SHM APAHM Special Guest: Chachic on #romanceclass

Hi friends! I “met” Chachic on twitter – and I’m super excited for her to be the “kick off” guest for APAHM 2018! I hope you’ll join me in welcoming her – and read on for some great information about #ownvoices books and authors!

Hello everyone! My name is Chachic and I’m a book blogger, bookstagrammer and foodie from the Philippines. I have been chatting with Limecello on Twitter for a while now and I’m so glad to be here on her blog for a guest post for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. To be honest, I was super flattered when Limecello asked me for a guest post but I had no idea what I should write about! But then I remembered that one of my favorite genres is romance (the other is fantasy, in case you were wondering) and that I love supporting Filipino authors so why not talk about romanceclass?

For those who are hearing about romanceclass for the first time, here’s a brief description from the group’s website which I edited to add one more bullet point:

  • Authors who attended romanceclass, the steamy reads, YA classes organized by author and founder Mina V. Esguerra 
  • Readers of the books by those authors
  • Readers of English-language romance books by Filipino authors
  • Theater actors who perform live readings of books by these authors

Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera CoverBasically a group of Filipino authors, readers and actors who gather together to support indie published contemporary romance written by Filipino authors. The first actual class was held in 2013. Since then, more than 80 authors have written and published more than 150 books. Some of these authors have gone on to be traditionally published both locally in the Philippines and internationally. Alongside the growth of the number of authors, the community has also gained a solid readership base that will hopefully keep growing in time.

Aside from authors and readers, romanceclass also has theater actors who are very much a part of the community. The live readings first started out as an experiment, Mina surprised a bunch of authors by having theater actors Gio Gahol and Rachel Coates read excerpts from romanceclass books. It has since become a hit, with more local theater actors joining the group so more excerpts can be read. These live readings have become the highlight of every romanceclass event. For a sample of these live readings, you can check out this Feels Fest 2017 playlist by Gela Uy.

Said theater actors have also graced the book covers of some romanceclass titles, which came about as a result of authors having difficulty in finding Filipino or Asian stock photos for their covers. So they started pooling resources in order to be able to sponsor photo shoot sessions featuring the live readers. I have been able to sit-in on a couple of these photo shoots and they are seriously fun. One of my favorite romanceclass activities! I find the behind-the-scenes process interesting. And romanceclass photo sessions are so much fun because you have authors, editors, readers and cover designers sharing their input for each set of pictures. Plus the photographer herself is an author, and the makeup artist is an editor. Check out romanceclasscovers on Instagram to learn more about this project.

I’ve mentioned romanceclass events earlier and I wanted to share more about that. Because romanceclass books are indie pubbed, they’re not readily available in local bookstores. The books can be ordered directly from the authors but having in-person events make it easier for readers to access the books, and also for new-to-romanceclass people to be introduced to the community. romanceclass joins various art fairs and book-related events across the Philippines but also organizes its own regular events. The events are mostly held in Manila, and there’s usually a major event for every quarter of the year. In these events, authors are able to sell their books, launch new titles, interact with readers and as mentioned earlier, fangirl over the live readings. And because we can’t have gatherings without sustenance, these events are always held in places where food and drink are readily available. I was living and working in Singapore from 2012 until mid-2017 so I wasn’t able to attend these events until I moved back home to Manila, and I had no idea what I was missing. I used to dream about attending book-related events and conferences abroad but after experiencing romanceclass events, I’m happy with what I’m getting here in Manila! The events are just really, really fun in the sense that you spend time with people who have become your friends and you can all talk about your mutual love of books and sometimes even go beyond that. I have blogged about the ones I’ve attended previously and you can check them out here: Feels So Hot, Feels Fest 2017, Feels So Prom.

Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano CoverSo I’ve talked about what romanceclass does here in the Philippines. The group is also very active online. What always serves as a pleasant surprise for a lot of us is when a reader or an author outside the Philippines picks up romanceclass books. And later recommends and raves about them too! Probably because it goes without saying that we love reading romanceclass books because we can see our realities reflected in the pages of these books, and it warms our heart that people abroad want to read about the same things. It’s probably not as obvious as being part of the community on the ground, but I consider these readers and authors-as-readers part of the romanceclass group too. The community wouldn’t be where it is right now without their help and support.

And of course, I can’t talk about romanceclass and not have book recommendations for those who want to dive into Filipino romance written in English! These books are available internationally as ebooks on Amazon (some on Kindle Unlimited) with some available as print editions. If you haven’t read them yet, please check out:

I would love to recommend more books but my romanceclass TBR pile is longer than the list of books I’ve read. The authors are so prolific that it’s hard to keep up with all the new releases! Ask me again in a couple of months’ time and I probably have more recs for all of you by then.

Ghost of a Feeling by Celestine Trinidad CoverMost of what I’ve said can serve as looong introduction to romanceclass, but before I close off this guest post, I wanted to talk about why the community feels special for me. What I love about the romanceclass community is how it’s such a warm and welcoming group, and that every member has a sense of belonging. The feeling of having a sense of belonging kind of reminds me of when I first discovered the online book community and FINALLY there are people who understand why I’m so passionate about the books that I read. Finally I can share a that part of myself that I always thought was meant to be a solitary thing. Reading didn’t have to be such a lonely hobby anymore. And with romanceclass, there’s always someone you can talk to about reading one of the books from the community. With how often and regularly we interact both online and in person, the discussions have also evolved from books to just anything and everything under the sun. Probably because we share a love for the written word, and specifically for romance and happily ever afters, talking about other things just comes naturally. Books and life, basically. Being part of the romanceclass community feels like I’ve found my people. I feel like I can be myself and I’ll be accepted for who I am. Even encouraged to keep being who I am. Most importantly, I feel like I matter. And that the things that I do, in relation to romanceclass or not, matters. In a world that can constantly bring us down with its countless problems, it always helps to find people who will lift you up against the tide.

Thank you for such a great post and for all this information, Chachic! So friends – did you know about romanceclass? Have you read any of the titles she mentioned? Hopefully you got some new books/authors to add to your TBR! 😀

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