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Vancouver is Getting Our First-Ever Filipino-Canadian Book Festival, July 12-14th

The Filipino-Canadian Book Festival is a brand new three-day-long literature-centred festival, turning the spotlight on BC and other Canada based writers of Filipino heritage. Don't miss out!

Vancouver is Getting Our First-Ever Filipino-Canadian Book Festival, July 12-14th

Photo credit: Dani Alcalde-Sidloski

Avid readers and aspiring writers alike, take note: the Filipino-Canadian Book Festival is making local literary history as the first-ever event of its kind in Vancouver, July 12-14th. Don’t miss out!

The Filipino-Canadian Book Festival is a brand new three-day-long literature-centred festival, turning the spotlight on BC and other Canada based writers of Filipino heritage. Split between two venues (Massy Arts Society and Joyce-Collingwood Neighbourhood House) all of the events are open to the public, offering up plenty of unique opportunities to hear from talented Filipino-Canadian literary voices, both young and experienced. There are also lots of fun, community-building bookish activities and discussions to participate in, spanning various genres and themes bouncing off of the Filipino-Canadian experience: book fairs, author readings/signings, a market spotlighting Filipino/a/x vendors, discussions, spoken word performances, family-friendly storytelling sessions, an art- and zine-making workshop (that doubles as a fundraiser for Palestine), and even karaoke! Not only are there multiple events, but the festival also hopes to act as a sounding board / supportive audience for those interested in developing their words and writing.

In numbers, the first edition of the ground-breaking Filipino-Canadian Book Festival adds up to 22 authors, across 13 ticketed events and panels (including opening and closing ceremonies) and 10 free events. You can scope out the full schedule, lock in your tickets, find out more about the participating authors, and peruse the Festival Book List by visiting the Filipino-Canadian Book Festival website here.

To get even more prepped for the fest, dive into our recent interview with Nathalie De Los Santos, one of its three organizers (along with Dani Alcalde-Sidloski and Maria Bolaños) and a prolific, well-respected author/writer in her own right (as well as a digital designer, podcaster, blogger, and advocate for Filipino/a/x literary voices).

First of all, please take us back to the beginning: You and the other organizers all have such different backgrounds – how did you, Dani and Maria meet each other, and what conspired for you to collectively make the decision to work together and create Vancouver’s first Filipino-Canadian Book Festival?

Dani, Maria and I met online prior to meeting each other in person. I had been following Dani (@magandabookshelf) because she had the best reviews of books, and Maria is a poet and part of Sampaguita Press. I loved her book, SANA. In early 2023, I finally met Dani in-person at Massy Books, and we immediately connected. In October 2023, I went to the Liwanag Book Festival in Long Beach, and I was really inspired by Jhoanna, who put that book festival on. She is a Filipina-American that owns Bel Canto Books, and she’s doing a lot for the community over there. Maria was one of the poets reading at the festival, and I finally met her in real life. We hung out; and at the end of the day, in a Carls Jr parking lot, I said that Canadians could benefit from having a festival like that. Maria really believed in that dream, and she approached Dani online. Dani shared the idea with Patricia Massy, who helped us write our grant for the festival, which we are grateful for because Patricia has years of experience in both community work and literary events. We were awarded the grant from the BC Arts Council, which gave us the foundation to do this event.

In a single sentence, please tell us why everyone should check out the Festival.

There will be like-minded, creative individuals all in one place and lots of ideas and opportunities will come alive at this festival.

Can you highlight one event that you’re most excited about, and briefly tell us why?

That’s a tough one – but we’re having an encore of Walang Hiya, a poetry night with Kimmortal and friends. I missed it while it was at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and am glad it’s coming back to our festival. I’m an absolute fan girl of Kimmortal, and love their music!

I know that it’s difficult to choose just one out of all of the amazing people included in the inaugural Festival to highlight…However, if you had to select a single title by a participating author that you encourage Vancouverites to read this summer, what would it be and why?

Ooh, that is a hard one. I’d pick Nimrods: A Fake-punk Self-hurt Anti-memoir, by Kawika Guillermo. Using a raw, hybrid prose-poetic style, Guillermo recounts his chaotic mixed-race upbringing, the impact of his uncle’s death from HIV, his parents’ divorce, his troubled relationship with his father, and how this past affects him as a new, queer father.

