'They don't read Camus'

Manila — I have vague memories of when I first read a book, but what I can recall is that some time when I was in grade school, I got hold of a book of short stories written by Filipino authors that my dad read in the afternoons. One day after he put down the book to take his nap, I leafed through the book’s loose and torn pages and started reading.

The stories were wonderful. I was in a different world. I learned things that grade school didn’t teach me. Suddenly, school became archaic. In the next days, I read all the short stories even before my dad finished the book because I still saw him reading it while I searched for other books to read in the house.

I didn’t have many reading adventures on top of textbooks. My real journey with books started in college, as soon as I put down the Mills and Boons and Nancy Drews and fell in love with the humanities section of the university library. I read beyond the required readings and the library helped a lot since I didn’t have money to buy my own books.

This was so even when I started working, although I was able to buy books once in a while. Reading is a requisite for writers and journalists, and for those in the profession who are into books, the world is in harmony.

In one newspaper that I worked in, the editor gifted us news reporters with books, already in neat plastic covers. As the editor constantly asked us which books and authors we like, we didn’t hesitate to tell him. Some of us found copies of the books on our desks the next day.

But we didn’t want to take advantage so we went to the bookstores to hang out. There were times when we just leaf through and read a book we couldn’t afford, or hold the book while we walk around the aisles until we put them back and not buy.

When used bookshops became a craze, we tried selling books, knowing that another person might love the book. A friend found out that her book landed in the hands of a film actress, who was elated to learn that the book was owned by a journalist.