Cebu: Vacation and #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy

Hello, WordPress followers! If you also follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Litsy, then you would know that I was on vacation on Cebu for a few days. Cebu is one of the provinces in the Visayas region in the Philippines, and I went to Moalboal and Cebu City. It was my first time in Cebu and I had a great time! Also realized that the last time I traveled on a domestic flight was in 2011 when I went to Bohol. I’m hoping to be able to do more local travel in the near future. While I was in Cebu, I was able to do some #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy posts so I’m including those in this update.

In Moalboal, we stayed at the gorgeous Hale Manna resort, which is owned by Liana’s family. Liana blogs at Will Read for Feels and I met her through the circle of romance readers in the Philippines. It never ceases to amaze me at how I keep meeting awesome bookish people, both online and in real life. I was able to meet with Liana while in Cebu, first at Moalboal and then we traveled together back to Cebu City. Here are some pictures of Hale Manna in Moalboal, swipe left to see all of them:

In Cebu City, first stop was Liana’s book cafe called Books and Brews. I love book cafes and if I lived in Cebu, I would definitely be a regular in this one. The cafe has an extensive selection of books written by Filipino and foreign authors which you can read while hanging out at the place. It’s also cozy and comfortable and a good place to study or work in, if you would prefer not to read.

When I was researching on what places I’d like to visit in Cebu, I knew I would want to check out ancestral houses if there were any in the area. We got to visit two of them: Casa Gorordo and Yap-Sandiego House. I’m a sucker for historic places and these two were a pleasure to view. They’re both typical “balay na tisa” or “bahay na bato”, built in the 1800’s with a mix of Spanish, Chinese and Filipino influences.

We also got to see Museo Sugbo, which is Cebu’s provincial museum. It was previously a provincial jail but has been converted to showcase the history of the province.

Last, but certainly not the least was getting to try the food options in Cebu that aren’t available in Manila! I loved both The Chocolate Chamber and AA Barbecue, and I’m sure you’ll be able to tell why based on these pictures:

I hope you guys enjoyed this update post. I had an amazing time in Cebu but it’s always good to be home in Manila. πŸ™‚ If you’ve been to Cebu, please feel free to share your own experience. Also, would be happy to hear suggestions on what ancestral houses in the country should be included in my bucket list. For those who haven’t been to Cebu, I hope I’ve made you more curious about the province, and that you’ll get to visit it eventually.

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#BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy Round Up

At the start of August, I talked about the #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy campaign. I tried to read and feature as many Filipino books as I could but sadly, I wasn’t able to read all of the ones that I have on my TBR pile. Anyway, I posted these shots either on Instagram or Twitter and wanted to consolidate everything in one place so here we go…

Books I read:

Una & Miguel

Una and Miguel by Lilledeshan Bose, a Filipino YA novel. The bright yellow and purple cover went well with the table setting at PS Cafe.

Shine by Candy Gourlay

Yes, I’m in Singapore but I still read (and promote) Filipino books! Shine by Candy Gourlay at Cocoa Colony. This Filipino MG novel was also published in the UK so it’s available all over the world if you’re interested in reading Filipino lit.

Shine by Candy Gourlay - chapter heading

Sneak peek inside Shine by Candy Gourlay

Someone Else's Fantasy by Mina V. Esguerra

I know it’s not obvious but this is an early copy of Someone Else’s Fantasy by Mina V. Esguerra with my matcha latte. I believe this will be released with a different title and cover soon.

Still reading:

Banana Heart Summer

Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis

Books I’ve read but wanted to encourage other readers to pick up:

Cover Story Girl with mocha

Cover Story Girl by Chris Mariano, Set in sunny and gorgeous Boracay, one of the most famous beaches in the Philippines, this is a sweet romance between a Filipino guy and a Korean girl.

Interim Goddess of Love paperbacks

Signed copies of the first two books in the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy, with cucumber mint tea and blueberry chocolate lavender tart.

Looking back on these pictures, I think it becomes obvious that I have a thing for coffee and tea. πŸ˜› As always, I hope more readers will be encouraged to read these Filipino titles!

