THE recent “expose” of Antonio Calipjo Go regarding a supposedly error-filled book for Grade 10 students has generated a lot of attention. But I believe DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro came up with a credible explanation. What Go examined, according to Luistro, was a draft of the book. And anybody who has published a book knows the whale of a difference between the first draft, the second draft and the final published copy.

If anything, the hullaballoo did serve to emphasize the importance of good books in molding the minds of the young. And even more important, the value of developing the reading habit.

Reading is so essential in one’s development that to acquire it early - and to sustain it - gives an individual a tremendous advantage.

My first boss when I joined the Ayala group in 1976 was Tomas “Buddy” Gomez III. He was concurrently head of Public Relations and Executive Director of Filipinas Foundation (now Ayala Foundation). Buddy later served as Press Secretary and Cabinet Officer for Regional Development (CORD) for Metro Manila during the time of President Cory Aquino.

Without his knowing it, Buddy became one of my role models. Buddy was about one of the most articulate guys I have ever met. He could discuss any subject under the sun. His secret: he read and read and read. If my reckoning was correct, Buddy was devouring one book a week.

Other guys who were also known as voracious readers were Ninoy Aquino and the late Labor Minister and Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople. Because of his huge stock of knowledge, Ninoy could hold audiences spell-bound with his speeches. Ople could dazzle with the wide vocabulary at his command.

Not known to many is the fact that Andres Bonifacio was another wide reader. Bonifacio attended the private school of Guillermo Osmena and attained the present day equivalent of Second Year High School or Grade 8 under the K-12 curriculum. But Bonifacio more than made up for his incomplete formal education by reading a lot.

Dona Elvira Preysler, proprietor of a mosaic tile factory where Bonifacio used to work was a warehouse keeper, recalled that during lunch breaks, she would often see Bonifacio reading a book.

When the revolution broke out, the Spanish authorities raided the German firm Carlos Fressel and Co. This was where Bonfacio last worked as warehouseman and later as sales agents.

The raiding authorities seized the following books – a number of them considered as subversive - among Bonifacio’s personal effects.

Top of the list were the two novels of Jose Rizal – Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. During that time, mere possession of these “subversive” books was enough to land anybody in jail.

Also among the “subversive books” were “History of the French Revolution” and “The Ruins of Palmyra: Meditations of the Revolution of the Empire”.

Also probably considered “subversive” was “Lives of the Presidents of the United States” because of the role of George Washington in the American Revolution.

Other books in the Bonifacio mini-library were the Holy Bible, Religion Within the Reach of All, Les Miserables, The Wandering Jew, and assorted books and pamphlets on international law, civil code, penal code and medicine.

Of course, the better known wide-reader among our heroes was Dr. Jose Rizal. Rizal got hooked into the reading habit after his mother, Teodora Alonzo, read to him when he was a child the story about the Moth and the Flame.

Inspired by this experience, Rizal later wrote for the Filipino youth a version of the Filipino folk tale “The Monkey and The Turtle”.

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