TO READ is to be moved.
Yet, surveying the books remaining at home that have survived purges and “Hunger Games” (as a former student called those occasions when I gave away books to classes), two categories emerge, going by appearance: obelisks and sponge cakes.
Like cakes whipped from eggs and butter, these novels, comics and illustrated books are soft all over, from cover to spine and page edges, obviously not just read but much reread. Sponge cakes open by habit to pages marked by pen and striking fancy, frowzy and matey from familiarity.
The obelisks are studies in dignity at first dusting, with nary a crease or dent. On second glance, I feel the pathos of holding a book I have barely read or even opened.
Read for instruction and rarely for pleasure, obelisks are untouched by obsession. I travel or ruminate in the toilet with sponge cakes; I require a table and a good light to open an obelisk’s pages and make notes. I take a sponge cake to bed; an obelisk puts me to sleep.
Physically moving books to outwit termites with a gusto for paper, I assembled the obelisks on a table, where they eyed me reproachfully like overaged babies still trapped in too tight christening suits.
Many of the obelisks are Filipiniana, a number on Cebuano studies. Nearly two decades ago, after editing an article written by Dr. Resil B. Mojares for the “Cebu Journalism and Journalists,” a magazine published during the Cebu Press Freedom Week, I left the newsroom and crossed over to the Cebuano Studies Center, then located at the P. del Rosario St. campus of the University of San Carlos.
I found his book, “Cebuano Literature,” continued reading his treatise on the symbiosis of Cebuano literature and journalism and bought a copy of my own. Mojares was honored as a National Artist in 2018. His “pioneering work” surveying Cebuano writers and their milieu is now out of print, according to Dr. Hope Sabanpan-Yu, current Center director.
“There is an urgent need for enlarging the present critical awareness of vernacular literature in the Philippines,” writes Mojares. “... the Filipino, by virtue of an education weighted in favor of the assimilation of western culture, has found himself alienated from his native literature.”
Bought in 2002, my copy opened to a yellowed brochure of the San Carlos Publications; an official receipt for P65, the cost of a paperback copy in 2002; and a postcard of a central Kuala Lumpur bookshop discovered by S., guided by her inimitable nose for reading.
A deep lateral crease mars the face of the Father of Cebuano Letters, Vicente Sotto, on the cover of my copy. Even in 2002, despite my unknowing, reading about the Cebuano already moved me.
June 15, 2019
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