Snapshot From a Book: Interim Goddess of Love

I’ve mentioned before that Mina V. Esguerra’s setting for her Interim Goddess of Love trilogy (my reviews of Interim Goddess of Love, Queen of the Clueless, Icon of the Indecisive) strongly reminds me of our alma mater – Mina and I went to the same school. I’ve also posted pictures of the Ateneo de Manila University but I wanted to do it again now while highlighting certain sections out of Interim Goddess of Love for this Snapshot From a Book post. I have such fond memories of studying in Ateneo – I met some of my closest friends there, had inspiring teachers and classes, enjoyed extra-curricular activities and just generally liked hanging out in school. Reading the Interim Goddess of Love books brought back some of those memories. Here are a few quotes and photos:

“Located just outside of Metro Manila, Ford River College was a relatively new school (compared to the over-a-century-old ones put up during the Spanish and American periods), but it already had a reputation for being the place to send your children if they were very smart, or if you were very rich. I was there on scholarship, but I didn’t think that automatically put me in the camp of very smart. Maybe lucky.”

LomoAteneo

“Did I want to go to Ford River? I visited the campus and it looked beautiful, its brick buildings scattered in a field of green that looked out onto an actual (clean) creek on one side, and a hill on the other. I went to high school in the middle of Manila, and maybe I’d had enough of that.”

LomoAteneo2

lomoateneo4

This last bit is not related to the setting but it’s a beautiful quote so I wanted to include it:

β€œBecause, though I’d seen and felt just a fraction of all the love in the world, I knew that when people thought of love they thought of moments. Whether or not a marriage worked out, or if they stayed together after graduation, or if they did go to the big dance together, the story’s end mattered less, and the highlights in between mattered more. Those are what lingered, and what people can go back to, even when they had nothing left.”

lomoateneo5

Giveaway: Interim Goddess of Love Trilogy

Interim Goddess of Love_digital coverQueen of the CluelessIcon of the Indecisive

Mina V. Esguerra’s Interim Goddess of Love trilogy is now available in an omnibus Kindle edition. This is a series set in a fictional college in the Philippines. It has a contemporary setting with some Philippine mythology mixed in. Mina has very generously offered a Kindle edition up for grabs, you just need to have an Amazon account (or be willing to sign up for one) to join. As always, I can’t embed the Rafflecopter widget on my blog so click HERE instead.

Summary of the trilogy:

College sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility — but for all humanity.

The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.

INTERIM GODDESS OF LOVE: While she’s learning to do this goddess thing, she practices on the love troubles of shy Kathy, who’s got a secret admirer on campus. Hannah’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to make sure that he’s not a creepy stalker and they find their happily ever after — or at least something that’ll last until next semester. (As if she could refuse! The Sun God asked so nicely. And he’s so, well, hot.)

QUEEN OF THE CLUELESS: If you’ve been feeling neglected by the Goddess of Love lately, don’t worry — Hannah Maquiling, college sophomore, is in training to take over. The Original Goddess is missing, but Hannah is Interim Goddess now, and she should figure out how to solve humanity’s love problems soon. Quin (God of the Sun) is still her mentor, still really hot, but apparently isn’t as honest about his other earthly relationships as she thought. It’s frustrating, and enough to make her check out possibilities with Diego (God of the Sea) and Robbie (Cute Human).

In the meantime, she’s decided to spend some of her precious training time helping to break up a relationship, instead of putting one together. Why? Because the girl in question happens to be her best friend Sol, whose boyfriend is stealing not just from her, but from other people on campus. Sol didn’t exactly summon the Goddess, but this is what power over Love is for, right? Surely it’s not just about matchmaking, but ending doomed relationships too. (Even when it’s not what people want.)

ICON OF THE INDECISIVE: College student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It’s her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She’s had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he’s destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she’s figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It’s not like she doesn’t have any options for a classic college romance though. There’s Diego, God of the Sea and Quin’s best friend/enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

My reviews:
Interim Goddess of Love
Queen of the Clueless
Icon of the Indecisive

Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra

Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra is the third book in the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy. The first two books in the series are Interim Goddess of Love and Queen of the Clueless. Do you need to read the books in order? Yes, unless you want to get really confused. They’re all tied together, with Hannah as the main character, tasked with helping college students with their love problems. Mina compared the series to a TV show, with the first two books as different episodes and Icon of the Indecisive as the season finale. I received an advanced review copy of this for the audio commentary that Mina organized with several other bloggers. Here’s my account of that experience and feel free to download the file over at Mina’s website.

Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

Icon of the IndecisiveCollege student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It’s her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She’s had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he’s destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she’s figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It’s not like she doesn’t have any options for a classic college romance though. There’s Diego, God of the Sea and Quin’s best friend/enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

It was nice to be back in Ford River College, a setting that I enjoyed reading about because it reminded me of my own college experience. I feel like I keep saying this but since I had fun in college (in spite of not loving my major), I take pleasure in reading anything that takes me back to those years. Even though Hannah and the other characters in the series weren’t ordinary college students, because they had abilities as gods and goddesses, I could still relate to them. To be honest, I was a little worried about Icon of the Indecisive. I felt like we were left hanging at the end of the second book and there were too many questions that needed to be answered in the final book. I shouldn’t have worried because the whole trilogy was wrapped up quite nicely in this installment. In the first two books, readers were able to see glimpses of Hannah’s own love story interspersed with the cases that she needed to solve as interim goddess. I was rooting for Hannah to get her own happy ending – I felt like she deserves to have her own beautiful romance after going through the trouble of comforting and supporting other people through their love-related difficulties. I had no idea where things would go when it came to Hannah’s leading man and I liked not being able to predict what would happen. While I didn’t think the ending was perfect because I thought it could have gone in a different direction, I still found it quite satisfying.

The Interim Goddess of Love trilogy is different from Mina’s usual contemporary romance with main characters in their mid-twenties. The series is young adult, set in college and has a mythology aspect to it. Granted, it’s light on the mythology and doesn’t have as much worldbuilding as other fantasy novels that I’m used to. Still, I think it’s a good idea for an author to branch out and try writing something different. In this case, I think it worked well because romance is still a big element of this series, something that it has in common with the author’s previous work. Like all of Mina’s other books, Icon of the Indecisive was a quick read for me. Thank goodness it didn’t take long for this one to get published so the story was still quite fresh in my mind and I didn’t have to reread the first two. You’re pretty lucky if you haven’t started on the series and you’re curious about it, because now you can read all of them in one go. Recommended for fans of romantic novellas, readers who want something light and fun, and anyone interested in giving Filipino fiction a try.

It’s funny how Interim Goddess of Love has several cover designs. I just wanted to mention that I really like that it got redesigned and now all three installments have matching covers:

Interim Goddess of Love_digital coverQueen of the CluelessIcon of the Indecisive

All three covers were designed by Tania Arpa using photographer/blogger Rhea Bue’s photos. Aren’t they lovely? I like that the covers feature a Filipino fashion blogger and how all the photos give off a college vibe that represent the series well.

Other reviews:
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories
One More Page

Saturday Afternoon Discussion: Interim Goddess of Love Trilogy

Last Friday was a holiday here in Singapore and I was lucky enough to get a budget flight to fly home to Manila for the long weekend. Aside from spending time with friends and family, attending a wedding and running errands, I was able to attend a discussion for Mina V. Esguerra’s Interim Goddess of Love trilogy. The books in the series are Interim Goddess of Love, Queen of the Clueless and Icon of the Indecisive (to be released soon). Basically, Mina wanted to record a conversation focusing on her first young adult series. Other Filipino book bloggers who participated in this were Tina of One More Page, Chris of Ficsation and Meann of Girl Who Read and Other Stories.

IGoL all editions

All the editions of the books in the series

We sat down and Mina facilitated our discussion by sharing information about her writing process involving the three books. It was fun to have a face-to-face discussion and share our thoughts and feelings related to the series – what we thought of the setting, the characters and who were the guys that we were swooning/rooting for.

Thanks to Chris for this collage!

Thanks to Chris for this collage!

Thank you, Mina, for letting me be a part of this! I’m glad it happened on a day that I was in Manila. Check out Mina’s website for announcements on what she plans to do with the discussion that we recorded.

Gigi's cupcakes

We got rewarded with rose and red velvet cupcakes after the discussion!

Queen of the Clueless by Mina V. Esguerra

Queen of the Clueless by Mina V. Esguerra is the sequel to Interim Goddess of Love. Do the books need to be read in order? I think so because that will give the reader a better understanding of the story. In fact, I reread the first book before starting on this because I didn’t want to be confused about the characters and everything that happened before. These books are Filipino young adult fiction that has a hint of local mythology (so “goddess” in the title of the first book isn’t a metaphor). It’s going to be a trilogy and there’s no release date for the third book yet but I’m hoping it will be published soon.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Queen of the CluelessIf you’ve been feeling neglected by the Goddess of Love lately, don’t worry – Hannah Maquiling, college sophomore, is in training to take over. The Original Goddess is missing, but Hannah is Interim Goddess now, and she should figure out how to solve humanity’s love problems soon. Quin (God of the Sun) is still her mentor, still really hot, but apparently isn’t as honest about his other earthly relationships as she thought. It’s frustrating, and enough to make her check out possibilities with Diego (God of the Sea) and Robbie (Cute Human).

