“Your Reader’s Story
How did you become a reader? What factors influenced you to take it up as a hobby? For instance, was it your mom who read to you every night? Or was it a high school friend who started lending you books? Or maybe it was a really inspiring teacher whom you wanted to emulate. Whatever it was, we hope you tell us all the story of how you became a leisure reader and what it is about reading that you enjoy so much.”
Everybody probably still remembers the Great Book Blockade of 2009, where our Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Department of Finance (DoF) tried to block books from being sold and distributed here in the country unless a tax was paid on them. This, of course, flew in the face of The Florence Agreement, which calls for “the free flow of ‘educational, scientific, and cultural materials’ between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free.”
I wrote an article about it for the newspaper that I work for and actually got to talk to Undersecretary Espele Sales of the DoF — and boy was she shady. She refused to be recorded during the interview, and insisted that I eat the lunch that they prepared even after I declined several times over. During the whole lunch she kept on making these “We’re friends now” overtures that I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a mafia movie and becoming slowly indebted to its most corrupt Don.
While a lot of people thought that it was over when UNESCO itself called out the DoF and the BoC on its bullshit and then President Arroyo ordered the scrapping of taxes on imported books, a lot of people on-the-ground say that the situation is anything but changed.
My friend Blooey notes in her blog that as far back as December of the same year that the Book Blockade supposedly ended, the BoC was once again arbitrarily levying taxes on books being imported into the country. (Do check out the other links in that particular post as it provides a neat timeline of the Great Book Blockade of 2009.)
And now we have this: Customs tightens rules on entry of imported books.
“‘Applicants for importations under the Florence Agreement must first secure a certification from the UNESCO Office in the Philippines attesting that the importations of educational, scientific and cultural materials are among those included Florence Agreement,’ Alvarez said.”
There’s also this:
“‘Applications for the duty-free importation of books by non-stock, non-profit educational institutions must be accompanied by a certification from the Department of Education (DepEd) or the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) attesting that the importations are economic, technical, vocational, scientific, philosophical or historical books,’ the new guidelines also said.”
The new rules still recognizes The Florence Agreement, so it’s not an outright strangling of book imports like the one that happened in 2009. However, making the importation of books harder for everyone is always a troubling thing. Why are books always the favorite target? Why not tighten rules on tobacco and liquor instead, which quite frankly are only educational and cultural in the sense that cigarettes teach you about lung cancer and alcohol makes “cultural exchange” easier?
And let’s not forget this little gem from De La Salle University College of Law dean Jose Manuel Diokno when we interviewed him recently:
“There are many indicators of corruption in any office. For example, kapag maraming red tape ang isang opisina (when there’s too much red tape in an office), there will be enough opportunity for corruption. If there is too long a delay in the processing of any kind of application, malamang meron din ‘yung corruption (there is probably corruption there).”
In case it’s not clear enough, what I’m saying is are these “tighter” rules in place just to cover up corruption? Just saying.
If you guys are anything like me — which I hope you’re not, because I am weird — then you’re probably feeling a little faint because National Book Store just started their almost month-long (It goes on until August 21!) cut-price sale on selected books.
I haven’t gotten around to a National Book Store yet — my work week has been crazy — but I’m going to be scouring the shelves and hopefully stumble upon some prize finds. Or maybe get myself a cartful of Tagalog romance novels.
What about you guys? Any particular book you’re hoping to find discounted all the way to 75 percent?
Late in 2010, I had the chance to talk to Lauren Kate, the bestselling author of the young adult books “Fallen” and “Torment”. It went well, for the most part — I got to ask all the questions I wanted to ask.
I did hit upon a snag when the post-interview conversation with her and the other journalists veered toward the topic of other young adult authors. Being the tactless and hate-filled person that I am, I just had to bring up my intense and burning dislike for Becca Fitzpatrick. And wouldn’t you know it, the two of them are friends!
How do you recover from that? I just gritted my teeth and soldiered on as if I didn’t just make a damn fool of myself. It was best I forgot about the whole sad scene, because it’s not like she’s coming back here, right?
Of course, fate has struck me down once again as Lauren Kate is set to return here to the country this July, thanks to National Bookstore. And it’s not just the Manila readers who get to meet her this time around as she will also be making a stopover at Cebu.
