I had long wanted to launch my new book, “SekSinema (Gender Images in Philippine Sex Cinema Enfolding Pandemia),” not only on our soil but on foreign land as well.
A wide distribution of my books has been on my bucket list ever since I was published by UST (University of Santo Tomas) Publishing House in 2002, with “Pelikula at Pulitika Tio Ticong Vicente Salumbides,” a biography of a Filipino film pioneer in the early 1920s. I tagged Salumbides as the “Second Father of Philippine Movies,” leading the intellectual, historian, filmmaker and writer Nick Deocampo to chide me: “So would there be a Grandfather, Uncle, Son of Philippine movies?”
The real “Father of Philippine Movies” was Jose Nepomuceno, Salumbides’ sparring partner. (Salumbides had just returned from Hollywood to study movie producing, directing, acting, scriptwriting, editing, even applying makeup, etc. in jumpstarting Philippine cinema, when a fire razed Nepomuceno’s production house in San Juan in 1923.)
My second book with UST Publishing House, on Philippine movie journalism, came out in 2007 and was reviewed by Patrick Campos, now an active member of the prestigious critics’ group Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.
Writing in the scholarly Plaridel, the journal of Philippine Communication, Media and Society published biannually by the Office of Research and Publication of the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines Diliman, Campos said: “Boy Villasanta’s Expose: Movie Reporting in the Philippines is an ambitious book…”
Part of my being a determined or “ambitious” author was to launch my book ahead of the collective formal launch at UST. The university then had a “400 Books for UST 400” project, a collection of books written by its alumni and affiliated authors, which was to mark its 400th founding anniversary.
At the time, UST Publishing House director Jocelyn Calubayan had allowed me to present my book fresh off the press at the lobby of Robinsons Galleria Movieworld. It was an outside idea of marketing UST books, which I proved to be a successful venture. In yet another tough act, in 2009 I self-published a Filipino version of “SekSinema” which I myself also launched at Star Mall Entertainment Plaza.
Now, its English edition, “SekSinema (Gender Images in Philippine Sex Cinema Enfolding Pandemia)” is also a self-published venture in cooperation with BVV8 Media Productions. Again I managed to launch it by myself, digitally in December 2021 and in-person in 2022.
It was the controversial Filipino Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel (“Moma,” “Ec2luv,” “Mga Paru-Parong Rosas,” “When A Gay Man Loves,” “Latak,” “HiStory,” “Strictly Confidential,” “Leona Calderon,” “The Making of Quezon City”, etc.) who thought of the international release of the English version of my “SekSinema” and egged me to go for it.
Wow! Jowee is more ambitious than I! Consider his many plans of distribution: sending complimentary copies to all foreign embassies in the Philippines and to libraries nationwide; organizing forums on the book in Philippine universities that have film schools; sending copies to the British Film Institute (because, he said, there’s a scarcity of reference books on Philippine cinema in London); and launching the book in Europe, initially at the United Nations general headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland (where, he said, several of his Filipino friends work and who, he said, had signified intention to seal sale deals with some offices there).
None of these have materialized yet, but I view them as bright ideas. I myself have persevered in asking around where to launch my book abroad.
I asked ex-Manunuri member and founder of Young Critics Circle Mike Feria, also known as Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr. and founder and director of Filipino Arts and Cinema International (Facine) in San Francisco, California, to include its launch in Facine’s event last year. But some technical problems arose and the group had to turn it down.
I asked Eileen Dolina Novak, a former member of The New Minstrels and now an actress in Hollywood, to help me launch the book in Australia. She said she’d look around for possibilities.
The only overseas launch yet of my book is scheduled, against all odds, on Jan. 14, 2023, 2-5 p.m., at the Philippine Expressions Bookshop on 479 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, California. Therein lies another story to tell.
It was Canada-based Rod Cantiveros, a former entertainment writer and a town mate from Lopez, Quezon, who pointed me in the direction of his friend, Linda Nietes Little, a bookstore owner in the United States. Initially, I found the other contact points of Ms. Little (incidentally a sister of Leticia Nietes Buhay, my late speech and drama professor at UST) through Facebook, so on Messenger I asked if I could launch my book in her shop.
A staff member responded, directing me to log on to the bookstore’s website. I complied.
So she can have a concrete feel of the project, I sent Ms. Little a copy of the book through Philpost. I thought the process would be cheaper than by courier, but it still cost me thousands of pesos with my eyes shut. The staff member said I had to wait for Ms. Little to receive and peruse the book; I patiently did, in as much as EMS took a long period of delivery.
Responding finally to my message, Ms. Little said she had not yet launched books on films or library books. A bit discouraging, I thought, although she did not express the finality of rejection. She was also frank enough to tell me that authors who are unknown—which I thought was directed at me—could not pull off audiences or attendees from the community, particularly Filipinos in the United States.
I took a different slant and told Ms. Little what I had in mind regarding my proposal, such as inviting US-based Filipino movie stars, active or not, to the launch, embarking on an information campaign about the event, etc. She appeared convinced about my mobilizing Filipino celebrities, especially those living in Los Angeles, to come and join my gig. She used the term “reassuring.”
We were in constant communication until we finalized the in-person launch of “SekSinema” on Jan. 14.
The expected guests include Princess Punzalan, Rita Magdalena, Edgar Mande, Mars Ravelo’s son Roli, 1981 and 1998 Mutya ng Pilipinas Marilou Bendigo and Rochelle Romero Ong, respectively, former Eagle Broadcasting Corp.’s dzEC anchor Faye Romero, apart from my kith and kin in the United States.