My first APWT was pretty great. Getting shown around Manila by people who live there was a treat, and somehow the whole weekend it never rained. Manila is pleasantly breezier than Hong Kong, though about as warm and humid. And spacious! I'd forgotten what it was like to be on a broad green campus like UP Diliman's.
The best part of the conference was getting to know my panelmates and their work. Ravi and I proposed the topic "Collaborative Poetics," but it was one of APWT's directors, Butch Dalisay, who put us in touch with our other contributors: Larry Ypil, who's doing amazing work with Filipino artifacts from the 1904 World's Fair that he discovered at the University of Iowa's archives, and David Perry, whose collaborations with poet Sawako Nakayasu and artist Zhang Jianjun were a revelation.
Also, I had read about the Philippines' extensive network of creative writers and writing programs, but experiencing it was something else. Multiple universities have creative PhDs and MFAs, and there are several publishers making beautiful books. James Shea, fellow Hong Kong poet, heard about a bookstore called Solidaridad run by F. Sionil José, the poet most likely to be nominated for a Nobel, according to pretty much everyone we talked to. It was a dream bookstore: packed chock-full of poetry and history books.
Of course, the other thing I went looking for besides great literary culture was great food. Which Manila delivered in spades. I'm hoping to go back for more of this soon. Or maybe find it in Hong Kong? Wish me luck.