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Filipino authors bring rich stories to bear at lit festival
By Mariecar Jara-Puyod February 16, 2017
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DUBAI: Two Filipino authors enjoying recognition in the global scene are among the 191 featured literary geniuses at the 2017 edition of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature in Dubai.

On Wednesday, Emirates Literature Foundation chief executive officer and festival director Isobel Abulhoul told The Gulf Today the annual event “is keen to highlight” the diversity and richness of the literary media, whether these are from the well-known and awarded or from the greenhorn.

“Whether these are best sellers, current topics and interests, new names, we are here to feature them,” she said.

It is the second time for the festival which has transcended to become the region’s “largest celebration of the written and spoken word,” to have representation from the Philippines.

The first time was in 2013 when Miguel Syjuco from Montreal, Canada and now based at the New York University in Abu Dhabi as a lecturer, shared his “Illustrado” novel.

On having Candy Quimpo-Gurlay, Abulhoul said: “Candy is a Crystal Prize Kite for Europe winner (in 2011 and 2014) and her children’s books have been published by Penguin.”

Gurlay traces her roots to the Quimpo Family of Davao City in Southern Mindanao, known to be among the opposition voices during the Marcos Regime.

Her first entry into the power of the written word was as a journalist at the opposition weekly tabloid “Mr & Ms” and the English broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer from 1984 to 1986.

The mother of three who describes herself as the “Filipino author living in London,” began her journey in the creative media with rejections from publishers until publisher David Fickling decided to go for her “Tall Story,” her debut novel.

The novel was shortlisted to 13 prizes including Waterstones Chlidren’s Book Prize, Branford Boase Award and the UKLA Children’s Book Prize.

Gurlay who would be featuring “Tall Story” and her second novel, “Shine” at the March 3 to 11 festival at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Dubai Festival City was also a recipient of the Philippines’ National Children’s Book Award in 2012.

A comment from Booktrust on her “Shine” states: “An irresistibly exotic story of family, friendship, ghosts and legends.”

Poet/author/illustrator Laura Dockrill says: “The book I would pass on to the next generation.”

With Gurlay is illustration book author-novelist Kerby Rosanes who has been able to draw crowds at international book fairs because of his mastery in creating stories out of doodling.

Abulhoul expressed high praises for the “incredible” talent of the 24-year-old in igniting the subconscious of those who patronise his adult colouring books.

Scanning over the pages of “Imagimorphia—An Extreme Colouring and Search Challenge,” Abulhoul cited the infinite fertile imagination of Rosanes and commented on a marine illustration: “The Philippines is surrounded by water. If you come to (decipher this), you would wonder how a card and a diamond relate (to the scene).”

It is known that “In 2015, Michael O’ Mara imprint LOM Art sold over half a million copies of Rosanes’ first book, “Animorphoa: An Extreme and Colouirng and Search Challenge” which has been published in 32 countries to date and enjoyed huge success, especially in Australia and the US.”

Abulhoul expressed gladness over Rosanes’ participation. 

Citing that the genre he is into has been driving one’s imagination to extreme heights and has been trending since three years back, she said: “It is calming in this stressful world. You get to take part. You become imaginative and you only get to know the answers when (you finish the entire book).”

Rosanes will be conducting live demonstrations of his doodling skills at the festival.

On Syjuco and his 2013 guesting at the festival, Abulhoul said: “He is (another) award-winning persona. I personally read his ‘Illustrado,’ a historical fiction from the Philippines’ Spanish times and so got in touch with him (for his participation). He is still very young and I know he will be writing more incredible books.”

Abulhoul was hopeful that Gurlay and Rosanes would be supported by the huge Filipino community in the UAE.

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