Being a Reader in the Philippines

Filipino Friday is a weekly meme that aims to promote the upcoming Filipino Reader Conference on September 14 and will be held during the Manila International Book Fair, SMX Mall of Asia, Meeting Room 2. Today’s topic is how hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines.

Oh yay, a post where I get to rant about my book-related frustrations. *rolls up sleeves* Sorry if this post will seem too whiny, I don’t usually focus on the negative aspects of being a Filipino reader because I want my blog to be a happy place. But here we go… If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you know that I’ve mentioned that we don’t have good public libraries over here. I’ve heard that we actually do have libraries but I’ve never been inside one. The only libraries that I’ve experienced were my school libraries. So that’s one big frustration but I’ve gotten used to that because in a country where most people struggle to put food on the table, books can be considered luxury items. Like I always say, I’m just thankful that I have a job that allows me to purchase the books that I want to read.

Another frustration is the availability of books. We have several major bookstores in the country – National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Fully Booked but their stocks aren’t that great. Fully Booked is my favorite local bookstore because they have the best selection but I’ve still encountered problems with reservations and orders. There have been times when I’ve reserved a book and I see it on their shelves before I get a notification from customer service about my reservation. When there’s something that I really want, I bug the hell out of their sales people, call every branch to inquire and sometimes it works.

The situation has gotten better though now that online bookstores like the Book Depository and Better World Books have free worldwide shipping. I can just order the books that aren’t available here and wait a couple of weeks for them to arrive. I also have a Kindle so I can order ebook editions of the books that I want if I can’t wait for an actual copy to be delivered or if it’s cheaper than the paperback/hardcover. I also get to read review copies on my Kindle when authors send ebooks or through NetGalley or GalleyGrab. I wouldn’t be able to read review books if not for my Kindle because US and UK publishers aren’t willing to send actual copies all the way over to the Philippines.

Other advantages include cheaper book prices if they’re available here. The books are priced lower than the price printed on the books. We also don’t have to wait for books to be translated here because most people read English books. English is the medium of instruction in schools so I guess that’s one of the main reasons why we don’t need translations. I consider that a good thing because I can read US, UK, Canadian and Australian books in their original form.

Oh wait, bringing up Aussie books reminded me of another frustration – I don’t read that many books by Filipino authors. Why? Because the kind of books that I read don’t get written by Filipino writers. I read a lot of young adult (YA) books and I’m jealous at how vibrant the Aussie YA community is. There are so many awesome Aussie YA books out right now (my favorite Aussie author is Melina Marchetta) and I keep wondering why we don’t have something similar here in the Philippines. So many authors write in English too and I think we’re all aware of how big YA is right now. I really don’t know why there aren’t more excellent Filipino YA books. If I was any good at writing, I’d come up with one. LOL.

Another thing that I love about the local scene is how active Filipino readers are both online and offline. I feel lucky that I’ve met blog and reader friends through Filipino Book Bloggers, the Filipino Goodreads group and even Flips Flipping Pages (when I drop by during some of their discussions). And I’m also getting to know more Filipino readers through the Filipino Friday memes. So while it isn’t easy to be a book lover in the Philippines, I still think it’s a lot of fun. 🙂 What about the rest of you, what do you think are the perks or difficulties of being a reader in the Philippines?

Filipino Friday: Why I Read

Filipino Friday is a weekly meme borrowed from Filipino Book Bloggers and currently hosted by the Filipino Reader Conference. It encourages all Filipino readers to interact and get to know each other. Regular blog followers, hope you enjoy reading my Filipino Friday posts! This week’s topic: the hows and whys of reading – how did you get started on reading and why do you read?

We all crave stories. Stories nourish our minds (and our souls) just like we need food for our bodies. As we grow older, we find different ways of getting stories – some people get their fix by watching movies or TV shows, some through books and others through gossip (Yes, I believe those are counted! They’re real life stories). I don’t know why reading has always been my preference. I guess my parents instilled the love for the written world early on. Whenever I look back on my childhood, it feels like books have always been present in my life. I had a favorite book, The Enormous Turnip, even before I can properly pronounce the title. Loved the Batibot books that they published back then as well as the Dr. Seuss books that my brother and I shared. That continued all throughout my school years. I devoured the fiction books available in our school library, read books that my parents were willing to purchase for me, borrowed books from friends and read the Sweet Valley and Babysitters Club books passed on by my cousins from the States through balikbayan boxes. I remember when my aunt, my mom’s cousin, found out that I loved to read and that I just read whatever was available around the house, she told my mom to buy Newbery-awarded books for me. I even consumed the books that were required reading all throughout my years in high school and college. When I started working, I went crazy with the book buying because yay, I had money to buy books. Also, no more homework so lots of free time to read! That was also when I discovered book blogs and online communities.

