Where to begin? Where to begin? I suppose the beginning would be smart.
About three years ago, I had an idea for a book. As explained in the “Letter From The Author” section of my latest novel, I was with a woman two years ago who told me it would be a bad idea. So, I decided not to. Until January of last year when I was like, ‘Forget her! I’m writing this book!” LoL
And I did. I told myself last summer that I would have plenty of time, and money to do it. After all, book fairs and airfare aren’t cheap. But it was a whole damn year! What have I set my mind to and not accomplished in a year? Nothing, that’s what. A year really is a long time. Even for writing, publishing and launching a full-sized novel. Or at least I thought.
A lot of things happened since last summer. I would like to save all the particulars for my year end blog, but let me just say… it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy, or even moderately challenging to deal with what I had to deal with this past year AND finish this book project. It was damn-near impossible. Let me just say, without the support of Sabrina, my kids, and a few close friends, this would not have happened. At least not so gracefully. And if you know me personally that’s hard for me to admit. If this were to be one of my infamous I-Did-This-All-On-My-Own projects, I may have had to work 3 jobs and never see my son. Be late on a few bills. Like… maybe 1, 2, 3 or all of them! Show up to the book fair empty-handed. Or left 3 weeks early and taken a boat to the Philippines instead of a United flight.
There was so much that had to go into the FILIPINA project. There was of course, writing the story… which here is just one bullet but this took me about a year and a half.
Then there was the cover. This particular cat wanted $740 for his services. Won’t be making that mistake again. There are many designers out there just as talented, with a faster turn-around and less stingy with the files who won’t charge me a ridiculous price like $740.
I also had to get some help with translating a few words and sentences into Tagalog. Christine helped me out with that, plus I ran them by a few other Filipino’s just to make sure. It’s kind of hard with a language like this. Take the phrase “ai naku”. I have seen it spelled [by native Tagalog speakers] at least three different ways! Which way do I spell it? It’s an expression so it’s not like it’s in the dictionary. I have to take someone’s word for it, and hope someone isn’t going to make a huge deal about it.
Then there was editing. Obviously something which always turns out being a problem for me. I have encountered editor after editor who claims they’re good at their jobs and offer quality editing services yet still leave a manuscript riddled with errors. And of course, even though it’s their job to clean up a manuscript, it’s still MY name on the front. So I hired a different editor, fee’s came up to just under $600. Then I had three people proofread. I just really don’t want to get emails and messages from people who DID enjoy the story that they were distracted by errors that were completely avoidable.
Then there was the booth. I wanted two booths. They cost just shy of 70,000 PHP. Which is around $1,350. Which would explain why I only had one. But, when it came down to it, I only needed one lol.
Of course, there’s airfare. I knew I would be able to score a trip to Manila for around $900. And it was about that which I paid. I never really fly United. The last time I went was with Etihad. One of my favorites. When they don’t lose my luggage.
Publishing wasn’t a huge thing this time. I published my book with IngramSpark. A pretty cut n’ dry assisted self-publishing outfit. Pretty much my largest fee with them was shipping my first batch of books. Which… didn’t get to me on time lol. Let me tell you, this entire thing was headed for disaster. EVERYTHING came together at the last minute. But I still managed to make it to Pasay with a couple of boxes filled with books, some posters, hundreds of cards and bookmarks and about 25 totebags with my hashtags on them. All to give away. I mean… the swag was to give away, not the books.
So, here we are. The trip, the night, the fest:
I hopped on a flight to Hawaii after Sabrina and the kids dropped me off in H-town. Honolulu was nice… at least what I saw from the airport. Gonna have to take a trip down there one day.
Then there was Agana Guam. At this point it was hard to tell who I was seeing in the airport. Balikbayan Filipino’s heading back home, or Guamanian… or Chamaro… whatever people who just lived there. Guam is a huge mixture of Japanese “Pacific Islander” and at least two other types of folks that I’m really not an authority on. It’s a pretty distinctive look. However, I still couldn’t tell. But Guam is a nice little Island I wouldn’t mind hitting up as well.
I arrived in Manila on Monday night. I head out from baggage claim into the warm, humid night. I could tell it was about to rain as well. There were metered taxi’s which really surprised me. Last time I was here, I got rolled by an airport taxi pretty bad. Because he was NOT using his meter. It was just there for decorum. But I was summoned by some nice gentlemen at the prepaid cab service and since they had a printed matrix of their prices, I went with it. I like flat rates.
Even though they probably had a separate binder of “flat rates” for Americans and other westerners.
