It’s not Easy being Queen (Apologies to Kermit)

It took over a week to recover from six days of being feted like a homecoming queen in Manila, but here’s what those last days were like.

The good folks at National Book Store offered a day’s respite from the Philippine Literary Festival, then moved on to a full schedule of interviews on Tuesday.

The  media blitz  began with a 7:30 a.m. call time for the CNN Philippines live interview.

Couldn’t resist posing with the iconic logo

The news show’s producer handed me the teleprompter text that the CNN’s anchor would read to open our interview and asked me to check for factual errors. Habit kicked in and I corrected typos and grammar as well.

It was a short interview and  I did my best to reply to CNN Philippines host Claudine Trillo’s questions with sound bite worthy answers.

CNN Phils slide


Ann Patchett wrote once that she could tell  the interviewer hadn’t read her novel  when that person  insisted on talking only about the book cover design. CNN Philippines’ coanchor was charmingly up-front about it.  Just before we went live, she mentioned that a mutual friend had been trying to get her to read The Mango Bride for years.


With CNN Philippines Co-host Claudine Trillo
With CNN Philippines Co-host Claudine Trillo

Perhaps after our chat, she finally will.

The Mornings at ANC interview  at ABS CBN’s studies felt much more like a relaxed conversation with a whip smart friend.  Guesting on this morning show was in a sense coming full circle because I had met he show’s cohost Paolo Abrera decades ago.  when he was just a boy. His mother, then  Creative Director  Emily Abrera, gave me my first writing job as a junior copywriter at McCann Erickson Ad Agency. Emily was an advertising legend, a force of nature and my first writing mentor: the strong,  confident and accomplished writer I aspired to become.

I had met her cool, laid-back husband Caloy Abrera at several company events, and like everyone who knew and loved him, was shocked by his sudden tragic death.  I replicated his passing  in a scene in The Mango Bride, and hoped that Emily would see it as a literary memorial to her beloved husband. Fortunately, she did.

Watching their tall, handsome son Paolo breeze through his segment just before our interview brought back memories of company picnics and all those happy, hectic days at the agency. No one edits their work more ruthlessly than a copywriter, and I will always be grateful for having learned that skill under Emily’s guidance.

Paolo Abrera, all grown up
Paolo Abrera, all grown up, reads news before our interview

For our segment, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by host Ai de la Cruz’s probing, intelligent questions.

Ai de la Cruz's interview felt like chatting with a smart young girl friend!
Ai de la Cruz’s interview felt like  a good  chat with a smart young girl friend!


ANC wall of photos
I studiously ignored the wall of screens in front of us.

Over the course of a half hour, we managed to discuss  what  I’ve come to consider the novel’s  main talking points: domestic violence, mail order brides, the Filipino diaspora and the challenges immigrants face in their adopted country.

Manila traffic has always been unforgiving and has worsened in the two years since my last visit.  After the two morning TV shows at one end of the metropolis, it took us nearly two hours to travel  10 miles back  to Raffles Makati for the second half of Media Day.  A combination of over zealous central air-conditioning and non-stop talking had given me a seriously hoarse voice, but I was determined to soldier on.  It was the  least I could do to thank my gracious hosts for such a wonderful week.

After a quick break for lunch, the slew of interviews with print media journalists and photo shoots ensued.

With a student journalist
With Pauline Lacanilao


With Razel
With Razel Estrella of GIST.PH


with Geolette
With Geolette Esguerra  from Metro

Midway through the afternoon, energy was fading and  I needed a little boost.  For the throat I took  salabat (ginger tea) for the throat.  But for motivation, I needed Mother’s Little Helper:

A  midafternoon  Guava Cosmoplitan

Which was followed most appropriately by a mom-journalist with her little girl in tow!

with Philstar


The day ended with a delightful  photo op with Raffles Makati Director of Communications, Monique Today who is as gracious and gorgeous as this hotel.

with monique
With Monique Toda, Director of Communications at Raffles Makati

Finally, JB Roperos, who’d herded me through all those interviews took a video of his own for National Book Store:

The articles from that day are still coming out and I’ve attached a link to the second one.  When the journalist  described me  as “dignified” I think it was kind euphemism for “tired.” You can read the interview at the link below:

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