The Big Bad Interview – Full Transcript

 I sat down to interview the folks behind the Big Bad Wolf sale for this article:  http://news.abs-cbn.com/life/02/22/18/5-things-big-bad-wolf-founders-learned-from-ph-book-sale
Thanks to the BBW Founders for the interview 🙂

i ended up with about 9 Word Pages of material from  Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng (founders of BookXcess, the company behind the Big Bad Wolf booksale, and Miguel Mercado, Big Bad Wolf Philippine’s Marketing Head. The article had to be heavily edited for the news site’s short form format. 

I didn’t really ask much questions. Each short question was met with enthusiastic, eloquent answers. It was a pleasure and privilege to talk to them.

Publishing it here in its somewhat raw transcript (with typos and the occasional annotation) is the of the 40-ish minute interview with the hardcore, hardest-working book geeks behind the biggest book sale in the world.

VVB: Tell me about Big Bad Wolf. How did it all start up?

Jacq: BookXcess started 10 years ago and we started with a bery tiny bookstore. 500 square feet. It’s all about one thing, it’s too increase readership in Malaysia by providing affordable books. It’s a very simple mission, but with one bookstore, we couldn’t do much. So in 2009, we decided to create an event called Big Bad Wolf where people come and bring their friends, because when you go to an event, you don’t go alone. So that’s how we see the positive impact of how a big bad wolf event will have a very positive impact of increasing readership, by converting non-readers to a reader.

VVB: Tell me about the growth from Malaysia and going to other parts Southeast Asia.

Andrew: We started in 2009. It was only in Kuala Lumpur for 2-3 years. There were a lot of requests to go out of kuala lumpur. So we did quite a few stints, about 7-8 different locations around Malaysia. It was about two years ago in 2016. We did our first overseas event in Jakarta, and then a a few months later in August 2016, we did one in Bangkok.

Jacq: What happened was that the motivation that we get from organizing Big Bad Wolf, even from our first event which had only 120,000 books at the fair. We saw people coming in when people say that there is no market for English books. When they say that there are no people reading in their country. But we saw people streaming in for Day 1 despite it being the first time. The positive comments that everybody was talking about was that we allowed them to try new genres, we allowed them to try new authors. They’re so excited to buy to give to friends to try to spread the joy of reading and promote reading. So many people buy as presents, they keep a stack to give as birthday presents, as Christmas presents. So we realized that this model can work. So when we borught the sale to Penang, Johor, CHingganu, Ipo, We bring it out to people in the rural area, not in the big city where books even less accessible. They basically don’t have access to books. There are no major bookstores there. So where we are kind of stable in Malaysia especially when we knew that we had succeeded for the past 6 years, we have saw a very positive growth. When we started, Young Adult books didn’t sell in Malaysia because first of all, readership is low and teenagers don’t read…. At all.

So children’s books always sell because the parents will buy for the kids. So young adults are always a tougher sell. But after 5 years, the young adult books sold out. And we started to realize that it was because of our 5 year effort. For the past 5 years, our younger readers when Big Bad Wolf started have become teenagers.. So they have become readers themselves, and now they’re coming in to Big Bad Wolf and now are buying Young Adult Book. So we could see the positive progression and this gave us a lot of comfort that it works.

So when we are stable in Malaysia and the team has also grown from just two of us, so now a big team of us with management staff and we think we are ready to go overseas to demographics similar to Malaysia, English is not the firtst language. Books are generally expensive due to a weak currency, readership is low, also because of prive and accessibility to books. That’s why we chose Indonesia, Thailand to go in first.

And now we’re in the Philippines

Andrew: I think what Jacqueline mentioned, going to countries where people don’t even read English and creating such an impact there. It’s amazing. If you see the pictures of Big Bad Wolf Bangkok. It’s really something to behold.

Jacq: Normally the crowd comes in midnight. Most of the time, the hall is most packed almost around midnight because people come in after 10.You can’t even go in anymore. Tyou literally close the door because you cant fit in persons anymore.

