Manila Welcomes Neil Gaiman With Open Arms

“There are so many Fragile Things, after all.
People break so easily, so do dreams and hearts.” –Neil Gaiman

In fulfilling everyone’s secret dream of being a Rockstar groupie, having the pleasure to be within the circles of Neil Gaiman, Literature’s critically-acclaimed Rockstar, seemed more than just a fulfilled ambition: It was Surreality at its best.

Gaiman, well-known for the novels American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys and the brains behind the Sandman series of graphic novels, recently visited Manila to co-host the awarding ceremonies of the 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards - Revelations: Stories of Light and Darkness. Together with Fully Booked, the two-day affair consisted of the awarding ceremonies held at the Rockwell Tent last Wednesday evening, and a Book signing held at the Powerplant Mall on Thurday afternoon.

Better than the OSCARS: A Biased Opinion

Having missed his first two visits to the Philippines, I – like any other Gaiman fan - would have marked those as “red letter-days” to witness one of my favorite authors in the flesh. Originally not expecting any close encounter with Mr. Gaiman (at first), the thoughts of merely sharing the Rockwell Tent and breathing the same air as he did were enough to keep any fan motivated to hope for an extraordinary Wednesday night.

I arrived with my best friends who attended Gaiman’s last visit three years ago at Bonifacio High Street. The turn-out for the Awards Night this time was surprising. The crowd – consisting of avid fans that seemed eager to forget it was a school night or a work day – was given the chance to rub elbows with the finalists, past winners, and different personalities from the realms of entertainment and literature.

Mr. Kenneth Yu - attentive seatmate, finalist and winner

Thunderous applause greeted Mr. Gaiman after being introduced by Jaime Daez, Fully Booked’s managing director. Gaiman, who told the audience that he was wearing the same suit he wore for the Oscars (his work Coraline was adapted into an animated movie that later earned a nomination for Best Animated Film), treated his fans to a reading of his past writings. His first reading was “Locks” – a response to the well-loved Goldilocks and the Three Bears fairytale. His next piece was deemed an exclusive to his fans since he “never really thought he could find an appropriate crowd to read it to until tonight.” Entitled “In Reilig Odhráin,” Gaiman re-tells the story of Saint Oran of Iona and how this Scottish abbot sacrificed his life to construct a church in the island on Iona by consenting to being buried alive. In true Gaiman fashion, the audience was enthralled at his impeccable craft of weaving a heartwarming tale out of madness and darkness.

Gaiman reading 'Locks'

Neil Gaiman at the 3rd Philippine Graphic Fiction Awards
British author Neil Gaiman reads excerpts from his works during the 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards.

The awarding ceremonies for Short Prose, Comics, and Short Film categories commenced afterwards. Two batches of winners per category were awarded: the People’s Choice Awards (a collaboration between FullyBooked and for members of the public to choose their winners through online voting) and the Official winners (who were selected from a pool of selected judges).

Winners of the Comics Category

Winners of the Prose Category

Short excerpts from the winning texts of the Short Prose category were read by a few of celebrities who graced the night. Gabby Alipe of Urbandub and FRANCO, Quark Henares, and Wawi Navarozza were among the selected readers who contributed to the literary ear-gasmic experience. Seated in my row were recent winner Mr. Kenneth Yu (for his “Cherry Clubbing” entry) and the-man-behind-the-immortalized-Logovore Mr. Joey Nacino, whose works were read and enjoyed by the appreciative audience.

The Awards Night concluded with a Book signing treat awarded to randomly-drawn 100 attendees. Batches of 25 were flashed on the screen during portions of the ceremony, and ear-pitching screams of excitement usually greeted the aftermath of every name called. Being a non-believer of lotteries, I gave up all hope in thinking I deserved the opportunity before the last batch of 25 winners was drawn. Since I had an official book signing pass to Thursday’s event and carried no Neil Gaiman book for him to sign that night, I was prepared to walk away empty-handed.

This was until Mr. Yu called my attention to number 87 of the draw – which had my name written beside it. I ecstatically cheered and disturbed the V.I.P. section after realizing this. They glanced, understood, and cheered with me. Thankfully.

