I suddenly realized that reading has become a tedious work these days. It now serves as an action that I need to complete for the sake of meeting an academic requirement. As I follow this new habit, I gradually lost the interest in meeting new characters as I have become busy in understanding (at least trying to understand) the ideas of various local and international literary critics. Then aside from discovering this extensive form of “reading,” I also realized that I lack an important knowledge about Philippine literature.
Reading and the Language Differences
I love reading. I may have started out late, but I learned to love it. However, I didn’t grow up in a family that had a lot of books. I only met various fairy tale characters from the local TV shows when I was younger, as well as from a single fairy tale book that my parents bought. With this, I was lucky enough to have read some of the original stories of the Little Mermaid (where the mermaid didn’t get to marry the prince), Beauty and the Beast (where the poor Maurice took a rose from the beast’s garden), Aladdin (with two different genies from the lamp and the ring), and others.
I have not given much attention to the locally produced works written in Filipino. I have read novels of Filipino writers who share their stories in English, but I only read less than a handful of texts in my vernacular. This is sad to know that I have only learned about the “classics” because those were required in classes way back in high school. Also, whenever I look back to the days when I was exposed to Filipino works, they were mostly in comics form. Yes, I grew up waiting for the newspaper to read the comic strips, the locally produced Komiks and the Klasiks, all from our neighbor village’s newsstands.
Why did I find English novels and stories more appealing?
They weren’t exactly more appealing. They were more accessible. This is the sad truth in my case.
When I was in elementary, there was a small library in our school. Being a public school library, most of the books there were encyclopedias, dictionaries, and some resource materials for various subjects. However, they were donated by different local officials or were bought through a series of money collections spearheaded by the teachers. With this in mind, they weren’t easily accessible for the students. Yup, this may sound crazy at first, but it’s true. They were considered “precious” commodities that bring a certain “prestige” to the school because it wasn’t (or still isn’t) that common for public schools to have their own libraries. As I looked inside this beautiful space back then, there wasn’t that certain excitement because I didn’t really know anything about the books placed neatly on the shelves.
This kind of disinterest turned different when I went to high school. The library was relatively much bigger and there were more access to the books displayed on the shelves. But these precious resources were still placed behind the librarians’ long table/desk (or whatever it was called). There were specific lists provided for the students to check before asking the librarian for the copy of the books. There were dozens of available novels carefully labeled and divided per year level. So, I thought that the librarians must have had a lot of time reading through all those and identifying each year level’s expected interests and reading abilities that they were able to categorize various novels for each year.