Jay Menes 

Filipino Storyteller, Actor, Facilitator, Adventurer

Life is Simple; Live Simple Life


I've been Iranized by: Jay Menes

Posted by Jay Menes on March 15, 2015 at 8:55 AM

17th Iran International Storytelling Festival

February 16 - 19, 2015 in Kermanshah

Eleven Storytellers came and performed in Kermanshah, Iran for the 17th Iran International Storytelling Festival from February 16 – 19, 2015. The four days event was an action-packed filled day, totally wonderful, hilariously amazing, exhilarating minute by minute sequences.


The Storytellers were: Patti Warnock (Canada), Emily Andre (Brazil), Lillian Rodriguez – Pang (Australia), Kristin Pedemonti (USA), Iskuhi Avetisyan (Armenia), Julian Maya Anderson (Colombia), Onyango Owino (Kenya), Jawad El Biad (Morocco), Naziha Saleh (Lebanon), Maryam Kheirbaq (Syria) & Jay Menes (Philippines). This is like a United Nations Storytelling Festival that you could hear different languages spoken.


All of us performed with a translator on stage, some are acting it out, some are doing it with the character voices, and some are just feeling the story comes out. Off stage, they are guiding us with the interviews for television, radio and on print. They are also translating the story while the great Iranian Storytellers are on stage.


Now let me give you the highlights in Iran:



All of us finally met at Alborz Hotel in Tehran, since I am the last one to arrive. Around 5 o’clock in the morning we went to the Domestic Airport (Mehrabad). We will be on board going to the province of Kermanshah. It is my first time to see such a big bus to get us to the plane (Iran Aseman).


After fifty minutes, we are at Kermanshah Airport. The weather is -3° C. I’m wearing a T-shirt and a jacket with hood. We took the service bus going to our home. Our new place is the Parsian Kermanshah Hotel.


At the hotel lobby, we were greeted by children, a boy and a girl read a message in English welcoming all of us and then they gave us a red flower.


Just after getting our room key card, we set our foot for a tour. The first stop is Bisotun, to see the monumental relief of Darius I, King of Persia. A distinguished Archaeologist explains the importance of it in history. Then we went to the hotel to eat our lunch. Everyone met their translator except me for he will be arriving the next day from Tehran


Early morning after breakfast, I’ve met my translator, Mr. Mostafa Keivanmanesh, a University Professor in Tehran. We introduced ourselves to each other. I presented to Keivan - which is how he wants to be called – the story and what are we going to do on stage.


The Festival was held at the Kanoon Theater Center. During the first day it was started with an opening ceremony, the children presented a musical number, Mr. Reza Mozouni, Executive Manager welcomes us all in Kermanshah.


Jawad is the first international storyteller to perform with Sajad his translator. I’ve been notified that I will be performing in the afternoon. So Keivan and I look for a place to rehearse. This is my first experience to perform on stage with a translator. As we are in the room I’ve told him about the gist of the story and the movement will be done by me, Keivan will be doing the translations with such emotion. In between of this we are being invited for snacks and interviews.


The confirmation of our performance came; I will be the last Storyteller to perform. As both of us are on backstage I encourage Keivan to relax by doing some warm-ups, try to be silly and we did some stretching. When my name was announced we are onstage with much expectation to close the first day into high energy and much fun. True enough everyone in the audience just had so much excitement, laughter is everywhere, and it was a wonderful performance, thanks to Keivan for keeping up the pace.


We went to the hotel and had our dinner. They organize a visit to the Kermanshah Bazaar. It was very cold and it’s raining, for a man from a tropical country that is a chilling feeling. After the shopping, we reached our hotel and we’ve been called out for a meeting with Mr. Ali Khanjani – Author / Researcher of Kanoon for some questioning regarding on how to improve, develop and propagate the Art of Storytelling.


The second day of the Festival was at hand and the International Storytellers who performed were Patti with Hasti, Onyango with Amin, Naziha with Ms. Amirian, Maryam with Ms. Amirian.


We saw at the venue they already set-up a traditional Kurdish tent.


