Writing Program (AWP) Conference, which was held in Seattle in February, brought together more than thirty renowned Filipino American writers from across the nation.

Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts (PWEKA) co-chair Robert Flor produced two readings to connect writers with our communities and college students.

A reading on February 28 was co-sponsored with the Seattle University United Filipino Club, SU Filipino Alumni Chapter, Seattle FANHS, and Filipino Community of Seattle. The reading featured Barbara Jane Reyes (Diwata), Jon Pineda (Birthmark/The Translators’ Diary), Aimee Suzara (Souvenir), Oscar Penaranda (Full Deck and Seasons by the Bay), and Rachelle Cruz (Self-Portrait as Rumor and Blood).

A reading on February 26 was co-sponsored by the University of Washington Filipino American Student Association at the UW Ethnic Cultural Center. That reading featured Aimee Suzara (Souvenir) and Kristin Naka (Bird Eating Bird, selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the mtvU National Poetry Series) with publisher Reni Roxas.

Of particular interest was Roxas, the lone publisher at the readings. Residing in the Pacific Northwest, Roxas has been publishing books for 22 years as editor-in chief and publisher of Tahanan Books. A gracious single mom of two, she runs her transnational company from Edmonds, Washington, traveling to the Philippines twice a year and communicating with her Manila-based staff through the night to accommodate the Philippine business day.

Roxas’ company has garnered nine Philippine National Book Awards, including The Best of Lola Basyang and Why the Pina Has a Hundred Eyes, and most recently the 2012 award for Roxas’s picture book Ay Naku! With 9.5 million Filipinos living or working abroad, Roxas is passionate about making sure that children and adults have bilingual Filipino-English books. Case in point.

This year, Tahanan introduces Alpabetong Filipino, a gorgeously illustrated showcase of Philippine icons by writer Nicanor G. Tiongson and artist Crispin Dayao, Jr. For the curious, the back of the book reveals the evolution of the Philippine alphabet. Starting with “Baybayin,” the indigenous Philippine alphabet had 17 letters. In 1565, the Spanish colonizers introduced the Roman alphabet. In 1940, during the U.S. Commonwealth era, the “Abakada” alphabet, which has 20 Roman letters, was adopted. In 1976, Spanish sounds were added, such as ll, n~, and rr, resulting in an enriched alphabet of 31 letters. The current list of 28 letters affirmed in 2013 contains 20 letters from native Filipino and eight letters from the Spanish alphabet. The letters C, F, J, N, Q, V, X, and Z are used in proper nouns, scientific terms, and non-native words.

This past year, Roxas’s company has ventured into regional translations of selected titles, such as Blaan, Tagakaulo, and T’Boli for preliterate ethnic Filipino groups in Mindanao. To view and purchase her books, visit tahananbooks.com.

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