Monday, December 22, 2014

read when you can

Just a few days ago, a terrible realization dawned on me while rearranging my bookshelf: Most people, if not all, will never know the likes of Carver, Marquez, Rushdie or Munro. What they only constitute as reading is giggling to cheap thrills of Wattpad. Or worse, the cocktail menu of a bar near you. Wattpad though is a trend, a mobile app wherein one can create stories and share them within a community. If only notable and esteemed writers from across and beyond the nation could contribute works of substance to this app, then we can really safely say that technology has never been a bane but a boon when it comes to reading.

What also pains me to hear from many these days are these common arguments: 1) books are boring, 2) there is no time to read, and 3) there is nothing interesting to read.

The first argument is the most common, and it usually comes from those who refuse to learn despite the awareness of the benefit. We can always tell them to read, yes, but if push comes to shove, we might just have to accept their reality and heed J.K. Rowling’s words, author of the Harry Potter series: “Books are like mirrors: if a fool looks in, you cannot expect a genius to look out.” Harsh, yes, but it speaks volumes of truth.

 The second argument, on the other hand, only emphasizes the elephant in the room that we all have the luxury of time in the world. What we just usually claim to have are excuses. This is where the problem lies. If only we could just take a fraction of our lives to read a newspaper, magazine, or a book of fiction or poetry, in the same manner we ogle at boxers, beauty pageants, fashion shows, and hours of DOTA, I have a feeling our nation would be a much better place to live in.

Lastly, the third argument is empty and lazy, almost like a cousin of the first. The Philippines has a wealth of written works, especially literature. As an archipelagic country, this wealth presents a diversity only a few can boast of. One can easily say ours is an embarrassment of riches.

There is more to Philippine literature than our folktales, Noli Me Tangere, Precious Hearts Romance, and Mabuti Pa Ang Roma May Bagong Papa. We have tales of familiar realities by Alfred Yuson and Jose Dalisay, domestic heartbreak by Ian Rosales Casocot, contemporary fantasy and the otherworldly by Dean Alfar and Eliza Victoria, exquisite verses by Eric Gamalinda, Joel Toledo, and Marjorie Evasco, an acclaimed Boholana critic and poet. On the graphic literature side, there is the piercing wit and humor by Manix Abrera, the inventiveness of Budjete Tan and Kajo Baldisimo, and the timeless satires of Gerry Alanguilan.

Truly there is so much more the Filipinos can offer. There is always something for someone, no matter the genre.

I think many people avoid the library because of solitude. To be alone with only a book as a companion, to be left out by peers and distractions. As if missing the next music playing in the dance floor or an update from an erratic Facebook newsfeed would kill us. But solitude is no disadvantage. Rather it allows us to look deeper into ourselves, away from the unnecessary we usually deem as necessary.

This brings me to one major selling point of a library and the books it houses. What we get from reading is not only erudition and sophistication but also the nuances of the human condition: an understanding of honesty, respect, sacrifice, trust, empathy, and above many other things, love. Love for each other, love for one’s country, or a love for books.

I will end this here, else I would digress further into the stars. There is nothing more to say but this: Take time to visit a library. Give yourself the gift of (re)discovery, a chance to get lost in a maze of books, to be a child once again and give in to the delights of curiosity. As proven since time immemorial, it is through wonderment that we know the possibilities of a future.

[ 2nd of 2 parts ]

Sunday, December 21, 2014

there's nothing more to say but this

These days, to think of a library is almost always like to think of a very distant, analog past. It is like considering the biblical stone tablets over an iPad. But still what a timeless and relevant past it is! Though it is ironic we celebrate books in the digital age, last month’s National Book Week celebration gives me hope for humanity.

Why? Even with the increasing proliferation of technology, it suggests books and what they symbolize for still matter. If we are to believe that books are dead, we must not be having the celebration at all, we would not be having this discussion, and certainly, we would not be in a place where we are right now. Technology is auxiliary, a support factor, and not a hindrance to books and how we enjoy them.

Everyone must have heard of the maxim “knowledge is power.” It is no joke. It is real and proven by history. Knowledge could challenge a dictator (see Benigno Aquino), it could threaten a colonizer (see Jose Rizal), and it could defy false conventions (see Copernicus). This knowledge can be lifted from books, and books can be pulled out of a shelf in a library. Therefore, if knowledge is power, then power is available in multitudes inside the library.

It is easy to shrug this off as another academic speak, like it is some kind of propaganda to wrench people out of their smartphones and plant their heads between the pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude. But this is not the case.

When was the last time you searched for a book in a library not out of obligation but of leisure, out of a deep-seated desire and choice? It is a fact that we go to the mall instead of libraries. We go to the movies instead of libraries. We go to the beach instead of libraries. “A bucket of beer later? Nah. I’d rather go to the library.” I am sure no one’s heard anything of that sort from anybody.

