Reading books is one of our most basic sources of information. It’s a worthwhile idea that ought to pan out, except that, to some people a book is something which they are very uncomfortable with. Maybe Juan is so busy that he has no time to read.
As the world hurls itself forward in technological jumps, modernism, and upgrades delivering barrels of fancy gizmos and gadgets, the community of serious readers continues to be hardly overpopulated, with people maintaining only fleeting regard for a book. This is a generation less informed than it ought to be, a generation which does not see the compelling necessity to stay in the know because they have become obedient slaves to their cellphones and have embraced the online mob mentality.
While some books don’t come cheap, books are there for reading at public libraries for free. Some books are available at used book stores at an inexpensive price. It’s a misplaced priority when people can’t get hold of a book when they can pay an outrageous price for an ephemeral product. That’s a sure way to defeat ourselves.
We have become a nation of insentient robots. We lust for trash—things that we want to know, not what we need to know—and the gullibility with which we welcome all that an irresponsible section of the media feeds us. Ergo, what we get is an ill-informed vox populi. It’s the same mantra drug cartels say out—supplying what the users want. The more birdie powder in the market, the better for the business.
The good news is, things could turn around. There are promising signs of an uptick that may cause some significant dents into the high-tech craze. The push to increase awareness of the importance of reading a book has been attracting buzz. For that matter, a little shove should not hurt.
The push came from the Instituto Cervantes de Manila, the cultural arm of the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines. First introduced to the Filipinos in 2006, Dia del Libro follows in the tradition of Barcelona, Spain when roses and books are exchanged to celebrate St. George’s Day every April 23. It is also the day to honor the works of Spain’s foremost writer, Miguel de Cervantes, as well as William Shakespeare, thus marking April 23 as “World Book Day.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) wrote Spain’s classic contribution to world literature, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha or Don Quixote, a novel published in two parts in 1605 and 1616. It was initially viewed as a comic novel, then as a social commentary during the French Revolution, then as a tragedy, and in the 20th century the novel has become the foundation of modern literature.
Don Quixote’s influence was muse to succeeding great literary classics: Alexandre Dumas’ “Three Musketeers” in 1844, Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in 1884, and Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1897. From Don Quixote our vocabulary got richer with “quixotic” and “Lothario.”
Dia del Libro, or the International Book Day 2019, held at the Ayala Triangle Gardens in Makati City, was another sensible offering by the Instituto de Cervantes of Manila to lift reading skills beginning with kids. With top bookstores and publishing houses, the event aims to move beyond sheer lamentation and nostalgia for reading during the good old days before Nikola Tesla upswept the world with his revolutionist ideas. This tag-team effort hopes to become part of the next generation’s raised literacy.
Accordingly with the Spanish tradition, books and roses were exchanged during the event. A poetry recital of “Mi Ultimo Adios,” Jose P. Rizal’s literary legacy, collected interest among the young adults. On-the-spot art activities and games plus storytelling kept the children busy.
Flamenco music transported people into old Spanish days. Early in the evening, Spanish and Filipino independent songs injected some lilt into the audience’s steps as they headed for home.
A double-digit IQ could pave the way for (as Shakespeare would say) “as boundless as the sea” success. The number could be used as an ammunition against life’s real battles we will be confronted with. We can, or try to, be a rocket scientist or an Einstein, but not every one is expected to. At least, reading books will up the number, higher than so-so, enough to not cause nosebleeds when in the company of card-carrying Mensa fellows.
To discover the joys of reading a book is like finding the key to a bahay na bato that has been locked for many decades. Going past the massive door we see a collection of objects—mahogany furniture, porcelain, and bric-à-brac of that period. Step inside the librería and be awed by the treasure of books carefully catalogued and protected. You are in another world.
“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” Kafka was right.
Photos by Diana B. Noche
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