Andrew: Philippines happened really quick. We met Luis from GK (Gawad Kalinga) about 7 months ago. And somebody introduced us, he was in Kuala Lumpur for a conference. He met us, we sat down, and we shook hands right after that meeting saying that “no matter what happens, it’s going to happen in the Philippines”. He did ask why we have never thought of goping to the Philippines which we actually wanted to do but we just never had the correct partner. I mean the Phlippines is not an easy market to get in. We had no friends here, we didn’t know anybody. Btu we knew that it was a market  we wanted to go in to, not because we think that we will do well here. But because we knew that the Philippines needed something like this. And so luis was saying that, if you come to the Philippines, you don’t have to worry about any problems, you don’t have to worry about any fears.

We are disruptors. SO when we come, a lot of people in the industry misunderstand us. And then it can be a negative thing in the beginning. Without friends, we can’t do that. So he said, whatever fears you have, let GK Take care of it.

So we formed a partnership, the whole reason why we have a superstar team here. Theya re all from GK.

Miguel: Well GK has a big network from the people who work in HQ to GK partners. We all just have the same mission and advocacy. The advocacy aligns for both Gawad Kalinga and Big Bad Wolf so it was very easy to get together. Second, yolu also see how much people work so hard here. Everybody is really focusing on the advocacy.The heart of the advocacy plus the joy of seeing people as they enter, it’s like they’re kids in a candy store. They’re jumping up and down, and like you, they say “”Ahhhh… the smell of new books.” And they start running up and around the corridors and start buying. What it hink is clear here is the advocacy, the heart of how it started, how it continuies to grow, and how people also come and realize that they are building a nation, improving the way we do critical thinking not only for us bhut also for the next generation. Whenever you have something like that, it just pushes forward and we’re very happy that Big Bad Wold has come here. And the plans really, are how we can bring this to more places in the Phlippiunes.

Q: Sot here are plans to go to other parts of the Philippines?

Miguel: There are plans, and I think it’s really about finishing this sale. BNut to dream with an advocacy, and to dream with a mission, it’s always there. It’s nice to see how people with the right, similar values are just going to come and will be coming.  I think what’s more magnified in the Philippines is how appreciative the customers and the other partners are. I think if we can measure the amount of THANK YOUS, THANK YOU FOR COMING, THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS on the scale in the PHiluippiunbs. I think it will continueto drive the mission.

Q: What kind of groundwork to prepare for the coming fort the Big Bad Wolf?

Miguel: What was good about Big Bad Wolf was that they already knew what to do. So the transfer of knowledge really became a sprint for everybody. As soon as we got confirmation, our teams got together and just started to run in terms of getting the venue, getting the markets, getting FB marketing up, making partnerships with people who also want to make a nation like ABS-CBN. All of that became a sprint to get Big Bad Wolf Phlippines happening. And we contrinue to sprint. Maybe after the sale, we’ll rest for a few hours (laughs) and then Im sure we’ll be working on the big ones already. As long as people share the same value, then it’s so much easier to work. It’s not perfect, but once everyone has the same value and same direction, it makes it easier.

Andrew: What makes it very meaningful, this event has so much PR mileage. And with a partner like GK and what GK stands for, we are able to maximixe the PR Mileage to the very end. Like getting more people to read, getting more partners involved, and also helping GK. To us, it’s not just abnout selling books, it’s not just about getting people to read more, but the whole reason we’re doing this is we want to change lives, and this is what GK does. You know they change lives. So us being able like a magnet to bring people together and gk being here and getting more, it’s another arm of rgk, literacy, that will value add to whatGK does. To us that is very very important. To have the right collaboration. We never had any collaboration this in any other country. Yes we have great partners.In any country we have grest partners, They never see the commercial aspect, it’s always one thing to make a change in their own way, in their own country. But here, working with an organization like GK makes the whole event to the m,aximum what we can do and moving forward.