I’m pretty sure all three of you blog readers already have your copies and invites to the “Passion” tour, but in case you still don’t, head on over to your nearest NBS and get yourself a copy of the book!
I, on the other hand, will be praying fervently that my new haircut confuses her enough to mistake me for an entirely different journalist just sharing the same name.
(Photo from the National Bookstore Facebook page)
I know all three of you readers may be tired of all my posts on the original Rizal manuscripts — I believe this is the fourth one? — but I hope that you will humor me this one last time.
Over the weekend, I made two more trips (Friday and Saturday) to the National Library to take a look not just at the original manuscripts — I’d seen them up close before anyway — but also at the other Rizal artifacts that the National Library had on display in celebration of our national hero’s sesquicentennial. And as it turns out, the National Library did have more artifacts in its vaults than just the “Noli”, the “Fili”, and the “Mi Ultimo Adios”.
The guy above with the adorable expression is Nobel Prize-winning novelist V.S. Naipul. A couple of weeks ago he made a claim that I’m sure you readers of the female persuasion will find absolutely charming.
I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.
Naipul says that women’s writing is easily identifiable because they are full of “sentimentality” and a “narrow view of the world”. This narrow view, he says, is because women are never “a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.”
I mean, I’m no Nobel Prize winner, so I may just be blowing smoke out of my ass, but most of the authors that I’ve really felt a personal connection with have been women authors — even if I am in possession of a decidedly male appendage.
Remember back in May 9, when I posted this blog about spending a day with the original manuscripts of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere”, “El Filibusterismo”, “Mi Ultimo Adios”, and “Guillermo Tell”?
The people at the National Library told me that they’d tell me when the manuscripts would be put up on display after they were restored by visiting German conservators. Weeks passed with me not getting any word about it, so I assumed that something fell through.
Then I got this in the old email inbox:
I think it was back in my fourth year in college that I made my first trip to the National Library of the Philippines. Me and my classmates were writing a paper on the little known Filipino writer Nita Umali Berthelsen, whose works you can only now find in the National Library. Aside from being impressed by their extensive collection of Filipiniana serials, I remember fearing for my life riding their temperamental elevator, which had the unnerving habit of shutting down between floors.
The second time I was there was several years later, when my editor asked me to write about the National Library. This time around I had a tour of the whole place, from their section for blind people all the way up to their copy of the very first issue of the Manila Bulletin, the country’s oldest newspaper. The only section were I wasn’t given access to was the Rare Books and Special Collections section, which is where they keep the original manuscripts of Rizal’s works as well as the Philippine Revolutionary Papers. Of course, I obsessed about getting inside that section ever since.
This year, I sort of got my wish.
If it wasn’t clear from my numerous posts on “Lost Girls“, let me say it straight to everybody: I grew up on comic books.
I think my relation ship with comic books started in much the same way it did for a lot of middle class Filipino kids — from reading those Filipino serials that they used to rent out to everybody back in my home province of Marinduque. Nights would be spent that way: gathered around a pile of komiks and just reading.
Conventional wisdom tells you that you should never judge a book by its cover, but what I’ve found to be true for me is that you should never judge a book on your first read. As I’ve grown up to the ripe old age of twentysomething, I’ve discovered that a lot of the books that I despised as a child ended up as being some of my favorites.
Surprisingly, a lot of the books that I did not want to read were the ones hoisted on me in high school. It’s not like I wasn’t up for a challenge — I got to about a quarter of “The Odyssey” before the end of summer vacation cut my reading short — but it was because some teachers just have a knack for taking the fun out of reading.
When before I could take my time with a book, savor the language and the world building and pretty much imagine myself in the story, I had to read these assigned books with a joyless focus, worrying about which character, utterance, or random detail would pop up in tests. If there was ever a time when I was thisclose to hating reading and books, it was during high school.
Back then, if we were given a choice to pick a book to read and be quizzed on, I would always consult with upperclassmen before making a decision. That was how I ended up picking J.D. Salinger over Edith Wharton — an overwhelming number of the seniors that I knew told me that it was the better read.