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.
MUSEO DEL PRADO
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.
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.
ENCOUNTER WITH THE GREAT FILIPINO HISTORIAN
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.
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!