Friday, March 19, 2010

Gaimania in Manila 2010

Revelations: The 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards was held at the Rockwell Tent (Powerplant Mall) last night, March 17, 2010. This annual awarding ceremony is Fully Booked and Neil Gaiman's way of celebrating Filipino talent in writing, drawing and and this year, film-making. Gaiman fans and fiction/fantasy enthusiasts were there as early as 4 PM for registration. Those who came a bit later had the option to pre-register with Fully Booked online. That's what I did considering I sneaked in a couple of hours of sleep after my night work shift. I had the feeling that it was going to be a good night, so I filed for leave. Boy, was I glad!

Gaiman books were displayed and on sale beside the registration booth just before the entrance to the tent. We were in by 7PM. Good thing there was free beer. That made us more patient I guess, more... erm, relaxed. A little after an hour or so, there was an attempt to copy the original "wall of sound" (coined by Neil himself) before Mr. Jaime Daez of Fully Booked introduced THE Neil Gaiman hidden behind the masks of those pretending to be Neil Gaiman. I have to admit, the crowd was not even twice as many compared to his first visit 5 years ago, which was held on the same place but on a weekend. Gaiman fans screamed as hard as we could and Mr. Gaiman took the stage in his usually funny although humble disposition. Despite the coat, yes, he still looked like a rock star.

"We owe it to each other to tell stories..."

When Mr. Neil Gaiman started reading that line from his poem "Locks", I remembered that vague instance when I was reading the same line from my own copy of "Smoke and Mirrors". I can't believe I am listening to him saying out loud now. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors of all time and I love hearing him tell his stories. It's the expression, intonation and the accent maybe that made all the difference. This was the third time he'd been here in the Philippines and I always saw to it I get to see him in person whenever I had the chance. Last night was extra special though. After reading "Locks", he read an unpublished poem. I didn't get the title because it sounded foreign but Neil's translation sounded like "St. Orem's Graveyard of the Island of Iona" and it felt wonderful to be one of the first people to listen to this. Oh and before I forget, he was wearing the same coat he wore at the Oscars this year. How cool is that?

Next thing I knew, they were introducing the People's Choice Awardees and winners for the Prose, Comic and the newly-introduced Short Film categories. Each winner was acknowledged with a trophy/plaque and cash prize courtesy of Neil Gaiman himself. They would also get a chance to have dinner and talk with him. Lucky, lucky them!

In between the awarding, 100 names have been electronically raffled off from the registration list for a book signing pass after the program. Each winner will get a chance to bring 2 books for Neil Gaiman to sign. I was with my sister and some friends and I bought 2 unsigned Gaiman books with me. I just knew When a friend's name showed up as number 43, I knew I "converted" another friend to the so-called Gaimania. She bought two books for Neil to sign. I never thought I could feel any better than that until I saw my name as lucky fan number 69 flashed on the stage! Finally, my copy of "Anansi Boys" and "Fragile Things" will have their very own Neil Gaiman autographs!

I had my other books signed before and it really didn't sink in immediately during that time the fact that I would get another chance to meet him and talk to him in person. Another chance! So when I stepped closer to that table where Neil Gaiman was busy signing other people's books, my hands went sweaty and cold. Ok, I won't shake his hand then. I'll just hug him again (my first Gaiman hug was on my birthday in 2005 when he first came here)! The next few moments were surreal. I got to ask him to let my sister go up on stage to take a picture with us. I got to talk to him and tell him how much we love his short story "October in the Chair" from "Fragile Things" and all he can say was "Thank you! Thank you!". I got to tell him I was lucky number 69 and he even offered to sign my number and include that information with his signature on my copy of "Fragile Things". I was babbling.

I felt a lot of different things that time-- nervous, excited, honored, humbled and mostly happy. Happy as any fan would be if he or she were in my shoes that time. It was just a few minutes, but it was well worth it. That feeling of surreal or cloud nine was what I felt after that encounter. Others may feel like I'm overreacting, but only a real fan would understand it. I walked away from Rockwell Tent that night adding more to my list of unforgettable memories in this lifetime.

Thank you, Mr. Neil Gaiman! Thank you for the monsters and ghosts and demons. Thank you for the words and wisdom and hope. Thank you for the laughs and tweets and twitpics. I pray you won't get tired of visiting the Philippines in the future. Please tell us if you need more of our calamansi juice or dried mangoes. You are always welcome here. We look forward to more of those visits and we are glad for the opportunities and acknowledgements you are giving us. For that, we will be eternally grateful.Links:

More information on the finalists here:

A complete list of the winners here:

Links to my old albums during Neil Gaiman's visit in 2005:

Neil Gaiman reading his poem "Locks":

Neil Gaiman reading an unpublished work:

Pictures here:

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