Jacq: When we talk about Big Bad Wolf even back home. I always remind the team that there are only three words that we care about. We are here to CREATE, to INSPIRE, and to EMPOWER. Everything we do, we move towards that objectiove and that mission. And GK is the same, the book that they gave us is HOW TO CREATE DREAMS, When we furst met GK and the first gift they gave was that book, you marry someone so perfect. So identical. Books are the same. When a child gets the correct book, that child will be next president of the country through dreams and being inspired. And only by briging the book here, and I’m not talking about cheasp books, but very good quality books and at prices everybody can afford and let them be acceissible. Reading and books should not be a luxury item and to certain upper class people. It’s more important to the lower income people. They resally need thsat inpsirtation and that power. When you inspre them, when you emporwr them, it’sd a totally different story. And that is what GK does everyday. It’s just a perfect marriage and we were so excited, which is why when we visited the philppines for the firsty time in july last year, we saw the amount of the country where the pobveryt of the people even in metro manila area, and we were quite surprised that Malaysia being pretty privileged compared to here. And the venue said that this is the only slot we have, Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is a very big thing back home. “How are we gouing to do Chinese New Year?” We asked our project manager. What do you think? And he said, I would do it but I will ask my team as well. And she went back. The first thing she did was she spoke to her team about our visit here, and the special unique thing we are trying to accomplish here in the Philippines. The majority of the team said yes so everybody will sacrifice their Chinese new year to be here. We won’t do it for any special unique reason except for the special unique collaboration with GK and the additional meaning it carries for the Philippines, that’s why we are here despite we had to sacrifice the new year to be here.

Miguel: To emphasize that sacrifice, Chinese New Year for Chinese, for Malaysia. It’s basically like giving Chirstmas up for Christmas. It’s when reunions happen. Where you go home to families and families come home to you.

Jacq: It’s also a duty to our parents that we have to be home,. It’s very hard to tell your mother that I won’t be home this year. IT’s very hard to do that.

Miguel: Just for that sacrifice the team has gone through, they gave up Chinese new year plus nobody sleeps here. It’s not a written rule. People just come. For us, we don’t have a time. The Filipino group. We see how much they work. We try to equal. But it’s amazing how much people work

Andrew: Half the time, we need to go home and sleep.

Jacq: There’s just so much work. Every country we go to, I think we’re the only event  to do 11 days straight 24-hours non- stop. People have never done it bvefore. The convention center has never done it befiore. Everything is first time. But why did nobody do it? It’s so hard to even organize something like that. To get the staff. To get the commitment of the organizer to commit to an event like this. 11-days 24 hours nonstop.

Andrew: The Cost

Jacq: and the cost, excluding the setup and the teardown. And we are the only person in this event. We are not a book fair with lots of people and exhibitors.

Andrew: There;s only one reason why we started 24-hours. That is so customers will not have the excuse “I got no time to come.” When we first multed the 24-hours, the managers were saying that ‘you’re going over your head because overheads will be doubled and it’s not worth it.” As long as one customer comes in after midnight, the battle is won. That is how we should always look at it.”

Jacq: In the part of the world where we are, where a lot of us is a dual income family. A lot of them work dual jobs. Nobody has time to go out after work. And if we open the usual hours, close at 9 or 10pm. They will never come. After work, it’s already 8 or 9pm. We are just here for the first time in Metro Manila. People drive here. Like there was a customer the other day who took a jeepney for three hours to come here.  If we do have a closing time, it’s going to be hard for you to plan your trip. Like, what time do I reach there, do I have enough time to shop? Oh I don’t think so, IMaybe I go tomorrow, it will never end.

But if the door never closes, you are free from that burden.

Andrew: and here there are a lot of call centers, and these people who work at the call centers sleep during the day and work at night. And they will never get to come here if we don’t open 24-hours. And Manila is a city that never sleeps

VVB: Can you tell me about your relationship with the publishers? How do you get the prices so low?

Andrew: Not just the relationship with the publishers. How we are able to get the books so affordable is a combination of many things. Number One: It starts from us having the mission before the commercial sense of it. Numebr two: having the right partners who understand where we are coming from. We all have the same mission and then, the publishers. Everyone coming together to make this event successful. Everybody playing their parks. Publishes see a role that we play in the whole  book industry. The book industry is a complex business. They understand that we are not here to destroy the market. If we wanted to destroy the market, we would probably do this three times a year, maybe quartery or four times a year. But no, we are only here4 once a year. This is just to boost the industry. To injext some excitement into the industry. To get people to startr reading. People who have forgotten the joy of reading, and those who have mnot experienced the joy of reading, this event enables all to read. So the publishers see the role that we play and they work with us for the prices that we need and we have the support of over 100 publishers. IT is a very special position so to speak

