Monday, December 10, 2007


In his article that appeared today in the Daily Inquirer, one of my favorite writers, Conrado de Quiros, talks about his experience in an airport while on a nine-hour layover in Bangkok en route to the Philippines. He talks about his observation that Filipinos have not grown accustomed to reading to while away the time. Instead, they go shopping, "window or otherwise". Not a good sign for our sagging economy considering that these shoppers are purchasing products not produced in our country.

I have had the same impression everywhere I go. While I enjoy reading, amid puffs from my cigarette, while waiting, say for a friend, I also observed that most Filipinos would go to malls and shop rather than be caught with a good book in hand, mesmerized by the information, awed by the beauty of language and how this is used, that can be had while reading. I do not know how many students are reading a book not because it is required but because he/she enjoys reading per se.

I have often told my children how beneficial reading can be. To my disappointment, I don't think it is sinking in. Except for my eldest, the other three would not even touch a book that is not required reading in school. They'd rather go to the internet and do something else. My only wish is that they have not yet realized how fun reading a book can be.

Reading takes us to a wide gamut of adventures; prepares us to face the unknown; gives us first hand information that cannot be had from any other source; teaches us how to analyze, think and express ourselves in a clear, cohesive and organized manner;shows us how others think and respond to certain stimuli, among other things. If only I can motivate my children any further...

Interestingly, to the very few who do read, what kind of books are being read by Filipinos? Fellow blogger and online friend Gilbert reproduced an article written by Queena Lee Chua which discussed, among other things, some facts about reading and the Filipino. We find what kinds of books are being read, how much time is being spent on reading, etc...

With the internet coming of age, I wonder what effect this will do to reading. How will the future generation read? Will the computer strengthen reading or have we seen its further decline? What is the effect of having an information readily available at a simple click on the mouse, where such can be given in a short, comprehensible manner? Will this eliminate the thirst for more knowledge making the reader lose some information that can be vital?

But then, what am I worried about? As Conrado de Quiros has observed, we are not a country of readers anyway. What is there to lose?

I say, a lot!


Anonymous said...

my kids are fond of manga and comic books. as they grow up, however, the internet is slowly taking them away from the habit of reading. i wish the kids would read more.

anyhow, i share cdq's observation in airports. there's only handful of people who would rather read than visit the shops.

Anonymous said...

i mean would rather visit the shops than read.

my mind is drifting. :)

ipanema said...

how sad that our younger generation are not into this fruitful endeavour. it is so different from my time where television was only secondary. not now. as technology advance, so are the hunger for new gadgets. at school, if one has the latest gadget, the more hip that person becomes. and here starts peer pressure. some children couldn't take it so they egged their parents to buy them new ones.

Reading has indeed taken a back seat.

I am sad at the conclusion of de Quiros. Are we really a non-reading lot? That is sad. But your observation is correct. While foreigners bring books, we venture shop hopping and eating. :)

ipanema said...

now, everyone shouldn't be surprised that quality of education is going down.

amateur misanthrope said...

Whoa your post inspires me to post about seeing people reading books in trains and buses in San Francisco! I think 70% of the time I'm in public transport vehicles, I see somebody (usually a white person) reading.

rolly said...

mari the internet has taken over my children by a storm. Hindi na nga nagbubukas ng libro eh.

ipanema yes, ang dami nang distraction ngayon. Dati tv lang eh. Speaking of gadgets,mga students ko, di hamak na mas maganda pa celfone sakin. E sakin naman, basta pwede kong amg text at tumawag, okay na yun.

AM Yes, that was my observation, too, when I was in Canada. Are you back in the country?

ipanema said...

same here. ang akin antique. dito ang mga bata dyos ko, how fast they change their gadgets. not second hand as well. talagang brand new. pagnakita mo naman paano binayaran ng magulang, ayun, swipe naman ng swipe. hayyyy.

bob said...

My personal observation: American would read a book and clamped down inside their invincible cocoon while Filipinos would chat and socialize.

Joseph D said...

PS: may I add that such things like podcasts and audiobooks may be the equivalent of reading, but in the form of audio narration, pero pwede nyo sabihin na tamad yung tao magbasa hahaha :)

rolly said...

