ReaderCon Filipino Friday: Week 3

Filipino Friday
Filipino Friday

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?

Filipino Readers Make It Social: The 1st Filipino Reader Conference
Filipino Readers Make It Social: The 1st Filipino Reader Conference

Oscar And Lucinda – Peter Carey

Oscar And Lucinda - Peter Carey
Oscar And Lucinda - Peter Carey

Who bought it: Me.

What is it: The blurb says it’s a romance, the way A. S. Byatt’s Possession is a romance. And a glass church being transported in the Australian Outback?

When: August 12, 2011

Where: Power Books – Shangri-La

Why: I already found a copy of this before at a second-hand book store. I think I didn’t buy it because I didn’t have enough funds then. Besides, the price was a little expensive for a used book. And I now I got it at more or less the same rate.

How much: Php 269.50

Last Orders – Graham Swift

Last Orders - Graham Swift
Last Orders - Graham Swift

Who bought it: Me.

What is it: It is about the last orders of someone. Okay, the only last order that I remember from the blurb is that his ashes must be thrown somewhere. I also remember that there are four executors of these last orders.

When: August 7, 2011

Where: Book Sale – SM Mall of Asia

Why: It’s a Booker winner. I once saw a copy of this before at another second-hand book store, but the price was too high for something that is used. I passed on it that day, and when I decided to buy it anyway, it was already gone. Good thing that I found a cheaper copy.

How much: Php 75.00

(Image courtesy of Tower.com)

Ghostwritten – David Mitchell

Ghostwritten - David Mitchell
Ghostwritten - David Mitchell

Who bought it: Princess. I asked her to buy it, which I paid later on.

What is it: I am not sure, but it’s an interlocking novel in nine parts. Heck, I am not even sure if it’s nine.

When: August 6, 2011

Where: Fully Booked – Marquee Mall

Why: This is Mitchell’s first novel, and ironically, it’s the last one that I was able to buy. I am now a happy camper, having all of Mitchell’s novels in my theoretical book shelf.

How much: Php 399.00

Ilustrado – Miguel Syjuco

Ilustrado - Miguel Syjuco
Ilustrado - Miguel Syjuco

Date Started: August 25, 2011. 10:30 PM

Based on the rants and raves that I caught here and there, this is a love it or hate it book. Some thought it was funny and witty, which I gathered from my reading of the prologue, and some thought it was unwieldy and pretentious, which I also got from that. I even learned read a few words for the first time thanks to the prologue.

But what struck me is the dead protagonist’s statement about being the first Filipino to be recommended for the Nobel Prize for Literature. If we talk about facts, Amado Yuzon is “the first Filipino, the first Asian and first man to be recommended for the Nobel Prize award for Peace and Literature four times in the history of the Nobel Prizes.” Why do I know this? It’s because Mr. Yuzon is a Kapampangan, and got this information during my Kapampangan fever back in college. I am a Kapampangan, by the way.

I am wondering if Syjuco is mocking the dearth of internationally-acclaimed Filipino writers or if he totally overlooked Mr. Yuzon’s contribution to the Philippine letters. And I am also wondering if there will ever be a Filipino Nobel laureate. Or is there already one?