JN: We also started the business very small ten years ago. Our suppliers had a chance and the time to get to know us.They seen us grow from very small, a two person company, to what we are today, and they see the dedication and the effort we put in. You know go through every book, we negotiate every book. No buyer buys books like that. Just to buy five books, we go through every effort. We don’t miss books. We cover every book they have available. We choose what we want for the market. Some of them were curious, top management and business owners  themselves. They say that you two are so hardworking and of course they want to know more.and when they learn about our mission back home and especially our sale has grown to a certain size, in 2011is when we started the biggest sale. 1.5 million books at that time. I have UK and American Publisher who came and witnessed the sale. Thinking “are you going to sell at the price you bargained so hard for?” “Are you really going to sell that price that you told me?” They flew all the way to see. “Like you say you’re going to sell at this price, are you going to sell at this price because you keep on haggling the price?” And then when they came, they were going through our tables and looking at the prices tag and of course we sold at the agreed price. And they keep on saying to them

Andrew: They literraly said “ You can’t do this. You can’t make money because it’s so cheap” They know the cost.They know the operations because some of them are resellers too.You’re going to crash and burn”

Jacq: You have no margin at all. And of course our books are non-returnable. But when they saw the door open and when they saw the custimers walk in, they got so inspired. They were nonstop taking pictures and videos on the phone. And the moment they went home, they have big operation back home. They have hundreds and hundreds of staff and they showed the photos and videos to their staff to inspire them. This is where thebooks go, this is who he books are benefitting.

Andrew: So now they support us even more. Sometimes when we negotiate price, I say “I nreally need this at this price.” And they say, ”aggghh” they know they’re going to lose money. They say it’s ok because it’s for the war effort. I mean literally, Those are the words they used. Because they know that to countries, especially developing countries like the ones in Southeast Asia, it’s really a war against corruption, poverty, and so many other issues the majority of the world is going through oppression. We know that books and education is the key to get out the change.”

VVB: I’m sure you’ve travelled around the world. How do you compare the readers of Asia to the rest of the world?

Andrew: very different. Initially, if you think KL and Manila. Is probably the closest compared to Thailand and Indonesia because they don’t really speak much English. Children’s books will do well because they can’t really read English. The older generation. If you are above 20, normally you don’t read much. It’s a burden for parents to get kids to start english. Naturally the childrens books do well.

Well here is a mature market similar to Malaysia, the difference that we see here compared to Malaysia. Is that You guys are so much more, how would you say, deeper readers? Let\s say like Biographies. In Malaysia, the biography readers are surface (?) but you guys go deeper into politics, history. In Malaysia, readers would go to a general history book. In the Philippines, readers would go right down to a particular person. That’s one of the diffence

Jacq: We go to countries like England and the US where we get the majority of our books. I mean it’s a totally different culture. In southeast asia probably because of the culture of wehere aour grandparents and parents are, we have never been a society that reads. I have not. He has not. Been in a family where our parents read to us.We grew up in a home where there are zero books. But idf you go to a british or American family, it is quite normal for their kids to be in bed by 8oclock. We sleep at 12oclock since young. Ive never slept at 8oclock. They put their kids to bed, They have a certain lifestyle. Our lifestyle is our parents work until 9-10pm and we sleep at 12am. So it’s a totally different thing. You know they read to put their kids to sleep. Our parents couldn’t even speak a word of English. There is a portion of us that is into reading but a majority of southeast Asian families, we never had that luxury or that environment, For education wise in school, it’s all about academics, how to passs your exam, how to get good grades, how to make sure you go to university, it was never about reading for pleasure. So when we were growing up, reading was for passing an exam, it was never for entertainment, it was never for pleasure, so thast is the current environment that we grew up with whish iis very different  from those who grew up in more developed countries like the US and the UK. The challenge of changing that in Southeast Asian countries is to inculcate that habit. And you need to start 1 generation, that’s all. Because if you become a reader, you will automatically impart that habit to your kids. And when your kids become readers, your kids impart that to your grandkids, their kids. So we juut have to start with one genewration but we have to start somewhere. And to start the habvit is not a one event effoirt, it’s not even a two year effort. To me, a minimum 5-10 years.to change a certain majority of society to have that impact and for that to spread. Because if you are a reader and you come here, you might have 10 friends that did not come here. But because of you might have bought books and gacve it to them, and it’s because of you that they started reading. You will be picking books that they like. For example, if you ahad a friend who loves cars, and yuou saw a beautiful book about cars,  and you thought of him, and you buy and give it to hgim because the price is so affordable. So Through one customer, it litereally not just impacts him and his family, but it impacts his circle of friends and family. Imean this is what big bad wolf is all about. What the advocacy is all about. Why we make our lives so hard and why we price the books so low so it is easy for you to give?