I myself am a victim of these choices. In most weekends I would hang out with friends or binge-watch on Pushing Daisies and The X-Files (old school, yeah?) instead of occupying myself with a paperback. There is nothing wrong with these routines that we cannot shake off from our system, but there is nothing wrong too in allowing ourselves to crack that mysterious book in the nearest library.

It has long been prophesized that the advent of technology—particularly electronic books and reading devices—would replace the physical book, paper and all, thus rendering a genocide of bookshops and libraries around the world. But that did not happen. Although a couple of Barnes & Noble stores are closing in the U.S. and our very own Goodwill Bookstore is now completely erased from memory, we can still sigh with relief that the prophecy was a dud like the Y2K bug of the late 90’s. Even if we have all the gadgets to grab our attention, libraries and books are here to stay. Nothing beats the experience of being surrounded by books when you are hungry for trivial pursuit.

The library, in fact, houses the collective memory of thinkers, from one generation to the next. Getting into one is like being ushered into a hall of blinding light, and only when we get into focus that we would be welcomed by the masters of knowledge themselves. So if we ignore this in a corner like an old, abandoned building, we neglect a vast compendium of ideas. It is our responsibility to uphold these ideas, to sustain the progress these thinkers have made. We can only do this through reading.

That is why with the unparalleled accessibility of information today, it breaks my heart to hear people say “I don’t like to read” with so much entitlement, if not pride. I have a feeling an angel in heaven would drop dead whenever that statement is said.

[ 1st of 2 parts ]

Friday, December 19, 2014

back to the big top

I remember watching the first episode of Daniel Knauf’s “Carnivàle” in 2006 and was left astounded by its vision and orchestration. It had a good versus bad story like no other. It was the very moment I thought television can be greater than the movies. Featuring a world set between the two World Wars and characters so bizarre and meticulously written “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead,” and “American Horror Story” would pale in comparison (even by its opening credits alone), the series was unfortunately cancelled by HBO after a two season run. It was a sad, missed opportunity like so many great TV shows cut short (i.e. “Awake,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Enlightened”). The creator Daniel Knauf kept silent until early last year when he spoke about the grander plan for his show in an article for the AV Club. It is crushing to revisit one’s imagination and talent that never fully get there. But despite the show’s absence in the general conversation of today, there are those who are still enamored by the power of its story. I am one of them. Season 3 should be made.

Monday, December 15, 2014

the end

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” does not lend gravitas as much as the third installment of “Lord of the Rings” [2003], but director Peter Jackson’s extended version of the children’s book is decent and entertaining enough to please both readers and non-readers of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. Yes, the plot is stretched, but after the first two long-winded films, in here we finally get a brisk and focused tale of harmony over conflict, fortitude over fear, and honor over greed. Truth to one’s words still trump any accomplishment brought about by betrayal and lies. As learned by Thorin Oakenshield the long and hard way, victory and gold are worthless endeavors if one follows a self-centered path. Being the last part of a series of prequels to connect to the grander story that would end the ring to rule them all, “The Battle of the Five Armies” delivers. I’ve wanted more of Bennedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug though.

[ photo lifted from here ]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Sexy, isn’t it, the way that one-syllable word purrs into your ears? So daring, yes, so full of character. Or maybe not. It is a word that masters traipsing on the edge of nonchalance, a balancing act of “How’s it going?” and “It’s nothing.” It is bold as it is imposing. One could easily say it demands attention. Like a sore finger, like a thief grabbing your bag, like a blackout shrouding your room in sudden darkness. Here’s a thing. It is in this same darkness its source can be revealed: eager, scheming, Machiavellian. Don’t let it pull you into its depths. Stay away from these people like the plague. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone deserves your kindness. Are you listening? Hey.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

the year of the flood

We all have our encounters with disaster, whether it is physical or conceptual. Late last year, my home province was shaken by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, our home luckily spared by its great tremor. But this year, just last week, the same home was flooded within a day’s rain. Our home never experienced a flooding until that morning. The basement level was submerged in water more than two-feet deep, thigh-high. Around the neighborhood electrical lines and cables snapped in halves by fallen trees and debris whisked into the air by strong winds. To think that it was just a signal no. 1 typhoon.

We all have a feeling the said earthquake has tilted not only the land our house is located but every imaginable place around, changing the topography of the island which, in return, has made our area a catch-basin of rainwater. Many accounts have been shared about dry places transforming into miniature lakes, and beaches with the sea retreating away from their shorelines. Indeed, nothing is ever constant, everything shifts and moves, even the grounds we stand upon. Now it is a matter if we move on and move along or not.


Update: It has been forecasted that another tropical cyclone is on its way, possibly hitting the Visayas once again by Thursday. And it will be strong. Whether it would really enter the Philippine area of responsibility or not, Bohol, do not rely on resilience. Know your hotlines:

Police Department: 166
Fire Department: 112
Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response: 117