Tuesday, March 7, 2017
ONCE UPON A TIME IN SOME DARK PLANET of long ago, I was living in a semi-nomadic existence foraging inside garbage cans and the streets for scraps of steel or bronze or copper when I was eleven or twelve. Sometimes I just spirit it away from under the noses of busy machinists and masked welders in their shops. My best friend then was the scrap buyer and it provided me “funds” to buy Coke during recess time in school which was then a luxury. It was wrong but I am not ashamed to tell you about this.
I am the eldest in a brood of four sisters and one brother. We were not rich but we were kind of living a sheltered life. My parents were both cops and both were straight. Everyone could attest to their honesty in their job and they have a name to protect. Discipline in the home was sometimes harsh and, being the eldest, I was given a certain responsibility and the privilege of the cane, painful at first, but you get to like its familiar slap on your behind afterward and you feel better. It adds your resistance to pain which I found useful.
I was the wild kid and I liked the streets better than sitting inside a stuffy classroom. I became street smart and had unknowingly laid the foundations of a future crime boss were it not, on one of my class-cutting excursions together with a classmate, we came to visit a place where there were books everywhere and people were in trance to these. That was in Patria de Cebu, fronting the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, where it housed the temporary home of the Cebu City Library.
Why I was there? It was accidental. Of course, there was a bowling alley and a billiard hall nearby but the usual people I knew were not there so we decided to hang out inside this house of books out of boredom. I checked out some books and I kind of liked a children’s illustrated history book of the United States of America and another illustrated book of classical literature. I really was engrossed in my reading and forgot about everything about the streets when a bell rang.
We followed a queue of people returning the books to a long desk where there was an attendant receiving it. When my turn came, an older woman replaced the attendant and I came face to face – of all people – my own aunt! She was surprised to see me and seemed happy at my sudden interest of books. I was ready to tell a lie if she asked me how I came to be here. She checked at the books I read and gave it back to me and told me to bring it home. It was the start of my long romance with books and it changed my life.
Forty-two years fast forward, I visited the Cebu City Library again at its now-permanent home in a building shared with the Jose Rizal Museum and the Cebu City Historical Affairs Commission along Osmeña Boulevard. I was with my mother and another aunt and it was like seeing an old friend. There are now fewer people than was before. People do not read books nowadays, especially the younger generations. They spend more time in Facebook and the malls. I would not be surprised when books would just be an item in a curio shop.
I love Facebook even though there is no “book” in it. I just supply the book in my profile pictures where I am seen holding a book shielding half of my face, a typical unabashed self-portrait, the most literal expression of Facebook: a Face and a Book. I changed my profile as often as I picked up a book to read. Facebook then becomes my vehicle to spread this advocacy of reading real books, not PDF books! Someday, when all these technology fail, books would be worth more than gold. Shades of Book of Eli, is it not?
Books I read could be spine-tingling novels or a boring scientific research. Reading on paper is so different than reading on a monitor screen. I do not have to explain this in detail but in paper there are no glares. As simple as that. The time-worn pages of a book reflect a character all its own, never mind the DNA of people that stained some pages, but it sure has an aroma all its own, much more so when it just comes off the press.
I have read hundreds of books, sometimes re-reading it more than twice when I liked it very much or there is not much material to read and, each time, I left my mark at anywhere in the last pages: a nickname in long hand, with date and place. I even have my own private library where every book is rubber-stamped under the name of “Warrior Pilgrimage”. I am proud of my book shelf housing a lot of unread and dusty books and novels. I tried to remedy this by reading two books at a time but I am not in a hurry.
As I scanned the books inside the Cebu City Library, I saw a lot of books that grabbed instantly my interest. My aunt is not anymore running the library. She died many years ago. I can not bring some books out like the way I used to do. I guess I have to spend more time in the library, which is good in itself which I will do for as long as the city government will support its operation and existence.
How about you?
When would you rekindle your interest in reading a real book?
When would you visit and support your local library?
Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer