quaint little rutted bucket

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Here's my first minor essay for ENGLONE--see, with little passion and dedication, I can still churn out pretty good compositions. The structuring is still fscked, so pardon that, but among others, it's actually something pretty good.

Required Reading: A testimonial on how reading can affect the course of our lives

I was a born reader. That is, if you are to believe any inkling of what my mum says of me.

I started reading at an early age; a full year even before my peers in nursery class learned theirs. If my memory doesn’t fail me, I was around four at that time, and my first taste of reading, apart from my basic “Abakada” book, was a Snoopy and Woodstock guide to things that fly—a perfect combination that was in itself, can be considered an omen of what I was to become in the future: a demi-geek in denial.

I was completely absorbed by that Snoopy book, a lot of it largely by the fascinating nature of airplanes. Remember when older people asked kids on what they wanted to become when they grew up? My answer was always immediate, in a manner that was enthusiastic as it was interesting: a pilot. And to think it all started from reading.

About a year after I had learned to read, my parents decided to purchase more books for me. It was then I encountered my very first encyclopedia: a Sesame Street-inspired encyclopedia that contained activities and lessons that preschoolers are bound to enjoy. Soon after, it was followed by not one, but two[!] sets of encyclopedias: A ‘real’ one, “Lexicon Universal”, and my early favorite, another Peanuts-inspired material, “Charlie Brown’s ‘Cyclopedia.” That Charlie Brown set would prove to be my boon (helping me get honors) and my best friend as I stepped into early grade school, as I found a lot of its contents to be helpful, especially in my science classes.

At that time, my burgeoning fondness for books started to become my new-found reason not to attend social gatherings (read: family affairs, e.g. reunions), going as far as persuading my mum that I loved reading above anything else. Of course, I do love reading, but in truth, it was more of a reason to avoid meeting my cousins and other relatives. My mum fell for it then, and coming to a realization, I think it was also a factor that contributed to my somewhat coy nature now as an individual.

My readings grew to include classical children’s fiction such as “Swiss Family Robinson”, “The Last of the Mohicans”, “The Three Musketeers” and “The Wind in the Willows.” I also received a gift of books on a Christmas Day of years ago, purportedly from Santa Claus, on the lives of inventors and scientists such as the Wright Brothers, Thomas Alva Edison, Marie Curie and Guglielmo Marconi. My growing collection of books prompted me, in a manner that is almost reminiscent of obsessive-compulsive behavior, to set aside a corner of my room as my miniature library, going as far as labeling it ‘Mini-Library’ to dissuade other people in the house from disturbing it. At an early age, I was already on my way to geekdom.

My extracurricular activity back in Lourdes School was also a testament in how I was lured by the plethora of information and entertainment books could bring: For three straight school years, I was a part of the grade school library’s Junior Librarians, a club that helps out our librarians in organizing books and the shelves, managing borrowers and returned books and helping maintain order in the library by policing other students by reminding them of their behavior. I could still remember enduring lectures on how the Dewey Decimal Classification System worked, and at that time, my biggest fulfilled dream then was when we went to the annual National Bookfair held in SM Megamall’s Megatrade Halls—an event filled with cheap, new releases of local and foreign titles and tons of magazines only then I had started to discover. My experiences as a budding librarian exposed me to even more books; it was this time that I had started reading other works of fiction popular with other kids, such as the Hardy Boys.

Before I finally stepped out of grade school and onto Don Bosco Makati HS, Dad started our subscription to Time Magazine, the prominent international newsweekly. At that time, I also had my first brush with Zafra’s works, reading my older cousin’s original ‘Twisted’ and ‘Twisted II.’ I found myself occasionally guffawing off Jessica’s articles, yet at the same time, realizing her points in the issues she had presented. Little did I know that those were going to be a start of something more worthwhile in both my reading and writing activities.

While I must confess that I was bored to death by my high school readings and studies, one thing that consumed much of my leisure time was my weekly dose of news and critical analysis from the plethora of magazines my father subscribed to. These included Time, Fortune and the now-defunct Asiaweek, plus a monthly dosage of National Geographic. I found myself sometimes being harangued for simply reading too much non-academe-related stuff. Nevertheless, it was still good, as there are some people in school who appreciated it: my history teacher became so fond of me, that when she became the head of the department, I was one of her top picks in sending to competitions because of my supposed knowledge in current affairs.

Reading also introduced me to the world of computers. It all started from the occasional issue of computer-specific magazines such as PC World and the like, while I was researching for an upgrade to my then-ageing 166 MHz Pentium system. I was interested and later on became hooked to a myriad of websites on the Internet that catered to the hardware enthusiast community. This was to influence me in a lot of crucial decisions; from my shop specialization in technical high school (computer technology) to the degree I am pursuing now, which is computer science. The geek image became more apparent as a result of that.

Today, a day in my life never goes on without reading. A day starts with my daily dose of news from NYTimes.com, techie news and rumors from The Inquirer.net, all the way to reading about my friends’ lives online on their blogs. Of course, these still include the magazines I’ve had since late elementary and the occasional broadsheet once or twice a week. I keep self-help books on socializing[!] and writing, plus a couple of books in Zafra’s “Twisted” series.

While writing this, it was only now that I realized that what we read forms us, both in character and personality. It ultimately affects a lot of things in the course of our lives, ranging from the decisions we make to how we turn out later on in life as individuals. Even indirectly, a lot can be learned from simply picking up a random book and reading it. I gained a lot of style points from the materials I’ve read in the past and subconsciously integrated them into the manner I dish out my writings. I could go on and further elaborate on my reading activities, but I digress.


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