My book signing turn

We were allowed to have only two books signed by Mr. Gaiman. My best friends came prepared with their own copies of their Sandman graphic novel. I stood in line on their behalf, thinking to myself that “at least I know how it’ll feel like at the book signing tomorrow.” My knees cooperated as I wobbled my way on stage. Hellos were exchanged. Books were signed. Hugs (and a handshake) were given. Screams of delight were shared afterwards.

Like many others, we thought we were dreaming. And their Gaiman experience ended as soon as Thursday came.

I, on the other hand, was on a natural high – and just getting started.

The Book signing Experience

We were told that the registration period started at 2pm. Thinking that the crowd was not going to be as much as Wednesday night’s activity, I casually strode into Powerplant at 1:30pm – only to be greeted by an overwhelming sea of fans with their passes and books.

When I registered, I was number 197. A whole lot of digits from last night’s 87.

Registration at 2pm

Fans eagerly awaiting

While waiting, I met fellow fans who were all eager to share their excitement and their favorite works of their favorite author. Some brought their entire volumes of the Sandman series, while other brought their favorite comics. A number of people had their American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys books signed. Being a fan of his short stories, I had his Smoke and Mirrors compendium as one of the books for signing. My other book of choice left for his “imprinting” was his novel Neverwhere.

Gaiman arrived at 5pm – an hour later than schedule, but the fans nonetheless greeted him with deafening applause and screams. Like a replay of last night, Hellos were exchanged. Books were signed. Hugs and handshakes were given. Fist pumps were also an aftermath staple.

By the time I was in line to have my books signed, Mr. Jaime Daez informed us to keep it short. “thirty seconds, two books, that’s all.” Mr. Gaiman was internally hungry and exhausted, but his energy and dedication pulled him through. Before it was my turn, a few fans gave him packs of Chocnut for him to munch on. He graciously thanked them in return.

We were given slips of paper to write our proposed dedication, but we were later instructed to writing our names to accelerate the process. Being an internal deviant, I defied these words and chose to write slumbook questions for Mr. Gaiman to answer. I asked him to write “the title of his favorite movie” on Neverwhere and the piece of writing advice he can give me on Smoke and Mirrors.


Smoke and Mirrors

“Oh, you again,” he said as he signed my books and scribbled his answers to the questions I gave him. That took about 10 seconds.

Thinking I had to make the most out of the 30 seconds given, I had 20 seconds to spare.

In true fan-girl fashion, I did what any normal fan would do:

“Will it be okay to have a repeat of last night’s hug?” I asked.

Mr. Gaiman’s “Suuuuuure!” seemed like the perfect end to a three year wait. And quite possibly, the most priceless gift any avid reader would have wanted.


List of Winners

1st Place: A Kind of Flotsam by Christelle Rhodamae Mariano
2nd Place: Filipina: The Super Maid by Irene Carolina A. Sarmiento
3rd Place: (Tie) Cherry Clubbing by Kenneth Yu and Remembrance by Dean Alfar

People’s Choice 1st Place: Filipina: The Super Maid by Irene Carolina A. Sarmiento
People’s Choice 2nd Place: A Kind of Flotsam by Christelle Rhodamae Mariano
People’s Choice 3rd Place: The Street Child and the Dwarf by Diabelle Joy M. Pazcoguin

1st Place: I See by Manuel Abrera
[***No first place prize was awarded because the entry that won was published during the contest period (which merited a disqualification). However, Abrera and his work were acknowledged during the ceremonies.]

2nd Place: Douglas by Genevieve Go
3rd Place: (Love) at Last Sight by Heubert Khan Michael

People’s Choice 1st Place: Hunger by Jeremiah D. Faustino and Norman Jim Faustino
People’s Choice 2nd Place: Raisinhead: A Tale of a Modern-Day Tiyanak by Christian Oliver A. Cruz
People’s Choice 3rd Place: Traffick by Alarice A. Francisco

Short Film:
1st place: No winner (entries didn't meet the minimum score requirement)
2nd Place: Kumot ng Panaginip by Jedd Chris P. Dumaguina
3rd Place: Squatters from Mars by Rommel Sales

People’s Choice 1st Place: Kumot ng Panaginip by Jedd Chris P. Dumaguina
People’s Choice 2nd Place: Anak ng Tikbalang by Desiree Ann C. Samson
People’s Choice 3rd Place: Embrace by Ron Sapinoso

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