Anywho, they put me in and took me to my hotel. Or whatever one would call “Sea Residences”. The driver gave me his number and told me he would come by and take me out in an hour or two. He wanted to take me immediately, but I told him I was tired and smelly. I needed a shower.
This guy promptly called back in 2 hours, which should’ve been a red flag already. We get in the car, with his buddy “AndyBoy” and we head out into Manila. I tell them both I just want to do some karaoke, and eat some fried rice.
“Oh sure, no problem, Sir Rooks!” John, the initial driver said.
We get to this club-looking place which sat on a side street filled with clubs just like it. We were greeted by a cadre of workers dressed in black, holding umbrella’s. They treated me like a star, which immediately made me uncomfortable because I knew all they saw was a walking dollar sign. In my case, they couldn’t have been more off base.
When we got inside there was indeed karaoke. But there were rooms. I don’t go out to sing in private! I can do that at my fucking house! I go out, so I can put on a show for these motherfuckers! I wanna be on stage! Showing my ass! Or else, what’s the point? So, I order my bottled water and fried rice. They also bring me out some shrimp chop suey… why I don’t know, I told three of these assholes that I don’t eat meat. Yes… shrimp is meat.
After a while, John and Andyboy disappeared. And here I am all of a sudden with a huge plate of DELICIOUS rice and 5 juicy girls surrounding on each side of the couch. Knowing I only had enough money for my rice and water, [because i learned from my last trip not to carry a bunch of valuables on me] I told the guy who brought the girls over that i’m not trying to buy girls any drinks. Nor do I wish for them to sit with me.
“Oh, but they want to party with you, sir!”
“Yo! I don’t care!” I replied.
So… the girls all sat. Apparently he took “i don’t care wrong”.
“The girls are thirsty, do you want to drink with them”? The guy asked.
“I don’t drink alcohol. I’m good with my water.” I said, with a hand on both of my thighs. Not my hands.
“Would you like to get the girls a drink?”
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“But the girls are thirsty.”
“I don’t care!”
So, someone comes with 5 shots 2 minutes later. After a few good songs come and I’m feeling naturally loose, I started to get my dab on. And we were having a good time for about 5 minutes.
“Hey, Joselyn. What are ya’ll drinking anyway?”
“Oh, it’s just juice. We don’t drink alcohol. Want some?” The handsy girl to the left of me asked.
“No thanks. I’m good with my water.” I replied. Plus I don’t know where your lips have been, I thought.
I have had my fair share of fun time with ladies in my day. I didn’t come here for this, and I was really tired of these girls rubbing on me. Even some nitnoid came up from behind me giving me a massage. This probably 70 year old man had the softest hands I’ve ever felt [yes homo]. So when I reluctantly told him to stop. He smiles and says:
“Tip what, nigga? I didn’t ask you to do that!” Sorry, I was a little frustrated at this point.
The girls started telling me it was customary to tip him. So, I tell him I’ll give him a tip when I pay. And as a matter of fact, let’s get that bill out here. I have a cab driver I need to fuck up anyway for leaving me here.
*Dude. What the fuuuuuuuuck* was the text I sent John while waiting for my tab.
“Here you are, sir.”
I got a bill. Scratch that. I got 4 bills. One for my fried rice. One for the chop suey I didn’t order OR eat. One for my two bottles of water. And the whopper, 6500 PHP for the five shots I didn’t ask for, for the girls. For all of you who don’t know, 6500 PHP is $127. So, not only are they charging me for shots, I didn’t order, and were NON-ALCOHOLIC, they tried to charge me more than quadruple the amount standard alcoholic shots should cost [so I’m told.]
So, the argument begins. Apparently I’m speaking to the manager already. Aren’t we ALWAYS already speaking to the manager? I had to tell him several times, but it finally sunk in that I wasn’t going to pay for the chopsuey, or the shots. Even after he offered that I only pay half of the shots, because if not, the girls would have to pay for them. After I told him, I was from Idontgiveadamastan, he finally got his shit together. But for 20 minutes, his bouncers tried to forcefully keep me inside the club, while they ran back and forth with my check, and the manager made several phone calls to GOD knows who. So… yeah.
I pushed the little bouncer out of the way after I paid what I told them I was going to pay and walked back to my hotel. In the rain.
Welcome to Manila. You idiot.
This was my free day. Which is why I thought going out on Monday night was OK. I woke up feeling optimistic. I didn’t have to choke anyone out, like I did in Nepal. And I wasn’t accosted myself. So I had a lot to be grateful for. But no more going out in Manila for me. Book Fair only.
