Friday, August 10, 2012

Filipino Friday: Books and Friends

Books and Friends: Are you a part of a book club? If yes, what made you join one? What’s your favorite activity that you have with them? If you’re not a part of one, will you consider joining one? Why or why not?

This Friday meme topic is all about books and friends. This is such a wonderful topic to write about. I am more excited to share this meme with the rest of the bloggers involved in Filipino Friday because, books and friends have made Filipino Friday possible. We may not know each other personally, but the meme has connected us in more ways than one through books and reading. Yes, we all are avid readers and book lovers. The window to friendship, if not, goodwill and mutual respect, is very much open. That's why, this meme reminds me of books I love and fond memories of friendship.

When I was in sixth grade, I read the Hardy Boys series and its female counterpart, Nancy Drew. I read Encyclopedia Brown and the Bobsey Twins. My seatmate in class, Amado Bonifacio Alto, happened to have read the same series, except for Nancy Drew and Bobsey Twins. He also read poetry. How "geekily" cool is that?! I was even surprised how he knew about science books and encyclopedias.  Our reading fodder was textbooks. Our trips to the school library was close to null. I read because my mom brought home books. So, to discover another soul with the same reading insterest as mine was a delight. I was not alone in my strangeness.

JK Rowling's letter and autographed photo. Collector's item, I say!
In high school, I was friends with readers. We were a group of four but we all belonged to one big barkada of six to eight girls. We read romance books from Sweet Dreams series to Sweet Valley High to Harlequin Romance series. Even the Pinoy romance books were part of our book exchanges: Gilda Olvidado, Helen Meriz, Nerisa Cabral, up to Liwayway's Laro sa Baga. Yes, that was my introduction to Pinoy erotica. Our tastes gradually expanded to foreign titles. I shared with my high school classmates the Newberry winners, Judy Blume, SE Hinton and Katherine Patterson. By fourth year high school, we got hooked on Erich Segal's Love Story, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, The Little Prince to name a few. Among friends who read, I felt I belonged.

I am a reader. I am not alone.

Looking back, I wish we had more opportunities to read books in different genre and formats. I wished we had an adult reader to guide us. I regret not reading enough non-fiction, essays and poetry during high school. Freshman year in college surprised me with reading lists in the different content areas. I was in a shock. I recovered by finding solace and comfort in between the shelves and stacks of books at the Philippine Normal University Library. I kept up but missed my high school reading buddies. In time, I discovered dead writers make good friends too. Jane Austen wrote classy chic lit. Emily Dickinson's lyric poetry is so emo. Nick Joaquin knew early on that magic and reality can exist in one plane. No wonder I love JK Rowling so much.

So, to answer the question, I did not belong to any book club when I was in high school and in college. But, I reiterate, my friends during those precocious years were readers too.

My friend, Mona Dy. She will kill me for posting this. LOL
As far as this meme is concerned, I am glad to have done 1) moderation of a book club in school and 2) being a good friend to a voracious reader, Mona Dy, who gives me books as gifts once or twice a year.

Moderating a book club of young boys had been memorable since one activity we did was to write JK Rowling a letter. She replied. Well, her publisher, Scholastic made that possible. My friend Mona, to this day is a reading companion whom I share books I've read over coffee and long conversations about life in general. There are literacy groups I hold dear to my heart as well, namely, PBBY, KUTING and the LitCritters. The people in these groups are writers and literacy advocates whose  passion for reading have gone beyond book swapping and exchanges of reading adventures. I continuously learn a lot from them.

There's a long list of NGOs out there that set up libraries and reading centers all over the islands. Behind these NGOs are book lovers and readers who wish to share the gifts of literacy. I think the challenge for all book lovers and book clubs is this: to influence and inspire others who are outside their bubble to read. In a country like ours, where public libraries are challenged institutions, book clubs can bridge the gap between the readers who have limited access to books.


Peter S. said...

Hi, zarah! Oh, you're a librarian in Xavier School? I taught there for 2 years. Seems so long ago. Anyway, I'm sure you know Ruth De Luna. She's a very good friend.

So glad that you're promoting the love of reading to young minds!

Zarah C. Gagatiga said...

Peter - I quit in 2009. Went freelance, pursued and campaigned literacy advocacy for two and a half years. Back to full time work now in a small school down south :-)

If you're attending the 2nd ReaderCon, I'm hoping to meet you there.

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