The sudden downpour Tuesday evening did not prevent the three of us – writers Rynshein Joy Olivete, Early Sol Gadong, and myself from joining Rappler’s “Ilonggo Notes” writer Vic Salas who brought a very special guest, journalist-novelist Criselda Yabes.
The setting was at the Viet resto Troi Oi at the Boardwalk and Vic took charge of the food considering that Criselda is a vegan. It seems we were unmindful of the food while we exchanged stories of our passions, travel, journalism practice, writings, politics, local delicacies, and what’s old and new about Iloilo City.
Criselda indulged us with her experience visiting a town for a story she will be writing and her relaxing walk along the Esplanade, biking around the city with Vic from the bike lane and passing by mansions and plazas, and the downtown area heritage sites. Criselda narrated how she adored the riverscape along Iloilo River pedaling the stretch of Muelle Loney.
Vegan food, something that I’m not quite good at yet with increasing market in the city, offered delight to Criselda who became regular at Mestizo. I was able to finish a Buddha Bowl after a bike ride at Monkey Grounds, she shared.
We traded experiences and observations from our involvements in the recently concluded National Elections and we drew valuable insights from her who covered political events as a journalist working for the Associated Press after her graduation from UP Diliman in 1985.
I only came across the life and work of Criselda Yabes during the pandemic when most of us have more time to read online. Later on, her name emerged in the announcement of the University of San Agustin Writers Workshop where she was invited as a panelist. The third instance was more meaningful for I was able to meet her in person.
Our conversation and laughter have drawn me closer to reading her works – fiction based on real-life events like the decades-old conflict in Mindanao, post-Martial Law crises brought by numerous military coup, Typhoon Yolanda, and the Marawi Siege; themes among eight books she wrote in the last 30+ years.
Iloilo might soon be on the list and we are looking forward to the comeback of Criselda Yabes perhaps to launch a book at the UP Visayas main building or to enjoy a longer bike ride.