A Reader in the Philippines – ReaderCon Week 3

The First Filipino Reader Conference is closer than ever. Thanks to the Manila International Book Fair and other sponsors for their valuable support. This is the 3rd week of the special Filipino Fridays meme. Which I of course screw up and turn into Filipino Sundays!

Week 3 Question:
How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader? And what are the positive aspects of being a reader in the Philippines?

The short answer is: I can’t complain. For Pinoys who love books, there are more venues now than ever before in terms of buying, discovering, and discussing books. I’ve always have friends who are avid readers but lately I’ve also been exploring the more social aspects of being a reader in the Philippines, such as participating in the Filipino Goodreads Group and Filipino Book Bloggers. Even in that short time, I’ve had my horizons broadened. Having the opportunity to talk passionately–and even bitchily–about books is priceless.

However, I don’t get to read foreign titles when it’s still “hot,” such as when Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad became the talk of the town last year or when Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and The Magician Kings became the subject of much discussion on blogs I read regularly. Part of this is because I’m cheap, wary of buying books for the full price in hardback just in case the hype is just hype. This isn’t an unbearable thing because I have a very large backlog of unread books. If anything, it’s an embarrassment of riches.

The thing I probably regret is that the Philippines is hardly a place that writers from other parts of the world get to visit often. I think the exception to this is the indefatigable Neil Gaiman. I would love to go to readings and forums that’s focused on literature, but save for venues such as universities, I don’t know if those kinds of things would thrive at all.

There is also the matter of public libraries in the Philippines and the lack thereof. I’ve mentioned in my last Readercon meme post that the library was a big part of my evolution as a reader. It breaks my heart that not all kids get the opportunity to experience that spark. Not everyone turns out to be book lovers, but chances should always be there.

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7 thoughts on “A Reader in the Philippines – ReaderCon Week 3

  1. It really is sad that we don’t have good public libraries over here. When I started my blog, US friends were shocked to discover that we don’t have access to the kind of libraries that they have over there. But well I can’t really complain since I can still get the books that I want to read because I have a job.

    I’m cheap, wary of buying books for the full price in hardback just in case the hype is just hype. -> I’m like this as well. I only buy hardcovers from auto-buy authors and books that come highly recommended by trusted bloggers.

    • I think you’re even more willing to buy new releases than I am. I often wait one full year until I buy. :D I don’t know if public libraries can be sustainable here without substantial government backing, and I don’t think that’s entirely possible right now. :/

  2. “It breaks my heart that not all kids get the opportunity to experience that spark. Not everyone turns out to be book lovers, but chances should always be there.”

    I agree. At least give them option NOT to like books (fat chance of that happening anyway :) ).

    • I have this idea that finding the right book isl ike going on a date. You can’t have a connection if you’re not putting yourself out there! ;)

  3. I think the absence of good public libraries here is because of our being a third world country. I mean, there are a lot of mouths to feed, no money for library funding, and the government is sound asleep.

    • I wonder though, because many Latin American countries (Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, etc.) are also part of the third world but they have thriving writing and library cultures. I have no idea how to cultivate that here, though. And you’re right, govt help is key here.

      • I think the mentioned countries value their culture more than we do. There’s also Chile (Neruda) and Colombia (Marquez).

        Since we have an almost irreversible attachment to anything Western, I think it would be good enough to write Filipino stories in English. And I think elementary schools with good libraries should require some library-related work, like group reading, both contemporary and classic Filipino books. I find the early years of formal education the most important ones because really, all you need to learn, you can learn during those years. And the government has a huge role to play on my proposal since a growing number of families send their kids to public elementary schools instead of private schools due to financial difficulties. It’s a chain reaction. Sheesh.

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