What book got you into reading?
It would have to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. It was a required reading for Literature class in college. I love magic realism. After reading it, I was led to some of his books like “Of Love and Other Demons” and “Love In the Time of Cholera”. Reading has become extensive since then. With friends who are literary buffs too, I was led to authors of the same genre, South American writers such as Laura Esquivel “Like Water For Chocolate”, Isabelle Allende then of course there are the poets Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda, of whose poetry were like a favorite past time.
Was it just magic realism genre that got you into reading?
I scanned through my old Multiply account and found out the books that I’ve read in college included Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Wurther”, Ranier Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”, John Fowles’ “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”. Judging from the selection of books, I guess you can dub me a romantic.
Were you much of a reader before college?
Nope. I did, however, collect Marvel, DC and some Filipino comics. High School was when Archie Digests would be passed around the classroom. The girls in my class were into Sweet Valley High. I even tried reading some out of curiosity. No serious reading, really. It was only when I met people in college that I got into reading some thought provoking books like Jostein Gaarder, Camus and Sartre. It was my violin teacher who spoke so much of philosophy during violin lessons. It sparked curiosity and interest.
You seem to read anything that comes your way. How do you handle books with a bad storyline/writing?
Simple: I put it down. My bestfriend and fellow book lover once told me this: Life is too short to read bad fictions or a bad books. Sounds like a line you’d see on bumber stickers, but true nonetheless. I read for the sheer fun of it. If I am not happy with what I’m reading, I don’t see why I have to go through the ordeal, noh?
Perhaps I started out in a bad time or that the chair is too comfortable that my brain won’t listen to what I’m reading. This really happens! There are books that were shelved for years and there are books with one too many false starts but with endings that deserved a high-five with the author. Sometimes the will to keep on reading despite the struggle from an author’s weird voice comes with telling one self that there’s an ending that will turn out to be quite a slap in the face.
At times I do put it down. It’s either Facebook or Face a Book for me, really.
You deal with kids as a music teacher. Have you ever tried to sneak in your reading habit into theirs?
I don’t remember dishing out a reading material to my much younger students. One student surprised me one time by asking me if I love reading books. I told her I do and she asked if I read Geronimo Stilton as she has all 40+ which she’s read and shelved at home. I take on an interesting talk with this student since then, being only 9 years old, widely read and undeniably smart; it was a spark, a camaraderie among bookworms and it seemed to be a highlight of my week. I don’t require them to read but I take an interest when they do talk about books. I am not like my college professors who goes on an exhausting discussion about who and how I should read a certain work of fiction.
It’s different with my students who are in their teens though. These are the ones who are recipients of my most-loved collections. I find myself telling them “I can’t believe you haven’t read so and so!” I didn’t realized that I have been shoving piles of fiction on their lap and somehow I feel proud about it. And yes, I have somehow sneaked reading into their life. They need it! Music is afterall akin to story telling, and I want to hear an interesting story through their playing!
What do you think is the biggest difference between the reading culture in Brunei and Philippines?
The fact that there aren’t as much bookshops in Brunei compared to how much there are in my province has set a great difference in the case of “reading culture”. In the Philippines, you don’t have to be financially-able in order to read books as there are bookshops that sells pre-loved books for as low as 50 cents and there are also those that sells brand-new, mainstream titles at expensive prices. The bookshops that sells books at super affordable prices are my favorite spots during college days. Sometimes one can just sit on a nook or order coffee in the attached cafe and pore over the pages of your recent find.
When I arrived in Brunei, I realized just how much “saving” had to be done just so I can buy the book I’ve been eyeing at Booker International or Best Eastern or Paul and Elizabeth. I actually thought that there is less reading culture here in Brunei. As I walk in an empty bookshop in Gadong, I thought there was no reading culture at all! Not until I met people from B:READ, and not until I met students who are big readers themselves but don’t have the means to buy books.
With the increasing number of my literary collections, the circle of readers among my students expands too! Then they’ll go on telling their friends about this amazing book by John Green or Daniel Handler or John Corey Whaley! I am getting ahead of myself but I know with these 4 or 5 students who took on the same passion for books as I have, reading is not a lost art at all!
Recommend us some Filipino literature!
I recommend Jessica Zafra who wrote “Twisted” series if you’re up for something that’s spot-on funny about the scuzzballs in the political scene or just about the plain horrors of urban living. A fiction writer, columnist and TV host, Jessica Zafra promises a great deal of fun read right from her first “Twisted” book which was published in 1995 all the way to its 9th.
I also highly recommend Ian Rosales Casocot’s “Heartbreak and Magic”. There is something to love in each of the 8 short stories that are written with great command in prose, deep understanding of heartbreak and its magical outcomes. This is the kind of book that any person, regardless of age, will enjoy. My favorite among all is its closing piece “The Sugilanon of Epiphania’s Heartbreak” (‘sugilanon’ translates to ‘chronicle’.)
Some Filipino writers of international acclaim are Man Asian Literary Prize winner Miguel Syjuco (“Ilustrado”), Jessica Hagedorn (“Dogeaters”) and Samantha Sotto (“Before Ever After”).
Lastly, Dr. Jose Rizal’s magnum opus “Noli Me Tangere” (“Touch Me Not”) and “El Filibusterismo” (“The Filibustering”) are required readings for every secondary student in the Philippines. He is our National hero, after all! Reading these powerful works of fiction just proves his dictum ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ true. If anyone should attempt any work by a Filipino writer, Rizal’s is on top of the list. It is through his brave attempt that Philippines gained freedom from three centuries of captivity from the Spaniards.
Franz is a currently a violin teacher at Expressions Music. His blog can be found here.