Sunday, September 29, 2013

Off to Algeria and France

Above is the poster that won a contest held to celebrate the 6th Festival International de la Bande Dessinée à Alger (FIBDA), or the International Comics Festival of Algeria. Through Laurent Melikian, I was invited to attend the festival, which begins October 8 and ends October 12. There, I will unofficially represent the Philippines, bringing our comics and our history to the attention of the International attendees. I will be exhibiting artworks from some of our greatest artists, and I will also be doing a talk on the history of our comics.

It all sounds nice and I’m crossing my fingers that I do get the chance to be able to do it. How can I not be 100% sure? I’d like to dial back a few months back when Laurent, this really cool French gentleman I met online and eventually at the Komikon in 2011 (he came all the way from France to check out the local komiks scene), had gotten me an invitation to attend the Algeria comics festival, which has the complete backing of the Algerian government. They would be willing to pay for my travel and accommodations. I thought that was fantastic, but I told them that I can go only if I can bring my wife with me. I think I’m at that point in my life that I want to share everything I experience with my wife, and anywhere I go, she would come with me. I risked not going at all, but if I couldn’t bring my wife, I’d rather not go at all.

Surprisingly, they agreed! So we were all set. Preparations were made to make the trip possible. Somewhere along this time my French publisher, Serge Ewenczyk of Editions çà et là, offered to extend my trip by bringing us to Paris after Algeria for another week. I thought this was just too much, too awesome to be true. I’m like, Paris, wow. That was the dream city me and my wife always wanted to visit, more than anywhere else in the world outside of the Philippines.

I guess right now (today is September 29), I’m around 90% positive my trip will push through. Everything is actually all set. We already have a place to stay, we have our tickets, we’ve prepared all that we can possibly prepare. But there’s two complications. One is that we don’t have Algerian visas. That’s simply because there’s no Algerian consulate or Embassy here in the Philippines. I was assured by the Festival organizers not to worry about it as it’s common for a few festival delegates not to have visas. We will simply be issued visas when we enter the country. I’m assured that Algerians are actually very glad to receive visitors and that the lack of visa will not be a problem. Including me and Ilyn, there are 10 other delegates to the festival who do not have a visa. Right now we’re just waiting for an official letter from Algeria’s Ministry of Culture that we can show to immigration to facilitate matters.

Second complication is that today, September 29, we are still not sure if we are going to be granted our French visas. There was some difficulty during our interview. Apparently, they are very strict about completing their list of required documents, unlike when you got apply for a US visa. We had emailed in some documents later in the day to complete our requirements, but the nature of the interview left us not entirely confident of positive results. I’m 90% sure that we did get it. We eventually completed all the requirements after all. We find out Tuesday when we retrieve our passports.

So yeah! Fingers crossed all around.

As to what we will do in Paris, as far as I know, I will be doing signings for a few comic book stores. Once we make sure that our visas are in place, I will post more detailed info about signing dates and venues and other activities.

All in all, I’m very excited, and just a little bit nervous.

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