Bob aka Joseph D I have seen book on audio form. It is very tempting as all you have to do is wear a headphone and voila, you get to know what a book is all about. But then, maybe I'm a little old fashioned, but reading has its own benefits talaga.

Joseph D said...

wahahaha sir di ako si bob, may seperate comment ako pero mukhang nawala siya... pero yung PS ko ang natira...

the idea of my first original was i think my generation still is interested in reading, but maybe in a different form. web surfing can be one form of reading, but its the matter of the quality and content of the webpages you surf. there is good content in the web, all you have to do is surf ^^,

for example, i amuse myself with wikipedia articles or go into graphic novels...

but i still grab a paper and read, be it a newspaper, reader's digest or time mag...

i think our generation has this trend of having a short attention span, or maybe we need something graphic or visual to catch our interests...

ewan ko lang, baka deviant ako sa generation ko... ^^,

rolly said...

Joseph D hahaha ganun ba.

My apologies to Bob, then. So, Bob is that a good thing? Filipinos opting to chat than hiding in a cocoon?

Yes, Joseph, I also use Wikipedia. The problem is how accurate is the information that can be had with the internet. Of course, it can be argued that the medium has changed but nonetheless, people are still reading in that regard.

Anonymous said...

on the surface this observation may seem infallible, but it is a very shallow observation and if you try to examine a little deeper you'll find that it is highly inaccurate, maybe even irresponsible. It is akin to seeing the tip of an iceberg and concluding that it is a great mountain of ice and there's nothing more beneath it.

the practice of reading, specifically leisure reading, like most habits is for the most part acquired, learned and and formed. And it is highly dependent on materials and their availability. In the case of reading, that material is books.

how available are books to the general filipino population?

if a third of the population is below the poverty level, I'm almost certain that your observation is already at least 33% off the mark.

what is the ratio of public libraries to the population? Does the general public know that these libraries exist and that books are available to them? how accessible are the books, or the libraries for that matter?

Chula Vista a town in southern California has a population less than a third of the population in Sampaloc, a district in Manila. (where I attended high school) In CV you'll find 5 public libraries each averaging about 40,000 square feet with ample parking spaces for patrons. To make sure that the buildings are attractive, they held international architectural competitions for the right to design the libraries. Each library has a separate section for children. But that's not enough, to attract readers, they advertise the libraries on billboards, public transportation vehicles and the local newspapers.

the success of the library designs is such that even tourists seek then out.

as for the store-bought books, new paperbacks are generally sold at about 6 dollars each and if you go to some second hand stores, you'll find that some used books are sold at about a dollar each. With a minimum wage at about 8 dollars, if you have a job, any job, you don't have an excuse for not being able to buy a book.

when these books reach Manila, how much are they marked for sale? How much of the work force is employed and able to buy some of these books? Even if you're employed, if you're the only one in a family of 8 who provides, would buying a foreign book be a real priority to you?

and speaking of foreign books,filipinos grew up conversing in filipino, it's our first language and the language of our heart and soul. It's the first one we learned and it's ingrained in our being. The first books or most of the we read should be in filipino. Tell me, in general and in relation to foreign books, how many books written in filipino are out there?

And then there's the tambayan culture, something that is borne out of and propagated by unemployment and poverty. When you do "tambay", bringing a book is not something conducive to your health. It will downright become the reason for your death.

As for people observing readers on buses and trains,tell them to try reading while commuting in jeepneys. or tricycles.

build it and they will come. give them books and they will read.

you don't even have to go very far to witness a contradiction to your observation. just study your own blogroll. You'll find that more than 90% of them are readers, and they buy and collect books. They're filipinos and they are readers.

as for the internet kicking the butt of the books, that's world-wide phenomenon, not limited to the philippines or filipinos.

build libraries


rolly said...

A Thank you for visiting my blog and posting your comments. I appreciate the time you spent in here and giving me your honest opinion. We may not agree on several things, though, but that is okay. Now, let me see if I can respond to your points.

Am I really off the mark? Let's see... The article that inspired this post is an observation made in an airport Hence, it's talking about Filipinos who have the ability to buy books and read while waiting. Hence, it is not about the economic conditions of the country per se.