VVB: In your few days here, what are your observations on the Filipino Market/Customers/Readers?

Andrew: For us, it’s been an emotional journey. The cultures are very different. Yes, we are ASEAN. Yes We are neighbors but honestly it’s very different. Sometimes we think how small our world is, but when you start learning about a totally different culture. Learnung and understanding our new friends, Initially, we were quite disappointinged that there were a lot of stray books. Meaning customers when they come in they get all excited and pick a lot of books and they find out they have a certain budget and they go to acorner and they just put the books that they want and it can be 80% of the books which is a nightmare. We have 200,000 books at the back. Now, If i give you a book right now and I tell you to put it back in the table, how long will it take you?.. How do you put back 200,000 books? It’s an impossibvle taks and that of course will hurt the sales. You notice that some of the tables are empty, some people are saying im looking for this bhook. Wehre is this book? It’s actually in that 200,00 books that we are working day and night. We have increased manpower to try to sort it out. But the tide of books that are coming in, we cant control. But we realize that this is why we’re doing this. And then they to get books will change people.l Get them to understand, to get them to empathize more what other people are going through, mutual respect. And all that kind fo thing. We also realize that we shouldn’t be disappoiunted but we should just take it in stride. This is one of the challenges and this is why we are here. Its not that that the public is purposely doing this or that they are inconsiderate. It is just how things are and how we can work to I prove it. Rather than get frustrated and channel our energy

Jacq: Its about education. It’s about educating them to let them see.ohhh, it’s a different perception that they didn’t realize that it costs so much problem.

Andrew: we do it too.sometimes you just don’t want one item. But here it’s 30,000 people doing it. We gotta understand their part. That is the only downide. The upside, there are a million upsides. Seeing the crowds, the response, the crowds are very appreciative of what we do. It’s probably 1% of bad and 99% of good

Jacq: I mean the true motivation, every customer I met, whether they are a journalist like you, or a stranger, or a partner, or one of the VIPs who were here during the launch. Every single person I was introduced to say Thank you for being here. For bring the sale to pHilippines. I mean for the past 10 years, we do receive a lot of appreciation and thank you notes, but never have I for once, receiecved thank you as though every single customer. You get 10% appreciation for any business, it’s a very strong adovacay already. Customers don’t have to say thank yuou  to them it’s a transaction. For us for the past 10 years, we get thank you njotes, FB Posoticive comments, but never had I onece have repeated appreciation from every single person that we met and until today when I go to the bank, the bank officer, when they know I am big bad wolf, they are like, thank you coming to the Philippines. That really touches me

Andrew: The Filipinos are really genuine people.

Jacq: And also we saw the comments, one thing about the stray books we realize it was to meet a budget. And the rich can alkways affor the tyhings that they need, they can buy books and accessibility is not a barrier. But the people who are not travelling or who have limited budget are the ones, thjat big bad wolf is all about. It is only through us, that is the only way they they can get books.

Andrew: the more stray books that we get, that means that we are attracting the correct crowd, the people who really need us. Those that can afford books, they will come natureally on their own. But our market is those who cant afford books.thgos that don’t have books around thgem. What happens when you attract them? This is what happens, the stray books,m the orphan books. The more orphan books that we get, the better. But it hurts us very badly.

Jacq: It’s just education. Sooner or later, when they realize it. They will know that by knowing their budget, even if they don’t want it, they’ll kow how to put it back. Both parties have to learn how to respect each other. But the fact that they are here, with a caertain budget and knowiung that they can bvring home four or five books, that is for us the biggest success of big bad wolf manila. I mean there are people who buy in trolleys, they can afford it. But the people who touch me most are the people who come with limited money, but they bring home with big smile four books and even two books.

VVB: What books are doing well?

Andrew: Very different. Fiction is doing very well. Business and Self-ghelp. But this is a testament as to what a mature English market is But of course, we are pshing very hard childrens section.Getting the kids to readm that is our priority.

VVB: Any Last words?

