We must become a nation of book readers


A MOST glaring difference between public transport commuters in the Philippines and Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan-ROC and Hong Kong is that many if not most of the commuters in the other countries read books, magazines or at least a newspaper during their trip. It just also happens that these countries (although HK is not a country) are the most economically, industrially and even culturally successful in the world.

Commuters of public transport systems in those countries use their transport time learning new things or, in the case of students, mastering their lessons. This is one reason for their nations’ ability to excel as producers of products the rest of the world buys, producers of innovations that make changes in the way our human society live for the better. These countries are peopled by human beings whose knowledge has made them powerful.

They earn more for every hour of work than most of the average Filipinos. They have helped make their countries win the battle against massive poverty.

Our domestic specialists in how to reform our economy and improve our productivity as well as those observing the Philippines and commenting from abroad never fail to point out that we Filipinos must generally become a more educated and knowledgeable people. Yes, we do have great intellects who beat their peers in various disciplines, including in the sciences where we are supposed to be behind owing to our poverty. But it is true that we as a people are generally – we repeat for emphasis, generally – less informed and less knowledgeable than our counterparts in Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.

Because of this, there is a big to-do about reforming our educational system. The effort, time and money expended on these reforms, like the change to the K-to-12 system, are necessary and commendable.

But something must be changed in the personal and individual predilection of Filipinos – in general. They must be made to like reading.

They must be made to value and enjoy books and learning. They must be made to realize that their success as workers, their rise to a higher grade in their trades depends to a great extent on the increase and depth of their knowledge – so that they become professionals in the performance of their duties.

Saturday, April 23, is International Book Day. It’s a United Nations thing. UNESCO declared in 1995 April 23 as World Book and Copyright Day.

But it seems to be in Barcelona – a city that helped nurture our Propaganda Movement heroes who campaigned in books and magazine and newspaper articles for equal rights as Spanish citizens for Filipinos and, later, as an independent Philippine nation for our archipelago – that the Dia del Libro (The Book Day) was born. It was brought to the Philippines by the Instituto Cervantes in 2006.

April 23 also is the day two literary giants of world literature, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, died on the same day in 1616.

And April is also Philippine National Literature Month (as proclaimed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts or NCCA) because it is the month for honoring the great Tagalog poet Francisco Balagtas and the month that has the birth and death anniversaries of some of our literary pillars, namely, Emilio Jacinto, Paciano Rizal, Nick Joaquin, Edith Tiempo, and the very much alive Bienvenido Lumbera.

Thanks to Instituto Cervantes, the Ayalas, the National Book Development Board, the NCCA, and other cultural institutions, on Saturday, April 23, the Ayala Triangle becomes the venue of a new book experience.

Some 4,000 book titles, brought to the site by Instituto Cervantes and other groups, will be available for you to browse and buy. There are booths to enjoy.

Meanwhile, the organizers are now asking those who wish to be involved in next year’s celebration to register now for World Book Day 2017.


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    Let’s line up to be able to ride the Presidential Chopper.

    Nag-explain kasi, mali pa binigay na rason for Kris’ riding the chopper.

  2. Kari Normann on

    Most Filipinos are too busy with drama and kilig shows on TV rather than reading.
    And look where it gets us.

  3. If the LRT, buses, jeepneys, etc.. are that crowded always, how do you expect people to be reading during communte hours? Besides, they have to be on the lookout always because of snatchers trying to prey on them.

    But, if there is one unsolicited advice I tell people, especially the students, is to make it a habit of reading. Much can be learned by reading. Reading and learning for school purposes are nothing compared to what one can be learned from being a voracious reader.
    Learning by reading should be a continuous lifetime activity.

    In this connection, extra reading should be emphasized by schools and parents. Libraries should conduct outreach programs for those who would like to borrow books. A mobile library should be available in every city and town in the country.

  4. Having been “educated” in the system, my observation is: the “best” students are the ones who are able to memorize and vomit out their assigned ‘lessons’. Passing an examination is dependent on a students’ ability to recall, not on their ability to reason. This style of “education” is inimical to reading because reading to “learn something” will not improve your ability to recall. No one cares about the opinion of grade school student, or high school student or an engineering student, or a nursing student, or an accounting student. They just want the student to choose the answer from the multiple choice question. It is very difficult to use essay-type questions in the Phil where English is a second language. Easier to use multiple choice questions. No need to be able to reason, just memorize, and you’ll pass.

    • Respect Fool on

      Excellent observation!
      Laptops, cellphones, tablets, internet are all here to help access information in millions of websites. But then facebook, games, videos and graphics have stunted the intellect of our people. Citizens of Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan-ROC and Hong Kong are also hooked with these technologies, but I guess we spend more time enjoying them than using these resources to enrich the minds.