Like A River Book Launch Event


I can still remember the moments Irally and I shared at the National Bookstore branch in Gateway Mall. It has to be one of our favourite ‘literary trysts’, first because it is perhaps the largest NBS branch with four-storey-worth of books and second, it is situated in the most accessible and strategic location for metro-commute: Cubao. We could not stop from talking about our favourite novels and authors once we claim our perfect spot in the seeming labyrinthine shelves of books. In between those walls of thick chunks of papers, we whispered our dream to become authors ourselves. We would picture our names printed on a book spine and have our work displayed along with the best-selling titles of the month. When we daydreamed all of these, I knew things will happen just how we imagined them. Maybe I am simply being ambitious but I believe in the power of invocation. It turned out Irally has a better grip when it comes to clinging to our dream because the life of a published writer landed in her backyard way sooner.


Following the success of her debut book To The Brightest, Irally Cariaso launches her new title Like A River.

Irally self-published her first vine But They Don’t Know It, Do They? while juggling all the stressful stuff a college student has to deal with. Her readership quickly grew, prompting her to write another book called To The Brightest. Although I was not able to have my own copy right away, I definitely am one of the proudest friends cheering her for such success. There is an incredible sensation whenever I think about the woman whom I used to navigate the aisles of a bookshop is now an actual author herself! Unlike her first vine, To The Brightest is available for online purchase which opened international readership for Irally. My Facebook newsfeed was suddenly inundated with pictures of her readers from right across the globe, giving compliments about how much they enjoyed reading her poems.

A year later, Irally announced that another ‘gem’ is on its way. This year, Like A River became the latest addition to her growing number of books. I saw the massive support from her readers who were all eager to place their orders and grab a copy of the new title. The reception was so strong it inspired me to offer a suggestion to Irally about holding a book launch for the official release of Like A River. Apparently, she loved the idea and became instantly committed to organizing the event. After mustering the support of our ever-loyal friends, the launch came to fruition.

Book Launch turned into Art Fest
As much as we want to label the event as a plain book launch, Irally and I knew right at the very onset of planning that it could be more than just a day about her success. Irally owes the flamboyant covers of her books from two of our artist friends, Zandra Martinez and Michael Lavilla. They both have gifted hands which can make any subject into an artistic masterpiece. And so, we thought of having a mini art exhibition to let Zandra and Michael showcase their collection. What was initially conceived as a book launch has turned into an art festival. All their paintings were peppered around the venue, adding to the already cosy vibe of Tweedle Book Cafe.

Guests had a complete ‘art fest experience’ as they snag lovely bookmarks for every purchase of Like A River. Each bookmark was hand-made by the budding artist and our resident calligraphist, Bea Vargas. (She made a personalized one for me!)


Guests snag a colorful bookmark for every purchase of Like A River and To The Brightest courtesy of Bea Vargas

We also invited two mental health awareness organisations which Irally is actively involved in. The participation of Silakbo PH and MentalHealthPH is our way of making a statement on mental health awareness, especially that the inspiration of Like A River is the importance of conversation and winning our own inner battles. The two organisations were represented by Rissa Coronel and Roy Dahildahil, respectively.

Coronel talked about the vision of their group and how they incorporate the promotion of mental health awareness with artworks and literary compositions through their vine called Cathartic. Silakbo PH publishes its own vine, featuring submissions made by people from various walks of life. According to Coronel, their effort to collect works from artists encourages artistic expression on the status of mental health in the Philippines. Dahildahil, meanwhile, elaborated the current efforts of the government and private institutions in making our country a friendlier environment for the subject of mental health awareness.

My First Literary Hosting Stint


Hosting the event is a great opportunity and doing it for a friend made the experience extra special.

Aside from having the pleasure to witness my friends climb their ladder of success, I too had my fair share of fulfilment during the event. Hosting the book launch is certainly an incredible opportunity for someone who is both a lover of books and conversations. As a fan of Jennifer Byrne, Leigh Sales, and Erica Wagner, I am obsessed with the idea of being able to throw questions to artists and hear them tell the story behind their creations. Presiding events like literary debates and book club discussions help me understand not only the work itself but the process it underwent in order to gain its present form. Being the host also allowed me to cast my personal views on certain topics like self-publication, the elaborate process of choosing a subject, and the separation of identities between the artwork and the artist.
Irally knew how excited I was to hold the microphone and vocally expressed my thoughts. I did host a lot of gatherings before but never a book launch. Hosting the event is a great opportunity and doing it for a friend made the experience extra special. My goal was to motivate Irally, Zandra, and Michael to speak their minds and own the day as if it is the big break they all deserve. I refuse to be called a bragger but I think I succeed on that part. Seeing them talk with no single trace of fear or intimidation reassured me that I accomplished my job.

The success of the event is made possible by every single person who took part and rendered their dedication. We have a lot of photos of Irally signing copies of her book, the same woman who once dreamed to become an author. Now as I recall everything in retrospect, I realise how much truth there is in the adage that dreams do come true. After seeing countless smiles during the book launch, I am sure there is more than one dream fulfilled on that day. Kudos #TeamLikeARiver!