Andrew: We would like to say to tell everybody. We are here until this Sunday. Do come and visit us we’re here until Sunday. Admissions is free. It’s 24 hours. Even if you’re not into books, just come over and see. It’s the world’s biggest book sale. It’s airconditioned, get away from the heart. For those who have come, thank yuou, let the wordget around and tell all your friends. And we’d really appreciate the media for all the coverage thast they ahvegiven us. We could never ever have done it without you guys. This is evcerybody contributing and making this event successful. All out partners.

When Pink Is The New Green…

Very late last year, I decided to take money management more seriously. This started with a really bad injury whose very expensive treatment was not covered by the company HMO. My finances took a big hit. And that’s when I decided to really study alternative income streams.

I discovered that a lot of my savings were really just sleeping. 0.2% (minus taxes, minus service charges) per annum was a shock. My mutual funds took a hit when the global economy crashed a couple of years back.

As a stock market noob. all I was really doing was trolling for tips wherever I could find them. On the other hand, I’ve also been looking for as much education as I can about trading and investing.

Thus, it was a blessing that I ran into a prodigal friend whom I haven’t seen in 15 years, Charmel Delos Santos-Marcial, who was in Manila promoting her new book, “High Heeled Traders”.

I will admit that I wouldn’t have bought “High Heeled Traders” on my own volition. How a screaming pink book can turn my portfolio numbers green was sort of hard to fathom. The things we do for moral support (sigh). It’s a stock market book that’s really targeted towards women. The pink cover will shoo away the most hardened macho stock market trader wannabe.

But if the reader strips away the anecdotes and side stories clearly aimed at the book’s target demographic, one will find an extremely friendly introduction to trading that can be appreciated and understood by anybody who’s about to take the plunge into trading/investing. The book’s scope ranges from the very basics of choosing a broker and how to buy stocks to somewhat intermediate topics like position sizing and option trading.

One of the gems in the book is the brief discussion on Van Tharp’s position sizing and the concept of R. While it is very introductory, it will really help stock market beginners to manage risk and control their investments. This brief discussion really made me google Van Tharp to look for more resources on the net. For more on Position Sizing, surf on over to http://www.vantharp.com/

There are some inspirational rah-rah anecdotes in the book encouraging newbies that anybody can make decent money off the stock market. But interspersed in between are cautionary pieces of advice, often backed by the author’s own failures in the market. This gives a much needed dose of reality warning beginners to know what they’re getting into before investing their hard earned money.

The book is not perfect. In the later editions, I’d like to see the flowcharts and tables more professionally produced. There’s a “dot matrix” quality to these that make them quite hard to read. I also think that flowcharts should have dedicated pages as shrinking them makes the already sometimes-blurry text even more of a chore to decipher.

While the chapter on options is very thorough and very easy to understand, we don’t trade options in the Philippines. Nice to know, though, if the reader plans to trade elsewhere.

Yet, despite the easily fixable layout glitches, “High Heeled Traders” is a really good book for those who’ve always wanted to try their hand at the stock market but were too intimidated to try. The author brings stock market buzzwords down-to-earth for anyone, woman or man, to understand.

It’s not an end-all book on stock trading. Experienced traders might find the treatment shallow. But rather, think of it as a springboard to other more advanced books by William O’ Neill, Van Tharp and Martin Pring. It’s an appetizer that makes the main courses of Fundamental Analysis, Techincal Analysis, Position Sizing and <insert trading buzzword here> more palatable.

High-Heeled Traders is available in the Philippines from any Fully Booked branch for about 1,500.00. Part of the book’s sale price goes to funding United Nations women empowerment programs.

The author can be reached at www.highheeledtraders.com where visitors can get a free preview of the book. She can also occasionally be seen lurking in Phil. Stock Market Discussions, Comments and Forecast   facebook group where  she moderates a High Heeled Traders sub-group specifically for women traders (though the men sneak in once in a while). 🙂

That Pacq-ing book…

I got this book with the intention of passing it on to one of my uncles. My uncle is a devout fanatic of Congressman Pacquiao and I thought he’d get a kick out of the book (he did). I got a kick out of the book too.

The book, as told from Pacquiao’s perspective, chronicles his humble beginnings as a street urchin in the boondocks of Tango, his start as pugilist in the Philippines, his meteoric rise to godlike status in the international boxing world and concludes with a rather lengthy chapter on his political career. Besides the autobiographical passages, the book is interspersed with reportage from sports journalists and some first-person accounts from Jinkee, Manny’s Wife. Though some of the more controversial stories (like the botched Golden Boy/Top Rank contract negotiations) are mentioned, they’re merely treated as side stories and glossed past.

