Araw ng Pagbasa: Like Ninoy Aquino, find hope in reading

MANILA, Philippines – The 2016 National Reading Month is coming to a close. The culminating activity, Araw ng Pagbasa, is scheduled on Friday, November 25.

If it were up to Quezon City 3rd District Representative Jorge Banal, he would want this year's celebration of Araw ng Pagbasa to give emphasis on how reading brings "hope in the midst of hopelessness."

Coincidentally, the theme of this year's National Reading Month is Nasa Pagbasa ang Pag-asa (Hope is in Reading).

"Noong mga darkest days ni [Ninoy] in solitary confinement, pati doon sa pag-exile sa kaniya sa US, ang nag-sustain sa kanya, naging source of hope niya, mga libro, 'yung Bibliya, letters from home," the lawmaker said during a Rappler Talk interview, referring to the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

(During Ninoy's darkest days in solitary confinement, even when he was exiled in the US, what sustained him and became his source of hope are books, the Bible, letters from home.)

Based on Republic Act 10556, Araw ng Pagbasa actually falls on November 27 or Aquino's birthday. This year, since November 27 is a Sunday, the regular working holiday will be observed on Friday instead.

Banal, who introduced Araw ng Pagbasa in Quezon City back in 2008, said the annual celebration is not just about the value of reading, but also about the hope and inspiration that comes from reading.

In fact, according to Banal, the law suggests that during Araw ng Pagbasa, students should read on the lives of eminent Filipino heroes so that they can learn about love for country and pride for one's heritage.

"Karamihan kasi sa atin...hindi na na-witness 'yung mga abuses of Martial Law era, and then 'di na nakita 'yung pinaslang si Ninoy, at dun nagkaroon ng tipping 'yung isang natutulog na bansa, nagising sa kaniyang pagkakahimbing," he explained.

(Most of us, we did not witness the abuses of Martial Law era, and we did not see the assassination of Ninoy, and that was the tipping point...that a country was awakened from its slumber.)

The lawmaker even recalled one recent visit to a public school when the teachers told him they don't teach about the late senator or what happened during the Marcos dictatorship.

"Nakakalungkot minsan na 'yung ginawa nung taong 'yun, parang, wala lang? Sana mabigyan ng halaga 'yung sakripisyo niya, at sana magsilbing aral sa ating mga kabataan," he added.

(It's saddening to know that what that person did is treated as nothing. I hope his sacrifice will be given value, and I hope it serves as a lesson to the youth.)

The education department has committed to a change in curriculum that will show the "complete" picture of Martial Law, including the "corruption and human rights abuses" during that time.

'Fun, shared experience'

During Araw ng Pagbasa, simultaneous reading sessions are held in different parts of the country to "make it a fun, shared physical experience for the kids." Even parents are encouraged to read at home for their children.

There are also declamation contests for high school students, where they read what Banal called the "most famous undelivered speech in Philippine history" – Aquino's undelivered speech upon his arrival from the United States in 1983.

For him, reading is important regardless of whether students prefer reading what is written in books or what is posted on the Internet.

"They go hand in hand…. Ang importante nagbabasa ka, ang importante may napupulot kang hopefully kabutihan, at hindi lang puro mga post ng mga trolls binabasa mo," Banal added.

(They go hand in hand…. What's important is you read, what's important is you learn, hopefully, goodness, and you don't just read posts written by trolls.) –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.