Oh my, it’s Wednesday already and I have not written anything yet for the Filipino Friday meme. And this is supposedly every Friday, and that’s two days from now. At least it’s still within the third week. And to all those who do not have any idea on what this meme is about, this is a sort of promotional thing for the Filipino Readers Make It Social: The 1st Filipino Reader Conference.
Let’s go to the topic for this week:
Being a Reader in the Philippines
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)? And what are the positive aspects of being a reader based in the Philippines?
Is it easy or is it hard? It’s easy if you are not a picky reader. There are a lot of books that one can get his hands on in this country, local books or international books. Never mind that this is a third world country, but there are a lot of second-hand bookstores here that makes reading so much cheaper. Book Sale can almost be found in every mall, and malls here are not as posh as Beverly Hills. One can get inside a mall wearing pajamas, but try not to look like a beggar or a terrorist to make entry less complicated.
Filipinos are also adept in the use and abuse of the Internet. If one has a Kindle or a Nook or anything of that sort, he can find his way to downloading the e-books of his choice. Anything can be downloaded for free; it just takes a little skill. And don’t point your finger at me because I don’t have a Kindle or a Nook or anything of that sort, and I don’t think I will get one soon because I am still uncomfortable with the electronization of books and because I have a lot of expenses to prioritize, making the e-book reader an unwanted expense.
So what makes life hard for a Filipino reader? Well, since most Filipinos are colonial, it is frustrating that there aren’t a lot of author visits here. Or maybe I am not keeping myself updated. I think Nicholas Sparks is going to visit the country in a couple of months, but sorry, I am not a fan.
Also, books aren’t always available in the local book stores. I have not seen a single copy of the most recent Booker winner, The Finkler Question, which is really annoying because I have to read and own all the Bookers. But yes, there’s Amazon and the recently turned over Book Depository. Yes, it was recently consumed by the former, which is a whole different topic. But I don’t have a credit card or PayPal or any means to buy books online. Call me Jurassic, but what can I do? The credit card is a huge liability for something that fits inside your wallet. And don’t get me started on PayPal because there’s nothing to talk about it. I just simply don’t know how it works.
And I have never attempted to understand it because it would only lead to relentless online shopping. Oh dear, I know myself.
Last question: what are the positive aspects? I do not wish to classify the aspects I have in mind as either positive or negative, and I am not sure if you could really call these aspects, so let me just roll them out. The Filipino reader is an escapist. Hence, the fantasy, chic lit, romance, young adult, easy reads, et al. Otherwise, there would be a lot of people who share my reading choices. Throw away modesty. You have to agree that the books that I read are not easy reads. If there is such a reading severity as reading hard, I do it 90% of my reading time.
Which is not always true because I don’t always vivisect a book whenever I read it. I don’t always look for hints, for symbols, for themes, for anything. Example: I read Lolita as it is. I did not try to figure it out. I did not know what it meant to say to the reader. And when I finished the book and read the afterword written by the author himself, the book is not supposed to mean anything universal. Good thing that I just let the books that I read grow on me. If I understand a book, I commend the author. If not, it doesn’t mean that the reader or the writer has a problem or that there is a communication gap between the two. A book is open for everyone, but it is not for everyone.
Going back to the aspects, I also think that the Filipino reader is easily influenced by the mass media. If the mass media is hyping about something, the Filipino reading community will jump at it. Example: Harry Potter, Twilight, A Song of Fire and Ice. But this is not exclusive to the Filipino reader. I think this is true for every other culture. Even the escapist thing I mentioned before this.
But it’s a good thing that books in the Philippines are not heavily censored. I wonder how reading is in other conservative countries. I have a feeling that erotica is not read in other countries. Not that I am a huge fan of erotica, but I hope you get my point. And I hope I am wrong.
But really, aside from the literary censorship in other countries, I never thought of the reader as someone who has a race. All readers are the same to me. It is nice to think of reading as such. That way, people around the world would have something to bind themselves with without worrying what the color of his skin is.
So what do we do to the censors?