When I was still working in the call center, I was lucky to have been part of a team that was considered crème de la crème. We were a tight-knit group and we celebrated each others’ birthdays. So when the July birthdays came up, one of my team members asked me what I wanted as a gift. It would have been easy for them to think of a gift for me since they know I love to read, but I said “anything in Tagalog” — since I read mostly in English, yet I believe in Philippine culture.
They gave me MacArthur and Kapitan Sino by Bob Ong. MacArthur was a fun read and I loved his informal style, but I’m already over images of poverty in the Philippines. It’s so easy to see in real life — I don’t need to read about it.
Kapitan Sino was also nice. I know someone who didn’t like the story so much, but I admire the story’s superhero main character who sacrificed himself for the good of others.
So after I finished reading those books, I told one of my new team members about it, and she told me about ABNKKBSNPLAko?!. Actually, my team manager had already mentioned that book before, but when my team member said in the simplest terms: “It’s about education” — I just had to go out there and buy it. When I went to National Book Store to buy it, I of course saw his other books like Stainless Longganisa and Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino? (Translation: Why Do Filipinos Read Books Upside Down?). So of course I ended up spending more than I had intended. How could I resist a cover design of writing implements and a blurb that says (translated from Tagalog): ” … stories by leaking pens about the importance of reading, reaching your dreams, and the correct way of writing.“?
Anyway, back to ABNKKBSNPLAko?!. The title, “Aba, nakakabasa na pala ako?!” with vowels omitted (Translation: “Wow, I can read now?!”), couldn’t be any better — because that’s where it all starts.
Now the story (supposedly autobiographical) is about a Filipino public school student who eventually gets to go to college to study Computer Science, only to lose focus and drop out. But he is able to muster the courage to enroll for a 2-year computer course at a technical school instead. In the end, he becomes, of all things — a TEACHER.
I am proud of this Filipino author. I believe in his writing as much as I do the World Classics. Even with all the colonial influences of the Philippines, why wouldn’t there be significant things that one could learn from literature in Filipino?