28 July 2011

30 Days of Books: Day 23 - Why Bookstores Hurt

The entry for Day 23 got so long that I decided it should get this post all to itself.

Earlier posts in this meme: Days 1-7, Days 8-14, and Days 15-21. See you tomorrow.


Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

(28 July 2011) I'm between yearnings at the moment. I've either read or lost interest in unread books that interested me, and I haven't been interested in anything else lately.

I think I'm going through what Martin calls book fatigue, though my definition is probably different. I hear about something interesting--a series, comics, "serious" "literature," "fluff," science nonfiction--maybe see it on a bookstore shelf, read the blurb, think of the books that are like it, think of the books I already have, think of the books people will probably write in a similar vein, and then ask myself, "Well, what's the point of getting this one, then?"

I'm a bit worn down, too, by the feeling that I have to catch up with what everyone else is reading--ridiculous and bad for the self-esteem, but there it is--especially when film adaptations are forthcoming. It's similar to the feeling that I'm missing out by not having read all the "important" books that my language teachers' language teachers insisted one had to read to be considered cultured.

It's wonderful having access to all Manila's well-stocked bookstores today, and it's nice having a salary that would afford me several new books a month if I wanted. That's the thing, though; I don't want any, and that makes me sad. It's been about a year, I think, since I simply wandered into a bookstore, saw something interesting, and knew I just had to have it--that book was "The Arrival," by Shaun Tan--and I really miss that kind of obsession.

Part of me wants to go back to that point in my life when there were no decent stores for miles around. I would save my allowance for the occasional trip to Davao, where we would go into the only National Bookstore outlet in three or five surrounding provinces--how tiny that place looks now--and I would squat in front of the YA shelf for hours, agonizing over which would be the one book I'd get to take home. It often happened that I hadn't saved enough, so I'd have to wait until the next trip to Davao, during which I'd be hoping against hope that no one else had wanted that book while I was away.

If I couldn't buy books, I depended on rereading what I already had; on the school library, which was really good for a place so isolated; on friends like Mariel, who somehow always managed (and still does) to get her hands on good stuff--it was thanks to her that I read about Claidi and Harry Potter; and on birthday and Christmas gifts from people who knew how much I loved to read. I don't think my parents or grandparents know how much their gifts meant to me; I don't think I really did, either, until I was older.

Having grown up that way, that hungry, I felt a great rage, like a terrible injustice had been done to me as a child, when I walked into the new Fully Booked in my birthplace last year.

And knowing that I was once so starved for good things to read makes my current aversion to acquiring new books even more disturbing. Maybe I can make the highly dubious claim that today's books aren't as great. Maybe I've been letting others' literary chatter get to me, and I can no longer pick something without wondering whether people are talking about it on Twitter. Maybe I just got so stingy growing up that having thousands more choices today makes buying a new book even more difficult.

Yeah, I bet that's it. Books have entailed such huge personal (and not entirely financial) investment for so long that I'm afraid of making the wrong choice out of all possible choices--that's why the giant Fully Booked in Fort Bonifacio terrifies me. Even if my wallet can now afford it, my twelve-year-old heart still can't.

I guess until I get over that, I'll wait for something to seize me the way "The Arrival" did, piercing through all those layers of fear and getting to the little twerp who read because reading itself was awesome, and stories were just plain good.


All that said, I recently started reading George R. R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones," and I like it so far. That counts as something interesting I haven't read yet, right?

21 July 2011

A Reintroduction

This is more for myself than anyone else.

I was born in General Santos City, South Cotabato in 1987. My father was (and still is, really) an engineer at Dole Phils., Inc., and my mother, a homemaker overqualified for the local job market at the time.

I went to Dole Philippines School, which some people remember as an international school (it isn't anymore) and others think is in Bukidnon (which I will always rebut, and often vehemently).

After I finished first grade, my dad got a transfer to the Dole Fruit & Nut Co. in Fresno, California. We lived there for three years.

I often wonder if that time period is too brief for me to still have an accent, but there were other factors:
- English was my first language.
- Even before we left for the States, most of my playmates were Americans and/or English-speaking Filipinos.
- No one else my age spoke Filipino when we went to the States, not even the kids at the Filipino church we attended (where the service was in English).
- The three years abroad were what child development folks consider part of a person's formative years.
- When we returned, it was to a place where few people spoke Filipino/Tagalog; the local vernacular was either Bisaya or Ilonggo.
- When we returned, Americans and/or English-speaking Filipinos were the ones who were most friendly to me. I quickly associated the vernacular with bullies and so wasn't keen to be like them.
- All of the young adult books in our school library were in English.
- The only teacher who gave me one-on-one help in learning the national language was my Grade Five teacher, the first Filipino teacher I had upon returning to Kalsangi--which is probably why my grasp of the language is still Fourth-Grade-level.
- I wasn't an attentive student. Sometimes, I would look away from the board for a moment and then look back, only to find that it had completely changed--plus 20 minutes had gone by. I was really more interested in library books, computers, and imagining pulpy stories than in studying for any subject, much less Filipino.
- I was consistently in the top three of my class (I usually was and eventually graduated #3), so I didn't really feel pressured to work any harder.

