll have my stuff signed another time instead and wont lose hope as long as Neil is on Philippine soil. =)
Day 2: Fully Booked Promenade, Greenhills
10 July 2005
It's my birthday!
I was not supposed to go to the signing coz I wanted to spend it with my family but since most of books were not signed yet, I had to find a way. Some of my friends went there as early as 10:30AM just to get a numbered stub. My sis and I arrived at about 4PM and there were no more stubs. They said I should stick around since the line is faster today compared to yesterday (Neil wanted to sign only 2 books per person, 1 with dedication and 1 with signature), there may be time for volunteer signing. The line ended earlier than expected. The priority stubs were finished and the line was ending so I lined up myself. I bought two books with me with a cute bracelet I bought for Maddy. I was all nervous and shaking when I was about 3 feet away from him. In my mind, I was repeating what I'm gonna say to him when finally, I had that "Gaiman moment" and totally forgot what I had to say. As far as my memory can handle, it went something like this:
I gave my first book with the piece of paper where I wrote "Karen, Happy Birthday!" for him to write.
Me: Thank you sir! (in a really soft voice)
Neil: You're welcome! (smiles)
Maita (the events coordinator of Fully Booked standing beside Neil's table): She's one of the volunteers yesterday... She helped out...
At this time, I gave Neil a hug.
One of the volunteers (sorry I was in a daze I forgot who it was! Maybe it was Meann): It's her birthday!
Maita: Karen, it was your birthday yesterday?
Me (still looking at Neil and showing him the bracelet): And this is for Maddy...
Neil: Oh cool! I think she's gonna love this! (signs the second book) Is this your book?
Neil: Good coz I started writing Happy Birthday... I'm gonna give you two dedications since it's your birthday.
After he signed my second book, I got another hug from Neil! Wahoo! =)
Maita: Was it your birthday yesterday?
Me (to Maita): No, my birthday's today. =)
Maita: Oh really?! Happy birthday!
Neil: And you spent it lining up here?!
At this time people around, even the fans lining up behind me were saying "Happy birthday!" and saying "Wow!", etc. I felt like the room started spinning...
Me (to Maita): And my birthday's now complete...
Then he kissed me on my right cheek! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaah! The room was still spinning and I think I was flushing crimson already.
a hug from Neil
I went out and went up again to meet my sis, Shine and Tonette. I was still in a daze. Then I started babbling. At this time, since the numbered stubs were out, Neil allowed more than 150 people more inside and gave his signature in one condition, that they just have one book signed. I think he's an angel for doing that to the fans who waited outside in the heat. Because of this, I decided to help out even if I'm not a volunteer for that day. I was just so happy to help out and went back to do my volunteer job. Since the ground floor of Fully Booked is small and cramped up, volunteers were positioned in front of his desk just a couple of feet away so I was able to get better pics of him signing. Then after the queue, he signed for the volunteers and although I had two more unsigned books, I just showed him my volunteers' ID and got a signature. After that, he posed with us on the stairs. It was so cool! He knows how to mingle with fans! Adorable!
Neil with the volunteers
My friends from TPTS and Nocturne even the scary-looking but friendly bouncers during the event sang me "The Birthday Song" in front of Fully Booked with Neil Gaiman in it. Who could ask for more, right? We went home and decided this is the most unforgettable birthday in my life.
Day 3: Music Museum, Greenhills
11 July 2005
We listened to Neil's interview from NU 107 at about 10:30 to 11:30 AM and went on our way to the Writers' Forum sponsored by the British Council. Wow! Writers like Jessica Zafra were there, journalists, editors from several well-known magazines and newspapers, comic book writers and enthusiasts, artists, the works! We even had free cocktails! Neil was a bit late but when he came in, he received the same loud crowd, same cheers and applause from us. There were lots of cameras flashing and lots of questions with really long answers. Neil is one talkative writer and I love his sense of humor!
I learned a lot of things that day: like he is not against fan fiction and I quote "There is nothing wrong with playing in other people's playground"... but if one aspires to be a successful writer, one has to do more than that. Lesson I learned also is if one believes one is good in something, like writing, one should do it and I quote "No one would do it for you..."
Gaiman on stage answering questions
I plan not to go to the book-signing in Gateway, Cubao anymore. The forum was cut short because of the signing and after seeing Mr. Gaiman leave the stage, I was having second thoughts. But then I thought I wanted to have the pictures taken-cared of and wanted to go home early since I've been out for most of the time for the past three days. I knew the signing would be for a short time too since Neil's gonna have dinner with the winners at 7PM, plus it was far from our place. I was weighing everything until my sis told me she doesn't want to go there anymore lest we catch the Monday rush-hour traffic at about 6PM, so we decided to head home instead.
waving goodbye to the fans
So, there it is, I wish this could have been an endless event, but then I learned to let go. Thank you to Fully Book (and the owner, Mr. Jaime Daez) for bringing him here. Thanks to Ms. Maita Quesada for not giving up despite all the stress and for always being there for us, the volunteers. Sa susunod! I will also remember when he said there's another event in Singapore next year and he doesn't want to miss the Philippines. Again, I quote his his journal: But thanks again to you all. And yes, I do want to come back.
So, see you next year Mr. Gaiman! =)
my signed Gaiman stuff
For more pictures, click here. To view the "Mirrormask" trailer (no audio), click here. Watch never before seen clips from the movie, click here plus the "Close to You" Goth version click here. Finally, thank you Erwin for including this entry in your article. =)