I walked to the SMX Convention Center and Mall of Asia to see what I can see. Yes, I purposefully picked a hotel that was in walking distance so I didn’t have to deal with taxi’s. All of my MIBF exhibitor materials were in possession of my good friend and translator, Christine. She hadn’t been able to make it down from Pampanga yet.
When I got to the SMX Convention Center I walk into the front door. Get a pat down but then redirected to the entire other side of the building to enter. So stupid. But anyway, back there was where I finally met the woman I had been speaking to for over a year since I first got the wild hair up my ass to go to this thing in the first place! Ms. B Catahan. She recognized me right away. I wonder why. She gives me a badge and a map, and welcomes me warmly. Quite a contrast to our email encounters over the year.
So, I’m not going to go over this part. You all saw the video… I had a hard time finding my booth. That’s because it was upstairs. With all the kid stuff. That was the FIRST way they fucked my at this show.
Ms. Catahan warns me of the theft danger of leaving my display up overnight. So, I set up, look at everything then took it all back down to my hotel that evening. It was nice to be showing at a book fair again. I haven’t been to one in a while. 15 months to be exact.
MIBF Day 1:
Right after I got set up again, Christine, her mother and her brother show up. It was nice to see a friendly and familiar face. I’ve known Christine since 2014. And I had skyped with her mother before. It was like I already knew her, even though we had never met. They were SO COOL! Christine’s brother immediately got to work. He picked up a stack of bookmarks and began handing them out to people downstairs. Because as I expected, NO ONE knew we were up here!
It was a slow day. It got me thinking I was going to fail at spreading the word about my new novel. People ignored me when I spoke to them, and most people didn’t seem very interested unless Ms. Fausto reeled them in with her radiant smile and knowledge of the book in their native tongue. I ended up selling about three books that first day. After that FIRST sale, I had a burst of energy and a complete attitude change. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
MIBF Day 2:
I was there alone! It was weird. It was like, my life was being depicted by this book fair. There I was, by myself, facing hundreds, no thousands of people every hour. Me against the world! But, I stood up, buttoned my blazer, grabbed a stack of cards and walked out into the frenzy.
I think one of the most bazaar things that happened to me, which I realized on day 2 because I documented it. The amount of people who wanted to take pictures with me. I may be an overly honest and blunt type of person [aka asshole] but I am still humble. And I always will be. So being able to appreciate someone thinking highly enough of you to want to have their picture taken with you is something I will always be excited about.
Another thing I wrote was how popular Invasion of the Most Sacred was. Even though I was there to launch FILIPINA, that book continued to turn heads, raise eyebrows and sell out. Even though I only brought a few of my other novels, I didn’t really discount it by that much. People were really interested in it, and I believe it has not reached it’s full potential.
I hadn’t quite gotten over the fact that about 80% of the people I spoke to completely ignored me. I had several conversations with people about this and I have come down to the conclusion that… I have no conclusion. Fact is, some people are rude, some people are shy, some people don’t want to be bothered by something they have no interest in and maybe some people are fucking deaf. All in all, I had to learn to brush it off, no matter what the reason and focus on the positive.
A fan and friend, Jena brought her cousin by to see me at the show. They ended up helping me out a lot which was great. I want to say a special Thank YOU to you two, you took a train, bus and taxi all the way from your province just to see me at the show!
MIBF Day 3:
I had an AWESOME breakfast at this place called the pancake house. If you don’t see a fanatical review from me to them on Google by today, please email and remind me to do so. They deserve 5 stars and a stunning review from a maarteng American.
Up until today, people would come up to me asking who Robert Lovelle Rooks was. Or, was I the author of the book. Things like this. As if there wasn’t a larger-than-life sized poster of my face right next to me. So, I decided to wear the exact same shirt and blazer as I did on the poster. I could see people walk by and point at me and point to the poster. Probably the reason for the extra amount of pictures people wanted to take that day.
It was a long day out there by myself, although two more fans, Kuleth and Zhed came out to see me and ended up helping out for a bit as well. Thanks ladies! If you see any videos or pictures being taken while I sign books, its by someone who helped out. But if you see me with a customer and we’re taking a book selfie in front of my sign [you can tell it’s a selfie because of how close my ugly face is to the camera] it means I was alone lol.
