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Raffles Hotel holds first Philippine Literary Festival

Raffles Makati director of sales and marketing Eugene Tamesis, with author Mitch Albom and his wife Janine, and Raffles Makati managing director David Batchelor

MANILA, Philippines - It’s 2018 and Writers Bar is like it always is — like New York in the ‘70s, or Paris in the ‘20s, or a golden time of some glorious place — there is not one seat that is not occupied by an artist of some sort and their cool-crazy-socially-awkward posse of fans, frenemies and friends. The Titas of Manila are huddled in a corner, devouring a novel over afternoon tea. A man wearing a hat, his beard peppered with grays, squints over his glasses as he sips from his drink of choice (a Papa Doble, à la Hemingway, perhaps?), dreaming of writing the next great Filipino novel.

It is this vision that led Raffles Makati, in the tradition of the legendary Raffles Singapore, to take the present, 2014, as a chance to position its famed Writers Bar as a hub for literary creatives. “A lot of hotels support the arts, but not the literary arts. We believe we are the first to take on this role, and we are very excited about it,” says Monique Toda, director of marketing communications at Raffles Hotel and a lover of literature herself. “This is all to continue on Raffles’ legacy of being home to authors like Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and Ernest Hemingway.”

It’s no coincidence that Raffles Makati has already had 14 bestselling authors in residence since the program started August 2013, including Mitch Albom, Gayle Forman and Ranson Riggs. But the hotel is not simply keeping with tradition — it’s consciously creating for itself a very specific niche. “Our vision is quite ambitious, really,” says Monique. “It’s not just for the hotel. We want the Philippines to be a hub for literature. We want to hold literary events that people from other countries would want to go to because they are simply the best.”

Raffles Makati is starting this Oct. 23 to 25 with the first-ever Philippine Literary Festival, which is a partnership with National Book Store. Months in the making, the festival has survived different names, ideas have been picked up and dropped along the way and the final product is a massive gathering of respected Filipino writers, as well as an opportunity for fans and book lovers to meet two international bestselling and award-winning authors — Amy Tam and Chang-Rae Lee.

The Spotlight on Amy Tan panel will be on Oct. 24 at 1:30 p.m. and her book signing will be on Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. The Spotlight on Chang-Rae Lee panel and book signing will be on Oct. 25 at 9 a.m.  

Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, which has been translated into 35 languages and has had a successful film adaptation, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and The Hundred Secret Senses, which are all New York Times bestsellers and recipients of various awards all over the world. Her works have been translated into 35 languages. She has contributed articles for magazines such as The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, and National Geographic.

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Amy Tan’s new novel, The Valley of Amazement, is described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a novel that grabs your soul.” It is about Violet, one of the most celebrated courtesans of Shanghai. Abandoned by her mother Lucia, and uncertain of her father’s identity, Violet sets off on a path fraught with danger and complexity, and the loss of her own daughter Flora. Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once the proprietress of Shanghai’s most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, and will shatter all that Violet believed she knew about her mother.

Korean-American novelist Chang-Rae Lee is the author of Native Speaker, which garnered numerous awards including Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and the American Book Award. He was hailed as one of the 20 best American writers by The New Yorker magazine for his second novel A Gesture Life. His novel Aloft, earned him the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Adult Fiction category in 2006.

On Such a Full Sea is Chang-Rae Lee’s latest novel set in a dystopian future America. In a class-divided future America where urban neighborhoods function as labor colonies for elite charter villages, Fan, a female fish-tank diver, embarks on what becomes a legendary quest to find the man she loves after he mysteriously disappears.

Notable Filipino poet, fiction writer, playwright and experimental filmmaker based in New York, Eric Gamalinda, will also be participating in the Philippine Literary Festival. He has written novels such as The Descartes Highlands, My Sad Republic, and poetry collections such as Amigo Warfare, Zero Gravity and Lyrics from a Dead Language. He has been recognized for his work by the New York State Council on the Arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Independent Film and Video Awards, the Asian American Literary Award and the Alice James Books New York/New England selection. He has won the Palanca Memoral Awards several times for poetry, fiction, non-fiction and playwriting. He currently teaches at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race.

During the three days, panel discussions led by respected authors, professors and personalities from Ateneo de Manila Univerisity Press, UP Press, UST Publishing House, ABS-CBN Publishing, Anvil Publishing, Visprint, Precious Pages, and National Book Store will be held.

The Philippine Literary Festival, a culmination of Raffles Makati’s Authors in Residence program, runs from Oct. 23-25 at the Raffles Makati. Registration starts at 8 a.m. daily. Admission is free. Only books purchased at the Philippine Literary Festival will be entitled to signing passes for Amy Tan and Chang-Rae Lee. To view the complete schedule of activities, topics and moderators, sign up at philippineliteraryfestival.com. Follow National Book Store on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@nbsalert). Explore #PLF2014 to join the discussion.

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