In the meantime, she’s decided to spend some of her precious training time helping to break up a relationship, instead of putting one together. Why? Because the girl in question happens to be her best friend Sol, whose boyfriend is stealing not just from her, but from other people on campus. Sol didn’t exactly summon the Goddess, but this is what power over Love is for, right? Surely it’s not just about matchmaking, but ending doomed relationships too. (Even when it’s not what people want.)

Hannah is still the temporary Goddess of Love and while she’s still pretty clueless about certain aspects of the job, she’s learning slowly and surely. She gets regular training sessions with Quin, God of the Sun, on how to improve her game as a goddess. She enjoys these sessions with Quin but keeps hoping that they will lead to more than just doing “work” stuff. What’s funny about Hannah’s situation is, she helps other people navigate the tricky waters of love and yet she’s hopelessly in love with someone she can’t have. I think that’s what makes Hannah a relatable character – even if she’s part-time goddess now, she’s still a normal college girl in so many ways. Clearly, she doesn’t have things figured out and like any non-goddess person does, she just goes with her instincts and what she feels is right. I also think it’s ironic that the main plot thread in this installment is Hannah trying to break up a couple instead of bringing them together. I liked that Queen of the Clueless focused on Sol’s love story, it was nice to get to know Hannah’s best friend since we really didn’t get to do that in the first book. I also liked that we learn more about some of the other secondary characters, like Diego and Robbie. Although I wish there was more of Quin in the story, I felt like he didn’t get enough face time in this book. I would have liked to learn more about Quin’s character, a little more insight on how he is both as Quin the mortal guy and as God of the Sun.

I’m really, really curious about the third book in this series. If I had a copy of it right now, I’d dive into it right away. I have no idea how Hannah’s story arc will get resolved and I’m hoping it won’t feel rushed because these books are on the short side. I found Queen of the Clueless an enjoyable read but I definitely wouldn’t have minded if it was a little longer. I think it was a good idea on Mina’s part to try writing a different genre from her usual contemporary romance featuring women in their twenties. I’m all for Filipino fiction with a college setting, especially if it reminds me of my own college experience. I know I’ve mentioned this before but I really couldn’t help but feel that Hannah’s school is like a smaller version of my own alma mater. So many details about the school was reminiscent of my own school – the cafeteria, some of the classes, the rich kids and scholarship kids. I know that Mina attended the same college so maybe it served as an inspiration for her writing. Since I loved my school, I think that’s a good thing. I recommend this to fans of Mina’s writing and readers curious about Filipino fiction. I know I don’t feature enough of them here in my blog so I would gladly recommend this.

Some lomo shots of my college, which can pass off as Ford River:

LomoAteneo

lomoateneo5

lomoateneo4

Interim Goddess of Love Gets a Makeover

Love the title of this post, it’s like there’s an interim goddess who got a makeover. But I’m actually talking about how Filipino author Mina V. Esguerra’s Interim Goddess of Love gets not just one, but two editions with shiny new covers. You can check out my review of the book here. Mina was also kind enough to offer discount coupons for her work and Interim Goddess of Love is included in that list, click here to find out more about it. To those who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the summary of the book from Mina’s website:

College sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility – but for all humanity.

The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.

While she’s learning to do this goddess thing, she practices on the love troubles of shy Kathy, who’s got a secret admirer on campus. Hannah’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to make sure that he’s not a creepy stalker and they find their happily ever after – or at least something that’ll last until next semester. (As if she could refuse! The Sun God asked so nicely. And he’s so, well, hot.)

The new cover, which was designed by Tania Arpa with the help of photographer Rhea Bue, looks like this:

Interim Goddess of Love_digital cover

I’m usually not a fan of real people in book covers because I like imagining what the characters look like but I think this cover looks great because it doesn’t really feature Hannah’s face. I love the outfit, it has a very college feel to it, which is funny because I would totally wear that as well (what can I say, I’m young at heart). The sequel, Queen of the Clueless has a matching cover design:

Queen of the Clueless

These will be the covers for the international paperback editions. I can’t wait to see what the third book will look like because I heard it will match these two as well. I’m in the middle of Queen of the Clueless now but I have a feeling I’ll finish reading it tonight. Hopefully I can review it soon but I’m not making any promises because I still have a backlog of reviews that I need to work on. I did reread Interim Goddess of Love to refresh my memory before starting on the sequel.

Summit Books will also be publishing a paperback edition of Interim Goddess of Love in the Philippines and this is what their edition will look like:

Interim Goddess of Love_Summit

I think they did a good job with the artwork – throwing in a girl in front of a background of myth and college-related illustrations. I like that she’s holding a crystal ball with the silhouette of a couple, signifying her duties as the temporary Goddess of Love.