YOu say leisure reading is acquired. I agree completely. Now, let's talk about how many Filipinos out there who have had an education, finished college and now has a capability to buy books, read. How many among them have acquired the habit of reading? YOu mentioned about commenters here who are bloggers do read. YEs, majority of them read but that is the reason why they can and are confident to write, and write well. Because they read! Let's talk numbers again? How much of the populatinn blog?

Build libraries, you say. Let's say you owned a restaurant. Would you cook meat if your restaurant is located in a community of vegetarians? The point is, the argument might be synonymous to the proverbial"which came first? The chicken or the egg?" Would there be more readers if there were more libraries? Or will this building be a waste of money for only a few would go there? By the same token, is it possible that the administration in Chula Vista saw the need for more than one library is because one is not sufficient?

Talk about the availability of books. Yes, they are available and in both english and Filipino. We have many good writers and their books are relatively affordable. And yes,we do have public libraries and they remain almost empty all the time.

Anonymous said...

as an educator you should know that you can't possibly collect your data in a limited area as an airport and, relative to that information, form an observation about a whole population, let alone a whole race. how much of the whole filipino race hang out at the airport?. So, if a foreigner wants to learn about filipinos, all he needs to do is sit, drink beer, and watch. At the airport.

could you possibly conduct a scientific experiment this way? and say that your results are valid?


rolly said...

A Nowhere in my post did I say that this is a scientific study. It is an opinion which is shared by many, including those who commented before you. Let's say tha this is my subtle attempt to inspire young ones to read.

joyce said...

Hi Sir Rolly!

CDQ's observation, I should say, is correct to a certain degree. I, myself, would see to it that I have a book in my purse if I knew that I'd have to sit and spend a long time waiting for something. But if my eyes can feast on something more animated, something more pleasing and relaxing, I wouldn't sit down and expend my energy reading (and translating) a good book.

So here’s my theory on why a lot of us and most youngsters would rather not read...
Based on my experience, in as much as english is our 2nd language, there is a conscious effort to translate a manuscript written in english, hence it requires some effort to comprehend. On the other hand, if you'd give me a Lualhati Bautista manuscript, maybe, it will be less tiring in the sense that I don't need to translate, but still it will be tiring because the mind is at work and is kept hanging in anticipation of what is yet to happen in the end. Don't you feel more tired when you do mental work? I can hear Cicero Cortel saying “mental spelunking” and to some of us, reading can really be tantamount to doing intellectual somersaults! I remember my classmates in grad school, complaining about how exhausted they were after making their homework that required reading lengthy articles and preparing reaction papers (si Dr. Mike pa! oops! hehehe love natin yang si Bro). I can only surmise that our youngsters would not indulge in reading for the sole reason that it takes extra effort to read than to collaborate (chat) with someone in the internet, change the template of their myspace profile, play world of warcraft, or even change the color of Barbie's manicure repeatedly!

But let me tell you this: my daughter Jacinth didn't like reading books despite the fact that she had a huge shelf (10' x 2' x 4')overflowing with children's books. I read to her, but she never touched the books by herself though she was an excellent reader at 9 yrs old (her reading skills then was high school level). One time, she saw my Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone tucked away in between her books. It didn't have much pictures in it as you may already know, but somehow, she was curious and started conning through it. It took a JK Rowling masterpiece to get her into reading. That summer, she finished all HP books that have been published that year. There were at least 5. Now that she's a little older, she picks her own books, stays at least a couple of hours at Powerbooks, and asks me to send her a book that I might like her to read. So don’t despair. You have a lot of books at home, and maybe, out of curiosity, one of them may start flipping through the pages of Ayn Rand or Tom Clancy (may Tom Clancy ka ba? hehehe). Don’t worry, you’ve been a very good role model to them, they’d emulate you sooner or later.

To A: It seems that you've been away too long, long enough for you not to know how much reading materials (e.g. books, audio books) are available to the Filipino kids. There are lots of books that can be bought 2nd hand, prices would start at P3. Ang dami niyan sa BOOK SALE (a segunda mano store/stall that can be found in every mall in the Philippines). Kahit sa palengke, may 2nd hand books. A lot of private schools donate to public schools as well. So it's not a matter of scarcity, that's for sure. With the influx of the internet, and in case you don't know, the Philippines is the texting capital of the world (that even the ordinary vendor in the street would have money for cellphone credits), information can be had ANYWHERE, can be Googled instantly. There's an internet cafe at every other corner in Sampaloc where you came from, or any part of Metro Manila for that matter. What I’m trying to drive home is this: when kids are confronted with a choice between reading books and using technology, where instant gratification can be had would certainly be their pick. Why not? It is less tiring, less time consuming!