Also, in my notes I wanted to recognise a young couple I had sold a copy of FILIPINA to. We took a picture together, and I had handed them another book so both of them could pose with the book. They ended up accidentally walking off with both books. Twenty minutes later the man returns it to me. It was such a great show of integrity on his part! Thank you for being a customer and a good and honest citizen! Some people wouldn’t have done that. What if they had made it all the way back to their car and had to run back in through all those thousands of people just to do the right thing? That’s something that needs to be recognized. Thank you, again.
MIBF Day 4:
It was so busy on Saturday I didn’t even make any notes. A fan and friend, Analyn came out with her friend to help. Thank you so much! So out of these 12 hour days I spent out there, these people would come out to meet me, buy a book and stay to help for a half an hour or so. Much appreciated. Even if it was just to have someone to talk to in between interested parties. But no, these people rolled up their sleeves, grabbed cards and did things I couldnt do. Like speak Tagalog to people in complete sentences lol.
MIBF Day 5:
I sold out of books on Day 4. So, I showed up a bit late, like an hour and a half, after having breakfast at the Pancakae House for the third and final time. One of the first things in my notes from that day was an MIBF representative bringing me four fresh copies of a nicely printed Book Fair Directory. It was supposed to have the names and contact info of all the exhibitors. And it did! All except Robert Lovelle Rooks. Yup… My name and contact info was nowhere to be found. Come to think of it, aside from the site map, my name wasn’t ANYWHERE! The list of exhibitors which was displayed on the big screen. The website. Nowhere. So, thanks for that, guys! Between that and sticking me upstairs away from the huge crowds, I think they were secretly trying to sabotage my success. However… I sold out of books on Saturday. So… THERE! LoL
So, all I had was my huge awesome sign, a few bookmarks and cards left and my tablet which scrolled through about 160 pictures of book selfies.
I was spoken to that day by people who wanted to buy my books, wondering if they would be on Amazon or in National Book Store. I was spoken to by people who wanted to express their extreme hatred for Floyd Mayweather. Actually… I think Floyd may have had a part in why I wasn’t so well-received that week by some people. Thanks alot Money Mayweather! You have turned a whole country against Black Americans. LoL J/K
But seriously… some people there REALLY hate Floyd. Not like I give a shit, but since I was a big black American guy, I guess they thought I cared at all about boxing.
The story of Ishimuro. I posted this on instagram so I won’t beat it death but… I have to say it was one of the highlights of the weekend. It really was.
Also, another highlight would be the amount of people who looked at me and said things like:
“Thank you for writing about Filipina’s.”
Not a single Filipino took a book selfie for #100DaysofFILIPINA or bought this book from me at the Manila International Book Fair without asking me “Why/What did you write about Filipina’s”. Not a single one. They wanted to know why. They wanted to know from what angle I was coming from. Was I yet another ignorant westerner, writing a “How-to” book about dating Filipino women, as if they’re some sort of different species. Or if I was suggesting that the Philippines is a playground for old, married men looking to spend some money for good times. I understood the speculation. I just wished [some] people didn’t think so lowly of me to assume I would be so stupid and reckless as to travel all the way to the Philippines to publically disparage their entire race! Not only would that be stupid, and insensitive and wrong, but it would be possibly dangerous and risky for my life in general. No, I think FILIPINA will surprise a lot of you.
It basically means souvenir. But to my understanding this is more serious in the Philippines than it is here. If you go away to another country and come back you BETTER have something for me from that place! Lol. Here’s a picture of all the PASALUBONG people were nice enough to give me, and some that I brought back for my family and friends.
And to all those who thanked me for the book, thank you for the stories. Thank you for your interest. And I hope you enjoy! Maraming Salamat!
The ladies who worked at the fair who I noticed had my cards in their name badge cases! RESPECT! And I didn’t ASK them to do this. Wednesday I saw Melissa had hers displayed, the a day or so later, Jonna did too! That’s the best part! Thank you for the support. One of the girls says, “of course, it’s my flag… and FILIPINA!”
Exactly, Jonna. Exactly.
So! There you have it. I hate to self-proclaim the success of this venture but, all in all, I’m the only one who can because it was my venture. Write, and publish the book. Check. Launch book at Manila International Book Fair. Check. Sell Books. Check, check, and check. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is. However, the point of book fairs is not to sell books. Contrary to what some may believe, it’s mostly about networking. And I can guarantee at the very least about 1,000 people [not only people but fans of literary art] know who Robert Lovelle Rooks is. 1,000 more than last Monday. Again… success. Here are some more photographs of a few of the people who made this weekend what it was meant to be. Thank you for taking part in my contribution to the world of literary arts. Thank you, Thank You, Thank you.