Portia Placino

Repository of my thoughts and images of art, literature, travel, and life.

Behind Velvet Cordons

I never go to events for the purpose of bashing them. I did not even plan on making an appearance at Writer’s Night. After yesterday’s spontaneous haircut, I joined my friends at Via Mare for coffee and puto bumbong. I was hungry, starving, even. They say they’re dropping by Writer’s Night, so I figured I’d join them since I have no plans. I didn’t know it would go downhill after that.

First is the “bring a book” and “donate a book” confusion. Really. If they wanted us to donate a book, we have a bunch. Most of us do. My friend interpreted the “bring a book” as bring a conversation piece book. Reading the fine print after, it’s what I figured as well. Given that its Writer’s Night, it sounds like an idea for an ice breaker. But apparently, it means that you are supposed to donate the book that you bring. Since, no one wants to donate the conversation piece books, we went for the “option”.

They are selling “booksale” books, that you can buy in order to donate. But here is the narrative of what really happened. From this enormous box, we “bought” the books that we wanted to “donate”. There were four of us, so we paid P50 apiece. Fine. Then when we “donated” these books, they just placed them back into the box we got them from. Yes, I am confused. Why couldn’t they just charge us P50, upfront? I would’ve paid it since I am already there and wanted to check the event out. Why the pretense of “donating” a book? What’s more, who am I donating the book to? Are they sponsoring a charity or literacy program? If they are, they didn’t say. It’s not in the poster or advertisement. There is no statement saying that I am doing this for charity, for the benefit of any organization or person in need, at least not explicitly. It really rubs off the wrong way.

Then of course, entering the venue itself, gives me another jolt of shock and disbelief. In the lobby of GT Toyota are VIP seats, for the “Contributors” and some publishers. The white, air-conditioned room has seats, while the rest of us common minions are meant to stand, cocktail style (without the cocktails) outside. Sure, the rain has stopped, there’s only a light drizzle and we’re not getting wet anyway. But still, I am beyond offended. Since when do we divide people like this? Inside the University of the Philippines? What’s more, is that they are selling beers for P120 for 3 cans. We are not even supposed to drink alcohol inside campus (theoretically). Alcoholic drinks are sometimes served at events and Writer’s Night (years before) is known for free beers. If they cannot afford to serve free beer anymore, that is just fine. But selling it in the event? That’s just plain crass. And illegal. I doubt that they have a permit to do this, especially inside school.

Then of course, there’s an awarding ceremony happening upstairs, again, in a rather small room that can only accommodate very few people. It has the feeling of writers awarding themselves. Some of them, I know for a fact, deserves the award and recognition. But elitism was never a part of UP culture, at least, not the UP that I have grown up in. Clearly, things have changed in a decade. But I did not expect that the change will be as blatant as this. I felt like an ordinary groupie slapped in the face as the institutionally verified writers are able to sit in chairs and get served. They are playing rock stars, while the rest of us, the “groupies” stand outside awaiting their descent from the upper tiers.

No, we did not wait. The food is still in their warmers, covered, by the time we left. We went to Rasa and enjoyed “Singaporean” food, which was surprisingly good. Some went to a poetry event in Makati, one went to the Richard Marx concert and I opted to head home. I am still too upset and disillusioned. Years ago, Writer’s Night was held in an open field, with chairs and tables for everyone, open mike for everyone, food and drinks for everyone, and performances–open to everyone, for everyone. I keep on saying for everyone, because that is how it was. It was for everyone who wants to see, mingle, join and talk. There was no discrimination, everyone was treated the same way–an award-winning writer, a student, a teacher, or an unknown. I am beyond disappointed. They moved up the venue, they moved up everything. They moved up and left everything else behind. They left behind the character, class, etiquette and ethics of a supposed campus event.

My only hope is that someone realizes this and does something about it before this culture is fully drowned in elitism and discrimination. We are still in the University of the Philippines, it’s supposed to be something more than a narcissistic take on a literary scene. Even in a gallery opening, a millionaire collector would stand in the same room, eat the same food and drink the same drink as a poorly dressed observer and lover of the arts. I hope it’s not too late for us, even if I’m “just” a blogger writing.

**I didn’t even have a nice camera on me, I just have my phone camera. As I said, I didn’t really expect to go to an event that night. Sigh. 

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4 comments on “Behind Velvet Cordons

  1. Raven Knives
    December 12, 2011

    Hi! So you’re into art. Just dropping by! =D

  2. MTGirl Lizzie
    December 12, 2011

    Hi there! Got your blog link from Marvin. 🙂 Hehehe. Ma-arts. 🙂

    • Portia Placino
      December 13, 2011

      Hi Lizzie! Thanks for looking me up. You have a great blog too. You should coach me on that sometime 🙂

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