Why I Read

I got this news from Newsroom Barkada in his post entitled English Proficiency: Declining in Philippines: Survey. According to Newsroom Barkada:

“The survey conducted on March 8 to 14 used 1,200 respondents and had a margin of error of 3 percent. It was commissioned by the ‘’Promoting English Proficiency Project,'’ an initiative led by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club.”

The study made me remember of what one of my professors in college told is during class. She said, “Although the Philippines has a high literacy rate we do not promote nor cultivate the culture of reading.”

Maybe the promotion of a culture of reading is the key to remedying the decline of our proficiency in English and maybe emancipate the individual minds.

How could this be attained?

Perhaps by making the books more accessible to everyone. A visit to the book store will show that books are expensive in the Philippines. Bibliophiles have become patrons of second hand book stores and keenly aware when a sale is about to happen. Still, even second hand book stores and sales cannot supply the much needed book for the regular citizen on the street.

(i) One solution would be to lower the cost of producing or bringing books.

(ii) Another would be to experiment with other formats of reading material.

(iii) An another would be to develop the exsisting local libraries make them more friendly and maybe more tech savy.

Why read?

Or more aptly phrased, why do I read?Instead of saying the pluralistic benefits of reading book I will try to list the down the personal ( selfish) reasons why I read.

First let me start by telling you how I got introduced to reading books. I grew up in a family compound along Harvard Street. This part of Cubao has street names like Yale, Purdue, Columbia and West Point - all names of famous academic institutions. The reason for this was at one time the place was called University Village before it was swallowed up by commercialization. Anyway, by the time the family moved into the compound the place was already commercialized, jeeps were traversing the streets and anyone could walk along the street. Our mother afraid for our safety never let us out of the compund. As a result my siblings and I were left to fend of for ourselves inside the house. There was TV of course (at this time there were only three channels and no cable), games and books.

The books some second hand and some brand new. There were the olf fairy tale books, a number of LadyBird Books, a Spanish language edition of Katzenjammer Kids comic from Bangkal, and others. Once the chores were done and I got tired of the games and the tv shows there were this stack of books to discover. I do not remember my mother nor my father forcing us to read. They had the books there and we slowly came to read as a leisure activity.

Jumping 30 or so years to the present, I find myself typing this post in my room, surrounded by shelves of books. A great number I bought and others I received as gifts through the years. It is an odd book collection from Filipiniana to favourite works of fiction to history and political books to books about keeping fish in an aquarium or in a pond, a couple of dictionaries, and some books on books.

Reading for Pleasure

I read for pleasure. Enjoying a story, whether it be a fantasy a historical fiction or even if its history. Reading allows me to enter that world and live in it. In a way it is a form of portal, it takes you places beyond one’s reach - across the world or in the land of a boy named Temujin who would be known to many as Genghis Khan. It allows you to be with Bilbo as crawls up and sneak into the lair of Smaug the Dragon. Or even be witness to life in the Philippines during the time of Rizal. By reading one also gets to meet an interesting array of people both real and fiction. You get to meet James Clavell’s Toranaga and the true-to-life Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. Entertained by a story whether it be character skecth or a mystery story. This type of reading one reads at a leisurely pace. It is a mental treat that is best enjoyed slowly.

Reading To Learn

I also read to learn and re-learn things. It may be how to set-up an aquarium or how to cook the mighty steam prawn dumpling or how to read a church or how writers write. Books are endless source of information both fiction and non-fiction. From how the Mafia works in Godfather to the reality of politics and revolution in George Orwell’s Animal Farm to Filipino society during the Spanish Colonial in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterisimo or how to behave in the book Urbana Y Feliza.

Perhaps whether fiction or non-fiction books serve both to entertain and inform. Konrad Lorenz’s King Solomon Ring or Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist or Frederick Shodt’s Manga Manga.

I once read in a book someone said that whenever I see someone riding bicycle I see hope for humanity. I feel the same way about books or reading material in its various forms.

6 Responses to “Why I Read”

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  1. Apr26

    Manuel L. Quezon III » Pushing the envelope

    Said this at 12:05pm:

    […] caffeine-sparks on bilingualism, the dominance of one language in intellectual discourse, and language prejudice. Taking off from recent cases over agonizing over language, baratillo books cinema @ cubao eloquently explains why he reads (and alas, why is it too few do). […]

  2. Apr26

    Bong A

    Said this at 3:28pm:

    I actually came across a study conducted about ten years ago where the researchers were able to link fluency directly to reading. In other words, people who do not read may still be able to achieve some level of literacy, but fluency is something that comes out mostly as a result of reading.


  3. Apr26

    Madame Chiang

    Said this at 7:34pm:

    A few months ago I summarised some stats from the Economist 2006 ‘World in Figures’…

    ..’the average Filipino spends 21 hours a week watching TV, second only to Thailand where they spend 22.4 hours a week in front of the box.. However there is slight redemption in the fact that the average Filipino spends 7.6 hours a week reading…India is top with 10.7 hours a week followed by Thailand and China…Hong Kong comes in at 12th position and the UK and the US don’t even figure in the top 17 countries. Filipinos also spend more time on the internet (9.8 hours a week) than the average Brit or American who come in at only 8.8 hours a week.’


  4. Apr26


    Said this at 8:30pm:

    Bong A,
    I would agree with that based on personal experience reading tends to build up your vocabulary and at a certain point inspire one to learn a new language. Sigmund Freud was inspired and did learn Spanish in order to read Miguel De Cervante’s Don Quixote.

    Madame Chiang,
    I also encountered those set of figures. I was wondering what type of materials were read. What were the favourite things read broadsheets, novels, self-help books. I remember in one my class about the book publishing industry one the biggest regularly printed periodical in the Philippines was and probably still is the Sunday Missal.

  5. Apr27


    Said this at 6:27pm:

    all good points. i love reading and can’t imagine life without it. i got started pretty late— about 13 years old but my parents made it a point to get me to read. and i’ve loved reading ever since. we in fact have a small library at home, which has all sorts of books.

    my point is this: parents ought to start their children on loving to read. even if they have to read to them before bedtime (which my parents never did). and make them read anything and everything. heck, i started with mysteries, edgar alan poes, hardy boys, dracula etc. etc. my monthly reading list includes at least php2k of comics, on top of other “more serious” business, technology or just a plain old novel. btw, the internet also helps a lot— you get a lot of good reading material from the internet like the wikipedia. or fanfiction and also websites for various interests.

    i guess these days, children get hooked on harry potter and such and yes, even adults (and not just the parents) get hooked to it, from what i hear. ;)

    just my two cents

  6. Apr29


    Said this at 7:17pm:

    I would agree with you. :)

    One of my first books was a comic book and I still read comic books and comic strips. :)


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