Grab your copies of Like A River and To The Brightest by clicking the links below:



Dia Del Libro 2017

The furnace-like humid of a summer afternoon stood no match against the energy of book and art lovers at Ayala Triangle Park last April 22. It was the time of the year again when literary enthusiasts flock together for Dia Del Libro, an annual book festival organized by Instituto Cervantes, the cultural arm of the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines. The event is inspired by the Sant Jordi Festival in Barcelona where every year on April 23, people exchange books and roses as part of the celebration.

True enough, I felt like I was transported to Barcelona when I arrived at the venue. There was a great display of Spanish culture as musicians render live performances which added to the already exciting mood of the event. Ayala Triangle Park became a lively garden in the most literal sense. As part of the tradition, every purchase of a book from participating bookstores will entitle the buyer to a rose. The entire park was full of people holding a rose or two, and I just can’t explain how lovely the view was especially that I am obsessed with roses.

Dia Del Libro is an educational and cultural experience more than anything else. It is designed to celebrate the works of the finest authors in history including celebrated Spanish novelist Miguel De Cervantes, whose name was placed dead center at the venue. I enjoyed the event because of its commitment to bring classical literary works closer to the interest of modern generation and promote the love of reading.

I am also impressed with how Dia Del Libro gathered not only the country’s top bookstores and publishing houses to offer huge book discounts, but also private organizations which perform initiatives to celebrate the art of literature in the Philippines. One of which is The Book Stop Project Library designed by WTA Architecture and Design Studio. It is a pop-up library where people can either swap or donate their books and let other people who will visit the library enjoy the perennial pleasure of reading. I reckon this concept already exists in other countries, but it is the first of its kind in the Philippines which is why I am excited to take part of it. I brought with me five books to donate. I actually did not have the intention to swap it with the other books from the library’s collection (since I have more than enough books on my shelf), but the staff insisted so I grabbed a copy of Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By. She also gave me a free copy of Context and Intent, a magazine made for anyone who holds interests in architecture and design.

The Book Stop Project Library situated at the center of Ayala Triangle Park

Aside from great books, there are also other literary products available. I bought this shirt with a Cervantes quote in it. The quote is from the 15th Century novel, Don Quixote. “Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven has bestowed upon men; no treasures that the Earth holds buried or the sea conceals can compare with it.”


Traveling to Europe, let alone Spain, is often part of the bucket list of any traveler. People who wish to walk the streets of famous cities like London, Madrid, and Paris have different reasons why they want to capture the so-called European experience. And although I do not consider myself as a fully committed traveler, I also have my share of fascination with Europe. I admire the unparalleled value that Westerners place on their culture and tradition, and how that value continues to shape their country as a result.

If one day I wake up and find myself somewhere in Barcelona, I would immediately head straight to the nearest museum for I am a massive fan of the style and themes of Western art. It is my wildest dream to encounter the works of famous artists like Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Vermeer etc. I know it will take quite a while before I realize this dream, but Dia Del Libro gave me a simulated experience of acquainting myself with European masterpieces through the exhibition, El Museo Del Prado Filipinas.

The exhibit featured 54 paintings created by some of the most influential names in art history. Each painting has a description about the styles and themes used for its creation, which is useful for anyone who would like to study the background and techniques of the featured artists. But aside from the educational functions that it may serve, the collection is simply a feast for the eyes. Without exaggeration, the exhibit offered me the best-simulated experience of what it is like to roam around a European museum.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico – Ca. 1425-28

My favorite pieces are The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, Bacchanal of the Adrians by Titian, and Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches by Federico De Madrazo among others.

Moses rescued from the Waters of the Nile by Orazio Gentileschi – 1633

Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches by Federico De Madrazo – 1853


A festival of books will not be complete without book signing events. And although he has not released any new book, the presence of the renowned Filipino historian and author, Ambeth Ocampo, is one of the major highlights of Dia Del Libro 2017.

I became a fan of Ocampo after a college friend lent me his famous book, Rizal Without The Overcoat. I immediately admired his style of writing and I knew right after reading his essays that he is an exceptional writer. History is a cerebral topic for many people, but Ocampo’s gift lies in his capacity to shape historical accounts into interesting pieces of information which hold so much relevance even up to the modern generation.

I brought a copy of Ocampo’s Rizal’s Teeth, Bonifacio’s Bones. It is the fifth installment of his Looking Back series. The book was given to me by a friend after he asked me to write a review of it for his English course in college. I am a fan of Ocampo but not as obsessed as the other people I encountered while lining up for his autograph. They were holding a complete set of his books while I cling on the single volume I have. It was an awesome experience to have a brief chat with the celebrated Filipino historian. In an effort to create a jest out of the awkward fact that I was holding only a single book of his, I grinned and said, ‘Ayoko po kasi kayong mapagod kaya isa lang ‘dala ko’ ( I don’t want you to get tired that’s why I brought only one book). I tried to make him laugh because I understand how exhausting it must be to sign massive stacks of books.

Ayoko po kasi kayong mapagod kaya isa lang ‘dala ko’

An encounter with Professor Ambeth Ocampo, award-winning author of Rizal Without the Overcoat and the Looking Back Series

To formally end the program, Ayala Triangle Park was transformed into an elite opera house as the Manila Symphony Orchestra serenades a congregation of literary buffs. They played several classic Spanish symphonies, as well as lesser known pieces. After the exceptional performance, my friends and I left the venue with full of excitement about what next year’s Dia Del Libro might bring.

Enhorabuena Instituto Cervantes!

Concierto Clasicos en el parque by Manila Symphony Orchestra