batjay said...

pinaka nakakaasar na comment pag nakakita ng maraming libro sa bahay

miron: uy ang dami mong libro! binabasa mo bang lahat yan?

ako: hindi po, panghampas ko lang po sa ulo ng nagtatanong kung binabasa ko ang mga libro.

to be totally immersed in a story. ah, pure joy. sometimes better than sex.

joyce said...

nyahahahaha! you never fail to crack me up Jay! oh yeah! i must concur with you! reading is indeed sometimes better than sex :)

what can you say, sir Rolly? on 2nd thought, don't answer that. baka sapatusin ka ni ate Nitz hehehe

Svelte Rogue said...

this is just sayin':

A presents quite a compelling case that need not be shot down by a phalanx of Tito Rolly friends and supporters. Cull through the paragraphs and you will see that, indeed:

If you believe what Kevin Costner's character in "Field of Dreams" said, "Build it and they will come", you can see that A's point, which he reiterates quite well, is that if one builds libraries, then we might be able to beckon someone, the young, the poor, whoever they are, to chuck the SMS or the internet café for an afternoon immersing oneself within the pages of a lovely book.

That an airport alone cannot be the basis for generalising about an entire population, especially considering that more than 60% of the Filipino population live below the poverty level so indeed, buying a foreign book (with its duties and beautiful pages) is simply not a priority. Airports are the portals of the have's, and any observations we might make of Filipinos who pass through its doors are limited, at best, to less than half of the entire population.

As to points of dissimilarity that Tito Rolly points out, as a matter of fact I see you both arguing the same point from different angles, especially in the following light:

when Tito Rolly rebutts that his blogroll cannot be used as a generalisation for the entire population as these are a reflection of the educated and monied masses, it's the same as A saying that De Quiros et al cannot make generalisations about the entire Pinoy population based on what they see at airports. So my dear men, may peace be upon you, shake hands, buy each other a beer, and crank down the testosterone a notch and you'll see you agree more than you can ever disagree.

As for my own two cents (ang haba ng sinabi, isisingit pa rin ang sariling haka haka diba? hahaha), most if not all posts are taken from a very specific point of view, subject to the particularities of time and space, such as an airport on a summer evening en route to a conference in singapore, for example. Readers should be careful to note that the writer does not deign to generalise a few observations for the body entire. Writers should be careful in the way they frame their perspectives that they do not throw a smug blanket of authority over their observations. In the blogging world, these fallacies are rampant, I must say.

So what is the bottom line? Vigilance is the price of freedom. Keep on your toes at all times and guard against insidious arguments that eat away at one's logical (and perhaps moral) core. :)

Just sayin'.

Svelte Rogue said...

hi tito rols, am back.

i like what bob says, which shows how a person from outside can view what we inside may not see: that we do opt to connect with people (if we're not pressing our noses only to window panes all day long hahaha) rather than withdraw into our isolation cells of fictionary bliss.

here in belgium when you ride the trains, especially during rush hour, nearly everyone has a nose buried in their books OR has their faces turned away. people prefer to sit alone, to have no one sitting next to them or across them unless the train is packed and no one has a choice but to scoot over.

i remember a game i used to play last year when i used to do the daily commute to and from work in brussels: i would stare at the back cover of the book, willing my gaze to burn through the pages, to compel the person sitting across me to look me in the eye! :) it was fun, but also rather disconcerting if the other party decided to engage and stare back at me. if i got blue eyes from a beautiful tall man, i would blush and look away. hahaha talo. :)

rolly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rolly said...

Svelte I neither discounted nor dismissed A's point as being invalid. He does have a point. What I do not agree with is his claim that the post asserts to be a scientific study. I never said that. It is an observation and an opinion I happen to have which is in agreenent with the De Quiros article.

Maybe you and A are correct. If we make books available to the poor, maybe they will get to read. It is still very hypothetical at this point. But between eking out a living to make both ends meet and spending time in the library to read, I wonder which will prevail.

Again, this is only my subtle way to encourage reading among the young. At least starting with those who can afford.