Literature can be a powerful, multipurpose tool for change. The “Makibaka! Maging alamat! On Writing Revolution” panel is all about the ethics and potential of “revolutionary” writing in the current context of the world. From what I’ve read about you, you’re personally very active in the arts, literature, and Filipinx communities (and their various cross-sections). What is your ethos when it comes to “writing revolution”? What changes do you hope to make/see in the world through your personal endeavours?

When it comes to writing revolution, my ethos is to work in community, to remain steadfast and never take what is said to you at face value, and to stand up for yourself and others. There are groups like Anakbayan, Sulong, Migrante, Gabriela, some of who will be at our festival, and seeing them out in the community in protest, in solidarity and doing this work has always been inspiring to me, especially since a lot of them are youth organizers. One could meet them face-to-face and join a cause at our festival.

On a publishing level, I would like to see more representation in authors being published, but also being paid correctly for their advances and royalties, which is not something that is often talked about. #PublishingPaidMe was a brief glimpse that more work needs to happen so IBPOC writers are paid the same as their white counterparts. I hope this festival increases our visibility, and gives opportunities to those seeking them in the industry. I hope as our capacity increases, we can help create a space and culture where our work is deeply valued by not just the community it serves, but by publishers and reviewers too.

On the flip side, what (if any) power do you believe the reader holds? How can readers do their part to contribute to a positive “revolution”?

By choosing to read Filipino titles and supporting authors, a reader gets to reconnect with their roots, but they’re also showing a publisher in numbers that this work is needed, which helps the author continue their career.

As Scout cares a lot about food, I’m wondering whether you can turn us on to a Filipino food-and-book pairing that you find especially tantalizing?

I’d say Filipino Cooking Made Easy, by Jose De Los Santos and Dee De Los Santos, while eating kare-kare and adobo. The authors love dipping bits of their adobo into the kare-kare. The acid and garlic of the adobo cuts through the hearty, peanut flavour of the kare-kare.

Are there any local (Vancouver) restaurant suggestions for excellent Filipino cuisine and/or particular Filipino dishes that festival attendees should seek out if they want to add an extra layer of context to the whole experience?

Our festival will be right next to Liberte Cafe in Joyce-Collingwood, so we encourage patrons to dine there because it is a Filipino-owned cafe. The Joyce-Collingwood area is full of Filipino restaurants. For snacks, someone could go to Kay Market (5169 Joyce Street). For lunch or dinner, there’s Pampanga’s Cuisine or Plato Filipino. There’s Bao Bakery, which serves Filipino food and has many Filipino patrons, though I don’t think it’s Filipino-owned. From doing work here, I know Bao is still loved by the community because it’s so cheap. This area is under the risk of being gentrified, and many people use Pampanga and Plato to bring home cheap food to their families, and it’s close to the skytrain, which makes it easy for working families to get this food and go home. So it is very important to support these businesses! (You can see more about this if you look up Sliced Mango Collective‘s food advocacy work in this area.)

Take a minute to imagine the moments after the inaugural Filipino-Canadian Book Festival has wrapped up. What are you feeling? What sort of lasting impression do you want to make on the attendees and city in general with the event?

To be honest, we’re probably all very tired, but happy that it happened! We hope there’s anticipation for next year, and more people come to us with ideas on panels and other collaborations around this festival. If everyone left knowing what the canon of Fil-Can books are, even at a glance, we’ve done our job.

Lastly, what’s next – from you, the organizers, and the festival?

We’re hoping to create all-year programming for the festival. I am running my own genre of creative writing workshops, called Writing the Imaginary. My first class is in Reclaiming Filipino Folklore Through Creative Writing, which has almost sold out. I just created a class around Magic Realism, which has fully sold out. There is an appetite for these classes and I know I’ll be continuing these courses for sure for the rest of the year. Sampaguita Press will be releasing a few titles featuring more authors from our community, so look out for those books!

Massy Arts Society
23 East Pender St.
Joyce-Collingwood Neighbourhood House
5288 Joyce St.

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