This post corresponds to the Friday meme of the Filipino Reader Conference. And I’m proud to say there will be a First (Yes, you read it right) Filipino Reader Conference on September 14 at SM Mall of Asia. And I’m disappointed to confess that I can’t attend the event. (Why does the Philippines have to be an archipelago?) So much for lamenting the continental drift theory, the topic about this meme is: How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader (e.g. availability of books)? What are positive aspects of being a reader based in the Philippines (e.g. book prices are lower here than they are abroad)?
Philippines is a nation of nonreaders. Although statistics suggest that we, Filipinos, have high literacy rate, an average student can only pick one or two books in his lifetime unless of course if he or she is forced to do so (English Book Reports?). The problem is not the availability of the books or its prices but the number of Filipinos who view reading as a waste of time. Unlike an avid reader (I’m referring to myself), these people don’t see the beauty of words, how it can transport you from a coffee shop in London to a forest in South America to an inter-galactic war in outerspace. I’m not saying films, documentaries or any other visual medias are not as effective as literature but I’m pointing out that books also exists for entertainment. By reading books, you let your brain do its job: to think. Reading, in most cases, is a two-way process: you take in words, then you imagine, you take in words, then you imagine. Brains, elementary science tells us, uses oxygen and gives it off, when you think. This event conditions your brain just as jogging conditions your heart. Perhaps, I am getting preachy but you get the point. The benefits of reading is endless.
So how does the small number of Filipino book lovers affect my reading experience? There are no book clubs, at least here in Davao. What I read may just come and go with no room for discussion. You may suggest a online book club but, who are we kidding, what’s better than having a live discourse about a book. Giving an idea and having an immediate response. In my case, I rarely spot someone reading a book (except of course in a library).
This frusturation, however, leads to some positive effects. Since there are only few readers, the library books or bookstore books are mostly available to me. (O Yea!) Recently, I just borrowed Suzanne Collin’s Catching Fire. Had there been many reader, I’ll probably get the book until next month or next semester.
They, the other Filipino bloggers, say that Philippines prices its second-hand book for less than the other countries. I guess I have to agree. Last month, I bought “Bridget Jone’s Diary” for only Php 20. (Current exhance rate is $1 = Php 43.) I don’t know about brand-new books. On our school book bazaar, I was eyeing for the “Screenwriting for Dummies” but it was expensive or was it the original price? It costs about Php 1500 or $35.
Regarding the availability of books, I have mostly no problem. Our school library has plenty of books and if there aren’t available, I can go to a bookstore or if that fails, well, there’s internet. However, there is a problem, at least for me. There is no available “e-book reader”. I tried hopping from one mall to the other, from bookstore to another. E-book readers cease to exist. ( I badly craved for a nook.)
Basically there isn’t much fun in social aspect of reading on a Filipino reader. My hopes, however, are still high that someday Filipino readers will grow in number (exponentially).