Photo by Marrz Capanang

Ilonggos Should Give a Damn About Ilonggo Books

By glory moralidad

We often don’t read, but when we do, we read for pleasure. And we satisfy our “lust” for reading by, of course, buying books.

There’s just one problem, though: we often lust over Western-written books. While we should be thankful that we benefit from a wide selection of literature nowadays, many of the materials made available to us are from the West. We Ilonggos never had any pleasure in reading our very own books, do we?

Please prove me wrong.

Are there any Ilonggos looking for books that write about their background, culture and tradition? Are there even interest for stories that are set in Iloilo?

Those should be important questions to ask. By raising it, this should eventually lead us to another relevant one: who are we? More importantly, where the hell can we find these books of our “identity”, anyway?

To my dissatisfaction, I only found very few of them. It also doesn’t help that it can be tricky to get my hands on any of these books. Thus, it won’t be surprising if we encounter Ilonggos who have never been aware of any of these books’ existence before. Is that why we resort to American and British titles to stock our shelves?

Hey, if you ask me, that is just fine; it at least affords us the freedom to select the kinds of books we really want to read. However, if any of us want to uphold and sustain reading–and, by extension, learning–here in Iloilo, then we should be exposed to materials that are significant and relevant to our experiences as Ilonggos.

Ilonggo books are seldom promoted well and are, therefore, left unexplored by many of us here. Bringing quality Ilonggo stories to the forefront is vital as it would make us aware of our unique environment and cultural values. If you have ever felt that the understanding of, and love for, the local literary and visual arts is underpromoted, then one of the best ways we could start doing so is by simply promoting better access to these Ilonggo books. We need that attentiveness to understand our humanity and how we fit, as one people, into our own identity.

In the Philippines today, you will find the country’s book industry being enhanced by new talents every day. For a gluttonous reader like me, I look forward to more miscellanies in my reading selection – whether it be Western or Asian. Of course, I would still prefer works written by Filipinos and, most specifically, by my fellow Ilonggos.

Take, for instance, Leoncio P. Deriada, a fictionist, playwright and poet who has won accolades from the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, Cultural Center of the Philippines, and Asiaweek, among many organizations and publications. He has already authored four books: “The Road to Mawab and Other Stories” (1984), “The Dog Eaters and Other Plays” (1986), “Night Mares” (1988) and “The Week of the Whales”(1993). His most recent one is “People on Guerrero Street”, and it’s heartening to see a quick search of it revealing a Google Books link.

There are other Ilonggo writers who had already published countless books: Alicia Tan-Gonzales, Peter Solis Nery, John Iremil E. Teodoro, Melchor F. Cichon, John E. Barrios, Genevieve Asenjo, Marcel Milliam (who’s also known under the nom de guerre ‘Luis Batchoy‘) and Noel G. De Leon.

Most of them are Palanca awardees. Surprising, isn’t it?

Ilonggo literature is lacking indeed, but it’s not the “quality” we should be concerned about. Rather, we have a general un-awareness that these books exist. Yes, promotion and distribution system of these works are difficult, but I think it’s time to put this pretext to rest and start searching for innovative and alternative ways to get these books in the hands of Ilonggo readers.

I definitely would love to see more of the works of my fellow Ilonggo writers make their way to the bookstore shelves sitting beside John Green, James Patterson or, hell yeah, even J.K. Rowling.

Iloilo is excitingly rich with books or stories waiting to be written or told. At the risk of sounding like a garden-variety, Internet troll, let me put the last statement in all-caps: WE CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE THEM.

Glory Moralidad founded Bata Ako Ph, which aims to bring back the lost art of storytelling to children. She has also been nominated and awarded for her work on various children's books.