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A can of worms

And we're not talking about GMA's Monday night speech. We are the third largest nation of bookworms.

According to the NOP World Culture Score reported in the BBC, surveying 30,000 people in 30 countries from December 2004 to February 2005, Filipinos come in third in terms of average hours a week spent reading books, newspapers and magazines, while US, UK and Japan came in 23rd, 26th and 29th.

How did this happen, given that in a typical middle-class household, dusty encyclopedias rule the bookshelf like it is part of the furniture, I don't know. Next to encyclopedias, textbooks occupy the most available space. Baron's Booknotes on Les Miserables and Silas Marner. And probably, unfinished bestsellers like the Da Vinci Code and A Purpose-Driven Life gathering dust competing with the househelp's dog-eared Valentine Romances. In a corner a pile of Bulgar, Inquirer and Abante.

In India, which topped the survey, "A lot of [book reading] is aspirational, getting ahead in the rat race, getting admission into schools and colleges etc. It has less to do with reading, more to do with rote."

I think the situation is similar in the Philippines, where reading for reading's sake is not on the plate of Everyman. Seeing the pile of books bursting at the joints of my old bookshelf, a friend and classmate in my masters class quipped: "You've read all that?" The issue of reading for pleasure transcends class boundaries. Most who can afford to buy books and have the time to would play safe by procuring the latest bestseller, talk about it in their circles as part of social acceptance and wouldn't have the patience to scour for hours what other titles would have imparted them with.

The news did not bare details on what topics Filipinos generally read, and on what medium on hardcopy (I assume)--books, newspapers, or magazines, and the profiles of the population sample. I speculate, given the accessibility and affordability of newspapers--you can read anywhere there's a hawker, even grab a free tabloid inside an MRT station. In fairness this is good news because we still feed our minds with passion or poison.

There's digression on my part--we may be the third bookie nation on earth but what are we exactly reading?

*We're the second largest nation of TV watchers, clocking 21 hours per week in front of the idiot box. Now this is more convincing.

“A can of worms”