Congrats, Mina! I’m glad your ebooks are getting published into ink and paper versions now. πŸ™‚

Discount Coupons for Mina V. Esguerra’s Books

It’s no secret that Mina V. Esguerra is my favorite Filipino chick lit author. I’ve pimped her books so many times here on my blog and it always makes me happy when friends listen to my recommendations and read her novels. Since it looks like several of her readers found out about her work through my blog so she wants to show her appreciation but offering discounts on her Smashwords titles. Use the codes below to get a dollar off when you purchase the ebooks.

Here are the links and codes, click on the images to see my reviews:

Fairy Tale Fail
Smashwords link: Fairy Tale Fail
Code: VF92P

Love Your Frenemies
Smashwords link: Love Your Frenemies
Code: CK34B

Interim Goddess of Love
Smashwords link: Interim Goddess of Love
Code: RY33Q

Mina is being generous, she says that the coupon codes will be valid for a year. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and buy them! I’m already planning to get several copies of the Summit edition of Fairy Tale Fail when I arrive in Manila because I want to give them as gifts this Christmas.

Fairy Tale Fail_Summit

Snippets of an Interview with Mina V. Esguerra

My friend interviewed my favorite Filipino chick lit author, Mina V. Esguerra, for one of his classes. Mina talked about it a bit in this post. My friend sent me a copy of the entire interview and I got permission to post some of the questions and answers here on my blog. I thought it would be a good idea to share snippets of the interview with the rest of Mina’s fans. If you haven’t read any of her books and would like to check out my reviews, here are the links: Fairy Tale Fail, My Imaginary Ex, Love Your Frenemies, No Strings Attached, Interim Goddess of Love.

When did you start to write?
I started experimenting with writing when I was in Grade 5. We didn’t have school newspaper for our elementary school and that’s when I started trying to set one up although we only have one issue for it in a year. In Grade 6, that’s when I started to write more in fiction, trying to write short stories and in High School, that’s when I seriously write, plotting things and finishing stories.

How has social media helped you as an author? Has blogging community help you find your audience and vice versa?
I started the blog because I felt that I should as everyone else was doing it. My benchmark were international authors who have their own blogs, talking about what they did, talking about their process. Then I started to see reviews of my books in social media, in blogs, in Facebook, in Friendster. I saw that when I had published a book, people were mentioning it in their social media accounts. Before, I was just hiding, just looking at them without commenting back or replying. After a while, I realized I should say something as it has been so nice of them to have bought the book, read it and shared it with their friends. And I should acknowledge it somehow so I started all the social media accounts in case they want to reach out to me and I can actually reply.

It also did help me find my audience as that’s where I discovered book bloggers. I didn’t realize how active they were and that they actually would pay attention to the book I had just released. Through people’s blog, I also discovered what kind of people who read my books, their age range, where they live, if they are Filipinos or they aren’t. And vice versa, it helped certain people to find me by just being there.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in relation to your work as a writer?
There is little victory in each book especially Fairy Tale Fail. I put it up on Amazon and it exceeded my expectations in terms of sales. I’m very proud of that because it sort of proves in my mind that international market for Filipino written work is there. At that time, I really set it as an experiment if people would buy it and people bought it. That is an achievement I am proud of.

Of all the books you have written, do you have any personal favorite?
I feel proud of each one in different ways. For example, β€œMy Imaginary Ex”, which Im proud of because it is the first one I sold and the first one to have been published. I am very proud of how it turned out story wise. β€œFairy Tale Fail”, on the hand, is because of what it achieved overseas. β€œNo String Attached”, the third one, which was also published by Summit, has a premise of a 29 year old girl dating a 24 year old guy. Certain people are affected by it. I am proud of it because the kind of responses and feedback I got for that book is different. The fourth one, β€œLove your Frenemies”, I am proud of that because it was difficult to write. It was a personal writing challenge and the fact that there are positive reviews, I was able to validate that I took on the challenge and survived it. Then the latest book, β€œInterim Goddess of Love”, because it too was an experiment for younger crowd and so far the response is very nice.

Are we expecting more books soon?
I have a Summit book coming out in a few months. Then I plan of releasing two more in Amazon. The one in Summit is already done. The other two, I still have to write but the outline is already there and it’s just a matter of filling out the books.

___________________

Thank you, Mina and Mister O, for letting me post this! Looking forward to Mina’s next book. πŸ™‚