Once I got past the niggling “I-can’t-believe-he-wrote-this” feeling, it’s a rather entertaining (sometimes in the wrong way) read. The cast of supporting characters and behind-the-scenes vignettes are very compelling to someone like me who’s been following Pacman’s career since his Dela Hoya Match. The first-person blow-by-blow accounts of the fights are very brief but are still interesting as they expose insight as to how Pacman thinks inside the ring.

My little problem with the book is that I feel that the language is sort of flowery, long winded and at times preachy. A Timothy James is credited along with Manny Pacquiao on the title page, and I think he’s part of the problem. I think that James was translating what Pacquiao said, and may have embellished at times. Some of the non-quoted passages sound very familiar – A hodge-podge of HBO fight commentary and snippets from the HBO 24/7 pre-event specials

I felt that the book changed tone at the last chapter detailing Pacquiao’s political career. In contrast to previous chapters which were full of the warrior’s spirit, respect for opponents and praying for the health of his fallen foes, I felt this chapter was full of bluster and at times, arrogance. There was a sort of messianic vibe about the common Pac-man going about to rid his constituents from where he came from of corruption. The vibe soon dies a few paragraphs later where Pacman casually says something about “getting into his bullet-proof, bomb-proof Hummer.” [snicker] The conclusion of this chapter where he wins as Congressman of Sarangani, in my opinion, borderline slander, of the losing candidate, Chiongbian. Not only does Pacquiao gloat about his landslide victory but he also peppers the narrative with words like “corrupt businessman looking to line their own pockets”. You won already! No need to rub salt on Chiongbian’s wounds!

What’d I think about the book? I feel it’s what a Jerry Bruckheimer published book would read like. There’s a little “suspension of disbelief” and “leave your brain at the door” element to really enjoy the book. If you can believe that Manny really wrote the book, it’s a really entertaining read and a great gift for any fan of the “Pambansang Kamao”.

This book made me want to get my hands on that Freddie Roach biography. I’d also like to see a Tagalog version of this book that may have more masculine and direct language than the english (assumed) translation.

No doubt about it, Pacman’s a great fighter. The book is yet another testament to his guts and determination to get to a point where the world discovers his natural talent.

Let me wrap up with something from the last two paragraphs of the book.

“Now, I’m asked if my congressional seat is just one more stepping stone to someday becoming president of the Philippines. I won’t shut that door. I know I’ll never forget the moment Bob (Arum) burst into my room to tell me, ‘You won, Mr. Congressman!” He also did a nice little dance, which isn’t Bob’s way.

I guess this news stunned even him. Maybe one day, Bob will burst through my door and say, ‘Congratulations, Mr. President!'”

I admit I cringed when I read this. Only time will tell whether the reader should have approached this passage with delight… or dread.

“The Food Wars” is No “No Logo”

The blurb by Naomi Klein made me want to read this. I’m a big fan of “No Logo”, her shocksposé on the unethical practices in the third world of the leading consumer brands. I was expecting something akin to that book.

The Food Wars is not exactly like No Logo. No Logo, in some way, can appeal to the casual reader because of the wealth of human condition stories exposing the evils of globalization. Except for some stories about the peasant activists in the final chapter, The Food Wars is mired in figures, numbers and percentages that would probably make it daunting for the casual reader.

It’s written in a very academic fashion. Food crisis stories from Africa, China, the Philippines are written as case studies. Each chapter begins with a statement of the problem, progresses with LOTS of numbers, and percentages and wraps up with a neat conclusion at the end. The casual reader can actually get away with just reading the conclusions and still have a semblance of understanding as to what the book was about.

Buried within the numbers and the academese is a very frightening situationer of why the world is going hungry and possibly why it’s going to get worse. According to Bello, The root of the problem are the conditions behind the seemingly generous loans to third world countries. Behind these loans are “economic reengineering” conditions that stipulate that the country abandon agriculture for some “forward-economy” industry. Like call centers and BPOs (sound familiar)? Thus, because of these policies, government has to remove subsidies and tax breaks for farmers and reallocate them elsewhere. The rationale is that third world countries can earn more to buy “cheaper” food from first-world countries like the US. Unfortunately, this is not working according to the best-laid plans of the armchair economists in the World Bank. There is also an interesting chapter on BioFuels and their contribution to the global hunger problem. In a nutshell, corn and other grains are being allocated to feed fuel tanks than stomachs. Fuel is more profitable than food and thus a more lucrative product to produce than cheap food.

