Here we go again with the Filipino Friday meme on Mondays. That only happens here, I think. Or maybe not. I think I read somewhere that the posting day does not really matter, as long as it is posted within the week. Wait, I think I am making up that rule. Please don’t rely so much on me. You can get more information regarding this book meme and Filipino Readers Make It Social: The 1st Filipino Reader Conference by clicking on their respective links.
So here’s the topic for this week:
Your Reader’s Story
How did you become a reader? What factors influenced you to take it up as a hobby? For instance, was it your mom who read to you every night? Or was it a high school friend who started lending you books? Or maybe it was a really inspiring teacher whom you wanted to emulate. Whatever it was, we hope you tell us all the story of how you became a leisure reader and what it is about reading that you enjoy so much.
Let’s tackle the questions in the order they are presented. I became a reader thanks to my inquisitive mind and to my mom. No, my mom is not a lover of books, but she taught me how to read with those yellow booklets found in those small-scale book stores with the then official Filipino alphabet. Abakada, anyone? It only took one afternoon for my mom to teach me how to read, another afternoon to polish my reading skills, a couple more to write, and another more to write cursive. Okay, I am not really sure about the number of afternoons, but I know it was only a really short time because first, I am a smart-ass, haha. Second, I was jealous of my older cousins who could read, so I was really eager to learn. Third, I was mystified with all the letters that I see everywhere, which were merely squiggly lines of varying forms to a four-year old boy. And fourth, I have a vague feeling that I already taught myself how to read even before the afternoon lessons with my mom.
I remember one morning with my grandma, whom according to my mom was illiterate. I don’t know about that, but anyway, during that morning, we were supposed to go to Check Point (it’s in Angeles City, my home town). I asked my grandma what jeepney should we be hailing. She told me we should wait for those blue Check Point jeepneys. After a few seconds, a blue jeepney passed us by. I berated my grandma for not flagging it down; I told her that it was a “see po int ho lee hee why” (C. Point Holy Hi-way). My grandma laughed, probably thinking what a smart-ass I was. Heck, I do not even know how I was able to read the jeepney route. I even corrected my grandma, telling her that it shouldn’t be “check point,” but “see po int.”
That is one of my fondest memories of my late loving grandma, who spoiled me so much, who had grand dreams for me when she had the chance to go to the US, and who is now in a place where she would not be judged by how much education she got.
Alright, so I have not fully answered the question yet. How could a no-read-no-write grandma and non-book-reader mom come up with a voracious me?
Okay, so this might get a little personal. I am just saying lest you accuse me of digression, which does not really matter because I am always guilty of that. Anyway, I always knew there was something different in me. Most kids didn’t like to play with me, although they didn’t bully me because I was such a little bitch. Yes, bitch is the term because I am no bully; I am a queen. I knew I was gay as far back as I can remember. Even my grandma and mom knew it, even when I was a baby. How is that possible? Go ahead and ask my conspirators.
My being gay disappointed my father, so I was left mostly to my grandma and mom. My grandma left the Philippines when I was about five, and I couldn’t always have my mom to myself. I have sisters, and I mean biological sisters, and she has other motherly duties to attend to as well. I was always left to myself so I would live in my imaginary world. I like playing school alone. Now how is it possible to play school by yourself?
Please try to understand the workings of the weirdo. Or just ignore them; that’s the least someone can do because really, I don’t understand them myself.
Anyway, since I like playing school, I have school supplies for props. I take whatever books that I would condescendingly slap down on an improvised desk and imperiously say, “Children, let us pray!” No child responded. My games went on, however empty the classes were.
When I got tired of playing, I would flip the books. I’d read them. These were mostly my reading and writing books back in the early years of elementary. Then a classmate brought this book about the planets and the universe. I borrowed that. Another classmate brought a book about dogs. I borrowed that, too. Still another brought one about birds, the animal. Yes, I borrowed that.
Then I had an interest in fairy tales, thanks to Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. I collected those fairy tales that you get for free in Nido milk packages. When I was nine, old enough to go to the supermarket alone, I’d buy those fairy tales in the school supplies section with my own savings. I even bought those Tagalog to another local language translation books. It’s funny now that I think of it; it must be the wannabe linguist in me. I didn’t ask money from my parents then because I knew my father would throw his scorn at me for such “gay” things. Even though I was the only one who read these fairy tales, I marked the books as “This book belongs to Miranda family.”
Then X-Men was aired on local TV. I asked my grandma to buy me comic books, and boy, she bought me a lot! She bought me 50-ish of the X-Men Adventures series. She also bought me a globe and an atlas. And oh, my mom also bought me a couple of things to read. One book was about dinosaurs, owing to the books that I borrowed from my classmates, and an X-Men comic book. It’s about Gambit versus Bishop. I don’t recall which particular X-Men series was that, although I think it was just plain X-Men. And she sustained my weekly supply of the local Kick Fighter comics.
Then an aunt and uncle hauled some of their stuff to our vacant room. I think they were then leaving for Saudi Arabia. The most remarkable piece of furniture that they left to us was the book shelf that was filled with encyclopedia, Collier’s and a set of kiddie encyclopedia. I’d randomly pick a volume from either set and pore over them for hours. And there’s this little anthology of short stories entitled “Children Around the World.” I think this is the first non fairy tale book that I devoured. The stories in it were set in different countries, portraying the particular country’s culture and the moral that it wishes to communicate to the young reader. Heck, I even memorized the introductory poem of this book just because I wanted to. The first line goes something like, “Some children are brown, and some children are white, some children eat fish, and some children do this or that blah.” I ended up shyly asking my aunt to give it to me, and of course she did. I don’t think her daughters even read it.
The Nido fairy tales, the supermarket children’s books, the X-Men comic books, the atlas, the book about dinosaurs, the Kick Fighter comics, the sets of encyclopedia, the “Children Around the World”. I wonder where they are now.
Yes, they are no longer in my possession. Don’t judge me for being such a careless owner. There are a lot of circumstances that took place that would make up for a novel if I go through them. Let’s just put it to rest. Besides, this is supposed to be about the weekly book meme. Yes, about the meme for this week, I think I pretty much covered the questions. There are a lot of factors that can influence one in becoming an avid reader. Classmates, the mass media, hunger for knowledge, interest in an array of disparate subjects, and an innate solitude in my case.
If you are wondering why I am not into reading young adult or nonfiction or fantasy or graphic novels, given that my initial readings would most likely lead me to those kind of books, I could not answer that because I actually just realized that now. Perhaps I’ll rant about it one of these days. Oh, I think I have already written something about it in one of the Quarterly Rhapsodies.