We came home. When I wasn't out with friends or holed up somewhere reading, I was outside--biking, hiking, climbing trees, and swimming.

In my senior year of high school, I read a spare copy of "The Purpose-Driven Life" lying around the house and gave my life to Jesus.

I went to the Ateneo de Manila University for college. The greater brains, talent, and/or initiative shown by many of my batchmates there made me feel worthless. Church, prayer, journalling, blogging, books, philosophy and theology classes, shifting out of the School of Management, and joining the school's literary publication put me back on my feet.

In senior year, I became disenchanted with the church I was attending and frustrated that it didn't have adequate answers to my questions.

I read an essay by a guy I hadn't met yet and, under some compulsion, had an imaginary conversation with him while alone in my dorm room that night.

I graduated from college and got my first job at a different church, for two reasons: I was getting desperate, as there weren't many job openings that weren't outsourcing- , broadcasting- , or sales/marketing-related, and I wanted to see if this church might have the answers I sought.

After one year, I left, also for two reasons: I wanted to write more, but more importantly, my beliefs had become increasingly liberal. It was clear to me that my beliefs (and questions) didn't fit in with the teachings and culture of that church--or any other I had attended thus far--and that my employers deserved someone who truly shared their vision. I left as quietly as I could, without telling anyone there of my second reason, because I was afraid of being judged.

Between graduation and early this year, my self-esteem went up and down in what's fashionably known as a quarterlife crisis but could generally be described as me feeling wasted and rootless. I missed home with my family, fresh air, grass you didn't have to keep off, trees, insects, nearby sea, and big sky. I also fidgeted for something to keep me busy outside of books and writing (I've been too drained by work), until I found a craft I could really enjoy.

Also between graduation and early this year, I was reintroduced to the guy who wrote the essay I'd read and, over the course of the next few weeks, heard the other half of that imaginary conversation. We've been together two years, four months, and six days. Among many good things, he's helped me to believe in myself again.

A few months ago, I went to Singapore for a week with my family, and for some reason, I'm still not over it.

I have been working at this company for nearly two years (full come September). Last month, I was promoted to assistant editor.

Today, I'm bracing myself now for more changes at work. I'm looking forward to catching up with my brother and moving to a bigger apartment. I'm taking things with Martin as they come. I hope to get better at my new craft. I'm still unchurched, but secure in my faith. I still miss home or long for places like Singapore, but it doesn't get to me as it used to. I try not to regret my "wasted" youth, because it isn't over yet.

All things considered, I am happy, and thankful.

11 July 2011

30 Days of Books

I found this 30 DAYS of BOOKS meme through fellow Heights alumna Fidelis Tan and thought it would be fun. I'm not very updated when it comes to the "cool" or "highly acclaimed" stuff, so this list might be kind of dull for book snobs, but hey, I'm just sharing what I've got.

06 July 2011

Photo post: Punta Fuego

We went on the company outing last weekend to Club Punta Fuego in Nasugbu, Batangas.

I wish we could say that the whole time, we looked like this:

L-R: our editor Ikka, me, Vikki, and Pat.
(Photo from Vikki's Facebook album. Anything else I copied and then quick-edited in picnik are marked with ^v^.)

But most of the time, we were like this:

¡¡16 pages to fill by Tuesday!! 
(Elias, the Highlife creative director, is not shouting at us. I'm actually not sure what he's doing/saying in this shot. ^v^)

There were some fun moments, though. Vikki and I went swimming for maybe an hour and a half in this pool (click to enlarge), before retreating to our laptops again.

Then, after dinner, we brought our laptops to the Highlife staff's room to "relax" while doing more research. That's when the nighttime photo above was taken. For the record, none of us who had to work got drunk.

And in the morning, we got to walk around on the beach for a bit, before dragging ourselves back to our room to bang out some more werk.

More photos after the jump.

02 July 2011

Long Week

I was wrong to say that I wouldn't have a week like the draining one I had at the end of May. Most of June has been one "last week of the month" after another, and here we are at the start of July, making good on our jokes that we would be typing poolside and giving everyone murderous looks during the company outing.

Well, more like sitting up in the hotel bed, so that I can see the sea just beyond our balcony. I did get an hour or two's swimming yesterday in that much-vaunted infinity pool, at least. And I think we still had fun--more fun than if the current subjects of our ire had been along on the trip, at least.

I think I will be right this time, though, to say that these draining days will end soon, or at least take a new shape for me. We hired someone to take over much of the grunt work, but there's also other stuff happening within a month or so that will change things.

I guess I can't say a lot until there's been some kind of official announcement. It just feels like there have been too many of them to process within the past two months, and a little strange that I'm taking things better than I thought I would (or I just think so; not a bad thing to think, though).

What else? Thursday, I sent off this birthday card I made for the greatest person I ever interviewed. Call me inspired, awed, honored, starstruck--take your pick, I guess. With all the neat stuff he's bound to have received, though, I don't expect him to see, much less like my little token (especially considering how sloppy some of the cuts were), but I was happy just to see it leave my hands and enter a courier's. I hope the man had a great day.