Readercon Filipino Friday: Week 3

Yes, I know, it’s almost a week late, but the past several days have been really hectic, I swear!

Anyway, it’s week 3 of the Filipino Friday meme hosted by the organizers of the first Filipino Readers Conference! The question for this week is:

“How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader (e.g. availability of books)? What are positive aspects of being a reader based in the Philippines (e.g. book prices are lower here than they are abroad)?”

To be honest, when I was young I thought it wasn’t really that hard to be a book lover here in the Philippines. I was perfectly content with whatever was on the bookshelves, so long as they were about topics that interested me (Sweet Valley High and Greek mythology). And since books weren’t high on the grocery lists of my childhood, I was happy with what I got.

It was only when I grew up and my interests expanded that I became aware of the paucity of choices that was being offered to me. And since I wasn’t particularly close to any of my relatives that were living and working outside the country at the time, I had no choice but to suck it up and deal with it. Also, steal occasionally.

When I started working — and before my work started giving me opportunities to go to far-flung places to look for books — I just kept that “make do with what you have” attitude and just relentlessly trawled the bookstore shelves. If I found what I was looking for, then I would squeal like an orangutan. If I didn’t, well, c’est la vie!

Being given the opportunity to travel abroad — and be on the company dime, no less — has also helped towards easing my book-related frustrations. It’s not my money anyway, so I generally just buy every book that I can afford. I guess that explains how my reading backlog has just swelled to almost unbearable proportions.

If there’s anything that frustrates me about being a Filipino reader, it’s how some of the salespeople in some bookstores seem to have no knowledge at all of what it is they have on their shelves. I mean, it’s not like I’m asking you to move heaven and earth here. Just check the goddam shelves and see if the book that I want is there. Because more often than not, when I re-check it again, I find the book that you — yes, you, evil salesperson — claim is not in stock.

And yes, I know that we should have a public library system, but as most of the other entries have pointed out, it’s not exactly the main priority for the government. It’s much more frustrating for me to deal with incompetence in bookstores because books are what you are selling. You have no excuse to not know everything there is to know about your own stock.

Okay. Rant over. Phew.

What is it that I like about being a Filipino reader? I admit that the recent (to me at least) explosion of book communities is what I love the most about being a reader here in the Philippines. There have been lots of times in the past when I just wanted to talk about a book with another person and just not found any, and all these new developments online have just heartened me and made me feel that I’m not alone.

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