Filipino Reader Fridays: How I Became a Reader

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On August - 19 - 2011

As part of an event to promote the upcoming Filipino Reader Conference, I’ll be participating (or trying to) in Filipino Fridays, where Filipino readers discuss a weekly topic. For this week, I’m going to talk a bit about how I became a reader.

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t always been a reader, that I didn’t spring forth from the womb with my nose buried in a dog-eared paperback. I know that I read voraciously even before I self-identified as a “reader”: I was an only child, and there were no 24-hour cartoon channels back then, so I read whatever I could get my hands on, whether it be a priest’s memoir of his time in detention, or a parenting book that outlined the many ways children manipulate their parents (which I found very educational, for all the wrong reasons). At the time, I wasn’t reading “for pleasure” as much as I was reading simply to have something to do. I discovered comics soon after (and probably met my future editor Vincent Simbulan for the first time at the Goldcrest branch of Comic Quest), but for a long, comics made me feel like a second class citizen. Every issue seemed to be referring to events in some previous issue published before I was born (and there was no Internet to fill in the blanks–”See Avengers issue #5, True Believer!” doesn’t really fill any expository gaps).

But I remember the first genre novel I ever read, because that was when I became a reader. It was “The Sleeping Dragon” by the late Joel Rosenberg, and while it was probably not age appropriate for me at the time (the book had sex, violence, and curse words, and I was probably less than ten years old), it was eminently suited to introducing me to what would become a lifelong passion. After all, it was a story about a group of people pulled into an alternate world of fantasy. I devoured the book, then every other book in that series, embraced genre fiction and never looked back.

Maria Tatar uses the term “Enchanted Hunter” (as opposed to what she sees as the more negative “book-worm”) to describe avid readers, those who “fall under the spell of words, but also remain hunters, active seekers of those glittering portals to forbidden and enchanting lands.” (p.27, “Enchanted Hunters: the power of stories in childhood.”) I like that term, because it jives with my experience–I certainly didn’t feel passive because I loved to read, and my bookstore raids certainly shared many similarities with a hunt, including the urge to bring something home to feed my hunger, even if I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. And I did hunger for books–I still do–but I only equate books with food insofar as books are something that I need. Unlike food, I don’t believe you can ever read too many books–I don’t even think you can ever say that you’ve read “enough” books. Each book is like a single step: no matter how many I’ve already taken, the next one will always move me farther ahead.

5 Responses to “Filipino Reader Fridays: How I Became a Reader”

  1. Chachic says:

    Can’t remember the first genre novel that I read. It’s probably one of the Newbery books that I collected as a child. Like you, I read whatever I could get my hands on – usually books that I found lying around the house or those that I could borrow from friends. It wasn’t until I started working that I focused on genre fiction because that’s when I realized that those are the books that make me happy.

    Love the term Enchanted Hunter. :) I used to think reading was a passive activity but it’s really not. Yes to being active seekers!

  2. Monique says:

    I’m afraid this is the first time I’ve heard of “The Sleeping Dragon”. By “comics”, however, did you mean the glossy, imported ones with the superheroes? Because I was also into “komiks” (with the “k”) as a child, although they were the cheap, ink-transfers-into-your-hands-when-you-read-them local ones. Haha. :)

    • Paolo Chikiamco says:

      Not surprised – Rosenberg’s books aren’t international bestsellers or critical darlings, but for a long while, he was one of the authors whose books were always on NBS shelves. As for comics, I started off with Marvel comics — didn’t find a local comic that I could get into until Arre’s first run of “The Mythology Class”.

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Rocket Kapre is an imprint of Eight Ray Sun Publishing Inc. (a new Philippine-based publisher), dedicated to bringing the very best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in English to a worldwide audience by means of digital distribution. More info can be found at our About section at the top of the page.