First there was the comforting click of rails, accompanied by an anticipation of the smooth ride ahead. Then, suddenly, without warning, came a sharp right turn, followed closely by an unsettling jerk to the left. The result: a severe case of psychic whiplash, that virtual soreness of the neck that makes looking over one’s shoulder all but impossible.
What I’m describing is a recent attempt to launch my new book in Surigao City, my hometown. It certainly seemed like a good idea. To mark the publication of “A Tooth in My Popsicle,” my public relations team had organized successful readings in Manila, Cebu, and Iligan. It would be only fitting, we thought, to end the book tour with an appearance in Surigao, where much of the story occurred.
So back in January, we met with a tourism officer who appeared receptive. “Yes,” she said, clutching the volume we gifted, “I’ll read it right away!” And, sure enough, within a few weeks she assigned us a date—April 21st—and a venue; the Surigao Cultural Center at downtown’s City Hall.
Organizing a series of literary events requires planning. So, putting their noses to the grindstone, my PR team sent out flyers, extended invitations, and made travel arrangements from Manila. And that’s when the proverbial you-know-what hit the filthy flinging fan.
Calling a few weeks ahead to firm things up, we learned that the event had been postponed until April 25 for reasons not apparent. That was certainly annoying and inconvenient, but not impossible. Patrick, my main PR guy, dutifully revised the date on the flyers, informed invitees of the change, and rebooked his flight. Then he got a call saying the event had been transferred from the cultural center to the Sanggunian chamber in which the municipal council meets.
“Oh,” Patrick enthused, “they’re probably going to issue you a proclamation.”
Nope. Instead, meeting with us a few days in advance, the tourism officer dropped her last bomb; the council chamber would be needed for a hearing, she said, so how about doing it at Luneta Park?
Obligingly, we took a look. It was 3 p.m., the same time our launch would ostensibly occur. The roar of rush-hour traffic permeated the place, making hearing aids a desirable accessory. Wandering aimlessly through the park, dozens of drifters seemed to be going nowhere in particular.
“This might be ok for a political rally,” Patrick concluded, “but not for a quiet literary reading.”
And so we politely declined.
Much has happened since then. Patrick has returned to Manila. My wife and I are planning a small social gathering at our home early next month marking the concurrence of several events: our son and his cousin’s sixth-grade graduation, a niece’s graduation from college, the family’s imminent departure for a summer sojourn to America and, yes, perhaps the reading of a chapter or two from my book.
I’ve also been invited to take part in Siargao Island’s first-ever Philippine Digital Nomad Summit set for later in June. Getting there will require some major planning, but the parallel themes and locations of the gathering and my book more than justify that considerable effort.
I hold no grudges regarding Surigao’s mishandling of my attempt to bring it some positive attention. It is still my home and the place I love most. Nor do I blame anyone in particular for the city’s bungling; let’s just call it an unfortunate case of discoordination.
I do, however, have one final hope: that this debilitating whiplash heals in time for the sequel.
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David Haldane’s latest book, “A Tooth in My Popsicle,” is available on Amazon and Lazada. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning journalist, author, essayist, and radio broadcaster with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Gold Star Daily.