Image from Tumblr

I am fond of quoting a C.S. Lewis line here on the blog, “We read to know that we are not alone.” Although I heard from someone that it’s not actually a direct quote, I still think it perfectly describes my reasons for picking up the books that I read. I’m constantly on the lookout for books that can make me exclaim, “THIS is why I read!” because those are the ones that end up on my list of favorites. Those are the books that I could relate to, the ones where I’m totally invested in the characters to the point that they seem like real people to me and those are also the books that can make me laugh or cry depending on the scene portrayed. When I say I can relate to the book, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ve experienced something similar to what the characters are going through, it’s when the book awakens emotions and can really make me feel. I really don’t think I’m much of a writer and when an author writes about some of the things that I think about but can’t even articulate, that’s when I fall in love with the book. Those are the books that stay with me days or even weeks after I finish reading them, they’re the ones that make me have a “book hangover.”

Okay, I admit that I only encounter a handful of amazing books in any given year so I’d also like to say that I read for fun. It entertains and relaxes me to read. I bring books with me whenever I go out of town because downtime = reading time. I can read while traveling on plane or while waiting in line for something. My favorite reading location? The beautiful beaches in the Philippines. Sun, sand, a good book and a cold drink is my idea of a perfect vacation. Like I said, we all have different ways of being entertained and I’d like to think of myself as a simple gal – I enjoy eating (preferably while catching up with good friends), sleeping and reading.

So, so, so. That’s how I became a reader and those are my reasons for reading, what are yours?

ReaderCon Filipino Friday: Introduction

I’m participating in the Filipino Friday memes in preparation for the Filipino Reader Conference. If you’re a Filipino reader, feel free to join the weekly meme! It’s a way for all of us to interact and to involve even those who won’t be able to make it to the actual ReaderCon event. To my blog followers not based in the Philippines, I think I’ll mostly talk about things that you already know about me but I still hope you wouldn’t mind seeing my posts. This week’s topic is a getting-to-know-you kind of thing and we basically need to introduce the reader we are. I’ve always been a fan of epic fantasy and when I started the blog, I mostly read books under that genre. But then I quickly realized through blog and Goodreads friends that there are so many awesome books from other genres and I’ve expanded my reading tastes since then. Now I read all sorts of contemporary fiction (both adult and young adult), fantasy (fairy tale retellings, historical fantasy, epic fantasy and urban fantasy although not YA paranormal romance), magic realism, a bit of sci-fi and some historical fiction. I have a list of favorites that you can view here.

My comfort reads are books by my favorite authors: Megan Whalen Turner, Robin McKinley, Sherwood Smith, Kristin Cashore, Eva Ibbotson, Elizabeth E. Wein, Juliet Marillier, Ilona Andrews and Melina Marchetta. Or if I feel like a reading slump is about to happen, I’ll pick up something fun and light by Julie James or Jennifer Crusie. Let me know if you’ve read any of their books, I love chatting about my favorite authors. 🙂

In no particular order, here are some of the best books that I’ve read in 2011:
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Unsticky by Sarra Manning
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Saving June by Hannah Harrington
The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta
Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

And before I end this post, I think the ReaderCon’s co-presenters and sponsors deserve a shout out. Thank you, Vibal Publishing House, Inc., Primetrade Asia (organizers of the Manila International Book Fair), Flipside Digital Content and Scholastic Philippines.

Other places where I can be found: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Goodreads. What about the rest of you, what kind of reader are you? 🙂

The First Filipino Reader Conference

I’m ecstatic that I can finally announce the first ever Filipino Reader Conference here on my blog. It’s like the ultimate meet up for all Filipino readers, book club members and book bloggers. I’m so excited for this event and I’m hoping that the rest of you (well, the ones based in Manila) are looking forward to it as well. There really aren’t that many reader-centered events here in the Philippines and it’s such a shame because passionate Filipino readers are just waiting to be recognized. It’s past midnight and I’m not that articulate at this time of the night so I’m going to end this post by encouraging everyone who can attend the event to please do so, I know it’s a week day and for those who have work, we’ll have to ask permission to take the day off but I’m sure it will be worth the effort. 🙂

Check out the poster below for more details and expect to see more updates in the coming weeks.