I'm chewing right now on a KFC chicken burger that I bought around 7 in the morning and totally forgot about until right now. I had today planned out supposedly, as I was set to attend The Great Philippine Book Cafe aka the second Manila International Literary Festival at the Ayala Museum. around 9am I was already inside the lobby, waiting for the opening ceremonies to start up, and wow, I found myself really inadequately dressed--with my gray t-shirt, black pants and mud caked rubber shoes--and in the presence of the big names in Philippine Literature (most of them I hardly knew, sadly). I wasn't planning on staying the whole day, even if the registration was 800 for one day, the faster I could haul ass out of there the less inadequate I would feel for every moment I did stay.
As I sat there with nobody less than Junot Diaz chilling behind my seat, sipping complimentary coffee and indulging in chit-chat with his fans and other authors and that made me feel even more of an outsider than I felt the moment I passed security, with nobody to talk to and nobody in the crowd that I could recognize.
God I couldn't wait to get out of there.
In the middle of listening to sir Resil Mojares' keynote speech and disagreeing to his short comment on Rizal not coming back to his own language (tagalog), a curious woman wearing a strong cinnamon perfume and her hair short, in a gray cocktail dress and a black top underneath, with zebra print boots asked if the seat beside me was taken. Without making much of a sound I indicated it was free and she sat down.
when sir Resil's speech had ended, the woman asked if I could watch her bag for a bit while she got in line for the complimentary coffee with everyone else. Again, I didn't make any eye contact and said sure. I never got up to get my coffee, being the stick in the mud that I was so I spent the next thirty minutes just skimming over the program for today. When she got back she started to strike up a conversation which sort of disarmed me and yet at the same time made me glad that someone was actually willing to have a conversation with me.
Okay cool, I thought. She was fishing around for the usual details: where I'm from,Why I'm here, and Who sent me which I all answered without question. At the moment she didn't give me much details about her but she ,and proceeded to talk about the programs for Day 1 and which ones I would attend. When she heard that my plan was to just stay until 12, she convinced me that it was worth staying for the rest of the day for the lectures.
"You're gonna tag along with me today, darling."
Next thing I knew, she was introducing me to some great poets and writers and holy shit I felt really sorry for myself for not being a wide reader. But she kinda eased me out of that 'outsider' feeling I had as the day pressed on, from lunch at coffee bean and tea leaf to introducing me to some of her other friends and basically disarming me from my anxiety of being there.
We kept talking about life and writing, joined her for lunch with friends at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and she basically picked out the lectures I'd find very useful, "In Search of the Next Great Philippine Novel" with sirs Jose (Butch) Dalisay Jr., Charlson Ong and, CripYuson, and "Talk to the Litcritters" with sir Isagani Cruz, Ferdinand M. Lopez and ma'am Priscelina Legasto who gave a 15 minute or so crash course on literary theory. She even introduced me to Carljoe Javier while she was in line to use the ladies room. Man, he's shorter than I imagined, and quite friendly.
After the events of the day wrapped up I hung out with her for a while at a restoas she took her smoking break. I didn't bother to remember the name of because my mind was still catching up to what the hell just happened today, and yet I didn't care, I was out with someone cool who just picked me up from my isolation in the event and started becoming a friend to me. Hardly anyone does that, and I found her weird, yet insightful and really charming. She taught me not to be afraid of the silence in between two people and to not doubt myself too much. She amazingly made me drop all my regrets for the day and just freakin' live in the moment.
My whole day was drastically rearranged but it didn't matter, today was fun. I'll manage the rescheduling of things after I finish writing this down or I could just say fuck it and ride the wave, but all in all, this chance meeting with a complete stranger actually turned out quite well and I did get to meet some new people along the way. I should take her advice and actually live more. I don't even care right now that this day-old KFC chicken sandwich is so soggy.
Oh yeah, I told her I'd google her name when I got home, to find out stuff about her after I'd actually spend the day hanging out with her and getting to know her on the spot. I did, and-