Sunday, April 27, 2014

Confessions of a bibliophile

I have an inordinate fear of splurging my money up to the last cent when I am on my own in a bookshop. This is my malady. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to call my love of books a malady, much less an affliction or a disorder. But for want of a more accurate, scientific description of my condition, I’ll risk of admitting it: I am afflicted with a seemingly incurable malaise called bibliophilia.

I was in my 20s when I discovered that I have bibliophilia; and gladly, I welcomed it. But you see, my affliction comes in blurry stages marked by a long hiatus during college.

As a child, I was pampered with books; toys then were a rarity in our house. It had to be so because my mother, a stern history teacher reminiscent of Miss Minchin, called the shots. My affable father had to take the back seat when it comes to spending. My mother would always bewail that toys were a waste of money and education must be given top priority even at an early age.

I did not grow up reading Dickens’ classics though. It was always about Bible stories. Old Testament characters like Abraham, Moses, David, and Joseph to the New Testament stalwarts like Jesus and his disciples were the meat of my biographical readings at 5 years old.

Devouring books

Soon, I studied the technique of fast reading. I devoured one book after another in successive order. My appetite for learning seemed insatiable, and my memory was like a sponge absorbing every granular detail of the Bible.

Then came the “Daily Vacation Bible School” or DVBS. It was a one-week affair, a fun religious activity held every summer for evangelical kids. For me, this event was a feast. While most of the kids did not take this summer camp seriously, I always saw this as an opportunity to test my comprehension from what I had been reading over the years. And so I grabbed this opportunity by the forelock.

One of the highlights of DVBS was the bible quiz competition. This was sort of “The Battle of the Brains” show we watched on television. One kid gets to represent his class for this competition. And so naturally I was the chosen one in our class. Obviously, my early readings proved useful. I boned ever question, ransacked all the ribbons, and brought home the bacon.

In hindsight, I came to the realization that it really pays to read. I never pictured it as some kind of a task just to please my mother. After all, like my G.I. Joes and toy soldiers, books could be fun too.

90s band explosion

But as I grew older though, my fascination for biblical characters plummeted and it even took a steeper dive in high school. And so was my interest for books.

The 90s band explosion took me by surprise. I was in my second-year high school when the Pinoy rock icons known as the “Eraserheads” released its critically acclaimed album, “Circus.” Suddenly, their hit song “Magasin” was all over the radio.

By this time, my interest for books shifted dramatically to guitars. Then out of nowhere, I was already in a rowdy rock band desperately imitating a bunch of inebriated rock heroes of our time. This went on until the early years of my college life.

Band life was to become my proverbial lull - the calm before the big storm brewing ahead.

As the surge for Pinoy rock music died down, I could hardly recognize who I was. I was left with no ambition whatsoever. My life was in a total wreck. Along with my passion for books, my academic standing too was gravely affected. My mother, in utter frustration, nearly gave up on me. But still she wanted me to finish college in a prestigious school. I begged off. I really felt sorry for her because she raised me to become an educated person that she was and yet I disappointed her to no end.

Rekindling lost passion

To compensate for my lost years, I’ve decided to take the road less taken. I enrolled myself in a local college whose only claim to fame is its low passing percentage in board exams. This decision proved to be my catharsis and a turning point in my life.

My experience was jaw-dropping. Most teachers, who dubbed themselves professors, are square pegs in round holes, in other words - misfits. Once, a political science professor pleaded with me not to attend any of his class because I ask too many questions. And alas, I got the highest mark for not attending his classes.

For almost 2 years I’ve spent in that institution, I hardly attended classes. But I refused to bury myself in the graveyard of lost opportunities. Not again, I said to myself. Instead, I saved all my allowances to buy Filipiniana books in Manila then shipped them all the way to Basilan.

The very first book I read during my “sabbatical leave” in college was the voluminous “The Democratic Revolution in the Philippines” by Ferdinand E. Marcos. In no time, I rekindled my long lost passion for reading. With fiery vengeance, I recaptured the wonder of my childhood dreams.

I finished my bachelor’s degree in absentia and with flying colors even, so to say. That’s when I decided to take up law in Manila.

Law school proved to be toxic but a nest for bibliophiles. A few years later, I am proud to have my own library – a seal of my undying love for books, a proof of my affliction, or my addiction. But now is not the time to historicize because I have two young kids under my close ward - two kids whom I will gladly share my affliction with.

My eldest is showing signs of early inclination to writing. I am doubtful whether I am or we are doing the right thing. It’s actually a red flag to encourage her to read and love books more. Reading and writing are, of course, an unbeatable team to beat.

This is my confession. -