by Bryan Meniado
It’s been a while since I last wrote for Bookbed. My last “Why Filipinos Should Read” was published two years ago! But while I may have lay low on reading, the books are there, and new ones keep coming. A real tsundoku! *laughs*
Moving on, one of the silver linings of this almost year-long quarantine is people having the time to explore old and new interests. And as for me, I grew my collection of Filipiniana titles. In fact, it is growing quite so steadfastly that I decided to open a library! I named the collection after my brainchild and baby, Bibi Mangki #thereadingmonkey.
This is also one of the reasons I’m back. I am writing again to revive my reading track and be true to the ideals of Bibi Mangki and Bookbed. So once again, here comes Why Filipinos Should Read. For the first time, I am not featuring a particular title, but instead an entire genre and an almost esoteric reading niche that is Filipiniana, and why we should read such.
What is Filipiniana?
According to Isagani Medina*, Filipiniana refers to Philippine-related books and non-books materials, such as culture, arts, fashion, and others. The materials may be produced inside or outside the Philippines by Filipino or non-Filipino authors. Despite this definition, there are still discussions among Filipiniana collectors and enthusiasts on what really constitutes Filipiniana.
When it comes to books, some consider it as an exclusive category of publications with deemed historical, cultural, and artistic value. But some argue that it is more inclusive of the others which still fall under the category of “Philippine-related.”
In my opinion (and take note that I am no expert in Philippine studies), I am more inclined to the latter. I think that everything Filipino or Philippine-related is Filipiniana, may it be Noli Me Tangere or your favorite Wattpad story.
Relearning history by reading Filipiniana
This is a recurring theme in Why Filipinos Should Read. It always pops up because I personally love history. I love reading about the juicy and in-depth details, narratives, and thought processes of our intellectuals, national heroes, and early thinkers.
I will not get tired of saying that history goes beyond the forgettable names and dates we learned from school. By reading Filipiniana, we can rediscover history firsthand from primary and secondary sources, and not just rely on textbooks.
Now I am not saying that our school textbooks are wrong—it’s that we are missing a lot if we solely rely on them. Reading a variety of Filipiniana teaches us to interrogate our past, and to rectify our erroneous assumptions and interpretations of history, if necessary.
Giving intellectual tradition growth and glow by reading Filipiniana
Before anybody violently reacts, this is again not to say that our thought and intellectual traditions lack the rigor. It does not mean that our early thinkers, scholars, writers, and authors were not at par with their foreign counterparts.
In fact, we have a lot more of gifted storytellers, writers, and theorists in Filipino intellectual tradition than we can ever account for.
But there also lies the nuance of the Filipiniana. We cannot completely detach from or repudiate our colonial roots and influences. It is not bad to embrace such roots. It is a given reality that we have inherited so much from the western thought because we were once a Spanish and an American colony. Almost all our early thinkers were foreign-trained, or at least read on western thoughts such as Rizal, the Ilustrados, or even Bonifacio (whom many of us stereotype as war freak and hot-tempered, when history says he was quite the reader as well).
Embracing foreign tradition is not bad. We can still read and appreciate diversity in literature. But it would also be great if we develop our own and further appreciate our history, culture, and society. That would be the greatest gift of the Filipino to the Filipino, wouldn’t it be?
Strengthening honesty, humility, and empathy by reading Filipiniana
I want to share about what I’ve watched and learned from an episode of Mr. Leloy Claudio’s Basagan ng Trip series with Chiqui Agoncillo regarding how reading history can help us spot biases. Mr. Claudio, the host, used to teach history and literature at the De La Salle University, while Miss Chiqui is the first ever female summa cum laude from the prestigious UP Department of History.
In that episode, Miss Chiqui summarizes the importance of knowing and studying history into three wonderful words: honesty, humility, and empathy.
Honesty, she said, should be intrinsic in any profession or craft. Humility, on the other hand, is the ability to acknowledge and to accept that there are still universes to learn about, and that no matter how much you think you’ve learned, the reality of being sometimes wrong still remains. And as for empathy, reading people’s narratives and experiences should be able to put you in their shoes and look at things from a different light.
Reading Filipiniana nurtures our sense of belongingness. In Benedict Anderson’s words, it also extends our imagined community and makes it more inclusive, accepting, and empathetic. Through this, it paves the way in cultivating our humanity and our Filipino identity toward our ongoing project of nationhood. So going back to the titular question of Why Filipinos Should Read Filipiniana, we should read Filipiniana because we are Filipino.
*”Collection Building: Filipiniana”, In Developing Special Library Collections, Filipiniana: Proceedings (1992) by Isagani Medina
Anything to share? :)