For today’s Filipino Friday, we are asked “How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader (e.g. availability of books)? What are positive aspects of being a reader based in the Philippines (e.g. book prices are lower here than they are abroad)?”
It wasn’t until I was working when I found out how hard it is to be a book lover in the Philippines–especially when the books you like to read are not bestsellers.
Growing up, I had a limited budget for book-buying; so every trip to the bookstore was a special one that ends with me having found one book. When college came, I was able to make my own financial choices and I was a bit more liberated in buying books. But since books became more expensive, and my money still came from my parents, I had to hold back. And so trips to the bookstore were treated as a way of casing the books, picking the ones I really like–and finding ways to hide the other books from view so I could come back for them when I had the money. There was, of course, two exceptions…
In high school, I started reading a series by Christopher Golden called Prowlers. I’ve mentioned the story here before. That’s the first exception. The second one was also by Christopher Golden–a mini-series called The Lost Slayer. Of the four books, I had the first, the second–and the fourth. It wasn’t until I was already working that I found the third book at a bargain bookstore.
And then all bets were off as I has already started earning my own money. I would spend thousands of pesos a month for books. By my third year working, I was running out of books to buy. Not because I had bought all of them. I’m not made of money. But because the books (and comic books) I want to read are not available here in the Philippines. The first time I asked a customer service personnel to ask about a book and be met with a blank stare, I was flabbergasted. What kind of a bookstore doesn’t have a widely-released book?
Goes to show you mustn’t take what you read off the internet at face-value. Wide release means it’s getting a release in the country it’s being published in. And unless it’s Harry Potter, or Twilight, or something that’s about to get made into a movie, it’s going to be tough to buy. Sure, in college, I was introduced to A Different Bookstore, Power Books and Fully Booked. But even with their more genre-friendly shelves, a lot of the books I like still weren’t getting releases here in the Philippines. Or, if I’m extremely lucky, I’d find one of the two copies the specialty bookstores ordered.
And don’t get me started on the many times I’d have something reserved/ordered–only to find a copy of the book in the bookstore’s shelves with none of the salespeople being any wiser about its existence.
But even with these frustrations, at the end of the day, I still love reading. And I’m not going to stop reading just because of complications. It’s either I find a different way of getting a book (like asking a friend who is visiting abroad to buy a book for me, or ordering it online), or I give books I didn’t like the first time a second chance to see if my opinions would change.
So that’s my story. Now tell me what you think: is it easy to be a reader in the Philippines? Or do you, like me, find it a bit frustrating at times?