For the entire day we had some interviews and picture taking.


Before we cap the night we visited Taq-e Bostan - it is known for its rock carvings (bas-reliefs) of Sāsānid origin (3rd to 7th century ad). The carvings, some of the finest and best-preserved examples of Persian sculpture under the Sāsānians. We ate our dinner at Jamshid restaurant where they serve the best kebab ever (also the biggest) with a tender roast lamb in it.


Now on its third day the powerhouse International Storytellers performed they are Kristin with Maryam, Lillian with Nooshin, Emily with Azam, Julian with Behzad and Iskuhi with Mr. Ghazarian.


In the afternoon, we ate the special food – lentil soup, ash (thick soup) and bezhi (fortune cookies) at the Kurdish tent together with the bosses of Kanoon.


I was requested and other three International Storytellers to be onstage to do a small act. The scenario is a baby keeps on crying and we have to hush her with our lullaby, preferred song will be from our country. The puppeteer brought the baby and now the crying is getting louder so he asks us to help him. We did everything we could, I carried the baby (just a doll) and then Naziha and then Jawad got it but still crying. Emily have it and then she sang her lullaby, we joined her so the baby stops crying and went to sleep. Before we can go down the puppet challenge us to chant in Persian. We obliged even though it is a tongue twister and we had fun as well as the audience.


Once again, we were requested to have a meeting, now with Mr. Alireza Hajian Zadeh, Managing Director of Kanoon for some insights about the Storytelling Festival.


We had our dinner at the hotel and they announced that we will have a closing party.


At the party the bezhi (fortune cookies) was served. They reminded us not to eat the cookie instead just break it because one gold ring can be swallowed. Luckily it was Patti who got the ring.


There were performances such as:

• Storytelling by a young man and by a ten year old girl – Rana

• Comedy Sketch by the Puppet, Onyango and Jay. The premise is to help our brother propose to his girlfriend for marriage. This is quite odd because a Puppet has an older brother which is black and brown. I promise to give money to the wedding and Onyango to dance. The best part of it he gave a sample of a good dance moves together with the puppet that seems both of them don’t have any leg bones (the puppet has no bones actually).

• Dancing by ten Kurdish men who did the traditional Kurdish dance with the strong beat from a drum and a trumpet like instrument. The floor was shaking with their hard and strong stomp while they are holding hands doing the moves.

• Singing by the famous Singer in Iran and his six member band. They did some fast/danceable songs and some lullaby to honor the kids of Kanoon.


The last part is the unveiling and launching of the new books.


We are at the closing ceremony at around 9 o’clock in the morning. All of the bigwigs and the pillars of Kanoon were there. It is indeed a full house theater.



The children at the opening performed again. Kanoon’s children musical theater presented the story of water. It is about during that time when Iran experienced drought they prayed to God for rain. With fervent prayer of the children it rained on their cheeks, to their land and to their country.


The Festival Committee chose two Storytellers to perform they are - Jay Menes (Pilandok and the Crocodiles) and Farideh Mahmudi (A Pair of Shoes).


As our names being called on stage we are given a Golden Crow Trophy (a symbol of Kanoon), Certificate, Coarse Carpet (Kermanshah Handicrafts) and a small blue box (snowman inside)


The photo opp is outrageously fabulous. I just felt like I won an Oscar / Tony / Grammy award. Almost all types of human being came to us to have a picture taking. Now I know how it feels to be a Rock Star! The experience almost made me cry like a baby but no sound!


When everything was settled we hop onto our bus, went to the hotel to rest and then eat. They gave us the specialty of Kermanshah – khalal.


A surprise came that the boys will have a night out… swimming!


The hotel had a basement swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna but for men only.



At the Kermanshah Airport - While waiting at the airport lounge we noticed Jawad is talking to a pretty lady named Shahrazad – is it a coincidence that her name is also the name of the Queen / Storyteller in "1001 Arabian Nights" movie? hmmmm - for quite a long time now. And they are both having a good time as we can see it at the corner of our eyes (wink wink). It seems they are alone in that moment.

Kristin saw a baby who is crying. She got her bottle that can produce bubbles and she started to blow it in the air. When the two year old baby saw it she stops crying and went to Kristin trying to catch the bubbles. Suddenly she sits on Kristin’s lap; they’re just having a fun time.


Jay while talking to Onyango about Jawad (he still talking to the pretty lady at this time), a group of 5 or 6 teenagers walk towards our area and started to sit in the lounge chairs where we are. They started to ask questions but the one that is good in English directed it on me.


Iranian Girl: Where are you from?

Jay: I’m from the Philippines. Are you having a fieldtrip?”

IG: Yes

J: Where?

IG: In Tehran

J: asking permission. How old are you?

IG: I’m 15, she is 16. Do you have a family?

J: Yes

IG: How many kids do you have?

J: 4

IG: Do you have a picture?

J: stops for awhile and get some photos inside the bag. Here’s the photo of my family.

IG: Oh, your kids are all pretty.

J: Thanks. Here’s the photo of my wife.

IG: excitedly get the photo. You have a beautiful wife!

J: answered calmly. Yes, deep breath. Because I am a handsome man!

The teenagers are laughing out loud.

J: You can’t have a beautiful wife if you are not a handsome man!

You can hear guffaws all over the airport. Then the announcement of our boarding came.


PEOPLE: Iranians are welcoming, warm, always ready to help, kind and willing to share. The children, men and women are good looking! The musicality of Iranian people is so high just like the Filipinos.



PLACE: Kermanshah is like studying world history and you are there. It is a province that has a cosmopolitan feel. The weather is quite interesting that they have snow not this year. They are building a train system that I think is a preparation for more tourists to come.


FOOD: There is a wide variety of food ranging from chelow kabab (rice served with roasted meat: barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh). The flat breads (nan) and lavash are good to taste. A diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks are interesting especially the one that you can only eat in Kermanshah.- khalal.



THANK YOU NOTES: I would like to thank the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (Kanoon’s) officers and staffs for the opportunity to experience Iran and the Festival, for letting me to share Filipino stories, our culture, and our country. It is a big push toward creating our own International Storytelling Festival.


I am so grateful to Minoo Abdollahi, an elegant woman, and an excellent coordinator. Also appreciating, Amin Davoodi, a prolific speaker who always gets our attention. Special thanks to our Translators because it is a golden way for us to communicate with the Iranian Storytellers and others. Big thanks to Mostafa Keivanmanesh - my good looking Translator and a great English teacher. And to the media who keeps the excitement alive, making the Festival a place to celebrate wonderful stories.


I am honored to share the big stage with the incredibly skilled ten Storytellers from all over the world. You have given me so much inspiration to keep on dreaming, pressing and achieving more. Lots of love from all of you! I would like to say obrigada to Emily for giving me the confirmation that my real name (Djalma) is from Brazil. Lastly to the Iranian boy who gave his drawing of me at the closing ceremony.


Most of all I am thankful to our audience for being so energetic, lively, full of life and fantastic lover of stories. The smiles radiates your soul how you appreciate our performances.


For all of the men and women who made this once in a lifetime achievement becomes a reality “Mabuhay kayong lahat!” Long live to all of you! See you next time.




If you want to follow the journey or just simply want to know what’s next you can like my Facebook Page: Storyhouse, check my website www.jaymenes.webs.com. You may drop a message to my email at [email protected].


You can also be our supporter/s by encouraging, inviting, sharing your time or by donating to our cause.


Let me be of service to you!



I will be participating at the Bay Area Storytelling Festival on April 24 – 26, 2015. Maraming Salamat!


Right now, in the process of organizing the International Storytelling in the Philippines (ISiP) on November 14, 2015. If you want to be part of it as our International Storyteller / Presenter kindly send me your confirmation on or before June 30th. We can only give you accommodations, food and lots of love. I’ll be arranging a tour to perform / workshop and to enjoy Manila! Stay with me for a week!


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1 Comment

Reply Alumbe
12:04 PM on May 17, 2016 
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS, You have taken me back to kanoon festival in 2013.
Especially when you get that trophy

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