Books like these are meant to give the reader insight and maybe shock the the reader out of his comfortable reading chair. Insight, tons of em buried beneath facts and figures. Not enough shock of the lack of the human side of the problem. I’ d recommend watching the documentary “Food Inc.” as a companion to this book.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eKYyD14d_0&w=560&h=315]
There are a few issues in “The Food Wars” which are mentioned assuming the reader has sufficient background to understand what Bello is talking about (e.g. The on-going Monsanto GMO seed controversy in the US). This also fleshes out the problem for those wanting a human side of the story.

The book concludes with a call to action to go back to peasant agriculture. That is, for each locale to produce its own food to cut down costs on transportation and dependence on first-world producers. The world has to shift the power of production from the armchair policy makers and give it back to people who till the fields and harvest the crops. Maybe then, this hunger problem will be swept off the table.”

The Day I Shot The Dream King

This all started with a snarky comment on a friend’s FB status message. She said she was interviewing Neil Gaiman in person. I jokingly remarked “If you need a photographer, I’ll shoot for free.”

Last Monday, I was really surprised to get an SMS from Ida saying “Are you serious about shooting for free?” Thought about it for a bit thinking of SMS-ing, “I meant FREElance.” Sandman and Death-Fanboyism took over and texted back, “Hell Yeah!” (WUSS!)

And that was it. Borrowed a 50mm f/1.8 lens just to make sure I do justice to the King Of Dreams’ pictures. Unsuccessfully attempted to get all those Gaiman books of mine floating about back home for autographs. Ended up wayy to busy to go to the bookstore and get new ones. But still, was ready as I could be for the morning with the Dream King.

The morning came. Happily lugged my camera/s, phones and laptop and crawled to Rockwell. Thought I was late but wasn’t. Had a conversation with the Adobo peeps about the pictures and the interview started.

When it was my turn to be introduced, I told him what he wrote about Michael Moorcock. “I’m mostly your fault.” Weird/eclectic, geek/nerd meets high priest. Was too busy snapping away to actually listen to the interview. Couldn’t help but think that he does sound like Alan Rickman. Towards the end, there were a couple of minutes where we all chilled out.

“I thought this was for Adobo, not for Playboy.” As Morpheus chilled out on the couch and proceeded to pose. Dang light got in the way. Adobo Editor said something about all hell breaking lose when fanboys meet their idol. I proceeded to sputter something about “You have to be O-C when you meet your high priest.” which got an amused nod of approval from the interviewee. I said something about never being starstruck (and this was a rare thing for me to be starstruck). Mr. Gaiman immediately said that it was okay to be starstruck and he was the same when he did his first interview with another sci-fi writer. I didn’t get the name ‘coz I was busy packing up my gear. Did the obligatory pics. Had him autograph the only book I could find on my shelf. Snapped a couple more pics…. and that was it.

I later learned that Neil Gaiman sponsors the prize money for The Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. Amazing guy. He’s really an evangelist/high priest of alternative literature making sure that the message spreads as far as our little corner of the globe. Truly someone who’s passionate about something.

And so as I was looking over the pictures over mediocre pasta, I just thought that there ARE things like this where the task itself is its own great reward. There are so many things I spend time, blood, sweat, gas (as in fuel… oh wait a minute) and money on to feed a a starved soul. Sadly, there are some that are slowly becoming obligations and duty rather passion and pride. Musts and have-tos rather then wants and “hell-yeah-let’s-do-it”s. Still, could be helluva lot worse. At least, I can still count myself among the lucky ones that when opportunities like these to quench the spirit come up, I can simply stumble into ’em and hope for the best. Nooo pressure.

That’s one thing I can check off the bucket list  (Have a conversation with Neil Gaiman.) And that’s worth helluva lot more than any photographer’s fees I’d be able to charge (at this stage anyway. :D)

Moral of the story is: Don’t be afraid to post snarky comments on friends FB status-es. Who knows where you’ll end up.