Anonymous said...

1. To Rolly:
Please know that I don't mean any disrespect. I hold you and all teachers in high regards. I also know that you're an extraordinary artist and I hope a lot of your students learn to create in the same level you do. And you know that's the important part, the students.

2. If you write a post that stimulates impassioned responses then you know you've done your job.That's the point of the whole thing. Including art. You want your painting, for example, to stimulate some kind of a response from the observer, be it happiness, anger, sadness or even pain. If that happens then, you have have created something significant, you have expressed yourself. If they have look at it and saw and felt nothing, then you have failed.

3.I didn't think that you're the kind of person who only listens to what he wants to hear, you're an intellectual. So, I wasn't about to tell you only what you wanted to hear (what's the point?) or only the things that buff your ego some more. I leave that to your "friends".

4. You're a teacher, you know that students or people in general shouldn't take everything at face value. They should question everything. You work at a Catholic school; consecrated men will tell you that the most faithful men question God.

5. I know there wasn't a scientific process involved; I only did that to drive a point. I realize that that was sly trick.

6. I also know that the observation wasn't originally yours,that you were defending someone else's statement and in this regard, I felt I really wasn't attacking you (if this is what you feel the body of the comment holds).

7. I also feel that you misunderstood me when I mentioned your blogroll. If you use statistics, with about 10 filipinos at the average foreign airport, whom you see not reading, versus more than a hundred bloggers, whom you are sure are readers, I'd probably go with the bloggers as more representative of anything.

8. To Batjay:
you're right I'm just a "miron" and should just shut up. I assume (I know I shouldn't do this) that you play chess, because you're a "tambay" and know that a lot of times the mirons see what's going on with the game better that the players seated at the table. And this pisses off the players.
I also know that you wrote a book that was a bestseller. You know what this proves right? That the filipinos are readers and will read anything. Maybe not at the airport. Come to think of it, maybe there's something there: how come everytime the weather is updated, they always mention what it's like at the airport? Are we supposed to be at the airport all the time? Just kidding, I'm just giving you a material for your next book, you know, the one that a lot of non-reader filipinos are going to buy.
I didn't say that I have a lot of books, I don't. I just want the filipinos to have a lot of books, just as much as anybody else in the world. And that the books should be made available and accessible to everyone, especially the poor. No one left behind.

9. To my tennis partner Lara:
Thanks for covering the baseline while I was at the net. I'll forever value the games and the partnership.

10. return to Rolly:
again, if you'll only listen to what you want to hear, or only the things that buff your ego, then I promise you I won't visit anymore. I'll leave that to your friends.

tell your students that resistance is what makes the light bright.


rolly said...

A Thank you for clearing that up.

Re your last sentence. If I was that kind of blogger who only listened to what i hear, I would have simply not approved your comment so that it doesn't get published here. But I did so that other readers can see your point and make their own decisions. I also felt I had to respond and point out what part of an argument is disagreeable to me. After all, this is my blog.

I guess,we started on the wrong foot. It's just that I thought you came in too strong and wanted to impress me with your erudition. My bad! Sorry. Again, welcome to my blog and thank you for taking the time out to comment.

rolly said...

A I don't think Batjay's comment was for you. I know him that much. He's a personal friend.

BlogusVox said...

My first reading materials were not books but Komiks. We have “Pepe and Pilar” at school but my reading skill was honed by Lagim, Lamor and Wakasan. Later on DC and Marvel introduced me to the English language. I graduated in my primary education with a collection of MAD, Spy Vs Spy and Asterix the Gaul pocket books.

I try to buy books every time a come home and bring them here. But my fiction days are over. Now a day I read books pertaining to science, history or economics. It’s also a good “time-killer”, especially if your waiting for your flight and your travel time is 8 hours non-stop.

BTW Ka Rolly, I still can’t find the rest of your work. I only found “Yin and Yang” but that’s it. The rest are still blocked.

rolly said...

Blogusvox That's how I started reading myself. Komiks! They were very big during my growing up years.

I wonder why is it that you can see one painting and not the rest. Hmmmm

ipanema said...

A blessed, merry Christmas to you and your loved ones, tito rolly! :)

Enjoy the celebration! :)

failed misanthrope said...

Ayan, found your post on reading na =)