What should have been a fun and memorable three days for Cebu and the country’s art community, turned into a massive headache as artists clamored for accountability from the Cebu Literary Festival organizers for their mistreatment of participating exhibitors and talents.
A collaboration between Cebu Literary Fest and Komiket happened on November 10 to 12, 2023, at the IEC Convention Center in Cebu. Komiket is a non-profit organization that organizes comic art markets and publishes Filipino komiks.
In the event, local and national artists are able to share their creative works and sell merchandise such as stickers and postcards. Cosplayers are also invited to dress up as their favorite characters. In addition, there are Q&A talks, book signing, and open mic sessions featuring known and regarded artists in the country during the event.
According to CebuLitFest, more than 200 local artists, printmakers, ‘komikeros,’ crafters, and more from Cebu and other parts of the Philippines attended the event.
This event has been in existence since 2014, but this year proved to be notably different. Participating artists criticized the significant downgrade of the art event, which was done within a short period.
One artist thoroughly detailed the poor layout created by the organizers, creating a comparison between three events spearheaded by CebuLitFest including this month’s exhibition. It showed the artist’s crammed spaces and unreasonable artist’s fee which cost 4,500 for three days as well as a 500 php fee for a half-day tablecloth.
Moreover, the artist pointed out the sudden regression of the venue which was recently held at IEC Convention Center. Some of the issues the artists had stressed were the inaccessibility of the venue, the missing elevators and ramps accessible for guests and PWDs, and the exhibit area that were divided into four rooms, in which three were hidden from foot traffic and without proper signage.
With this, multiple artists have also expressed their disappointment as the congested spaces hindered convention goers from exploring more booths which resulted in a decrease or loss of profit.
Some artists also revealed and circulated screenshots of CebuLitFest’s unprofessional and rude replies to their inquiries and emails.
With the growing backlash from attendees and participating artists, CebuLitFest team released an apology regarding the artists’ complaints on November 13.
“We realize that a number of aspects and situations could and should have been handled better. We’ve been listening to feedback and we’ve taken into account the biggest concerns: the change of venue, the smaller space, cramped layout, the challenging logistics, along with the less-than-professional email replies on our end,” said the organizers on their Facebook statement.
“The team is committed to learning from these shortcomings and is making comprehensive improvements for future events—whether through reduced size for better manageability or a return to the simpler, more focused events—striving to provide the best for the artisan and storytelling community we have cultivated over the years,” they added.
However, it seems the apology is not enough as the artists are seeking full compensation for the inconvenience the event brought to all of the participants.
Comic book writer Bambi Eloriaga-Amago showed her dismay as she told her own LitFest experience in a lengthy comment to the organizer’s statement.
“I am not looking for special treatment, but for something billed as a “literary festival,” you’d think they’d show more respect towards actual book authors,” she stated.
‘Nocebo’ star and recent Gawan Urian nominee Chai Fonacier also slammed CebuLitFest in the same comment section.
“In my observation, only disconnected people who lack immersion and connection would act the way you have. Maybe you’re highly disconnected from the very community you think you wanted to serve. If that is indeed the case you probably need a lot of self-introspection as an org,” said the actress.
Some artists took the opportunity to inject humor into the whole fiasco, including popular comic artist ‘Tarantadong Kalbo.
— Tarantadong Kalbo (@KevinKalbo) November 11, 2023
As of this writing, CebuLitFest has not yet released further statement or provided information about refunds.
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