By: April Mae M. Berza
As a writer and reader, I’d like to advocate for the joys of reading. From 2015, I’ve been giving away books to individuals and institutions such as hospitals, local high schools, etc. It is an arduous journey but a fulfilling one. This I believe stems from my love for books that I’m passionate about helping and supporting this noble cause.
When this pandemic started, I was aghast to think about the next generation. I have an eight-year-old niece who struggles in her studies since the new normal is about distance learning. I had to teach her some lessons but I was not that equipped with this.
Right now, I have some pretty good news to share:
1. I will volunteer for the comics project for China Women Film Festival and I am quite proud to represent my country in this feminist spectrum.
2. I will write children’s stories for RoundGlass Foundation in partnership with UNESCO. I’m passionate about helping the youth of Punjab, India.
3. I will apply for the reading ambassador position at World Literacy Foundation and I’m beaming with joy about this.
4. I might judge again for an international poetry contest. Fingers crossed.
5. I will help curate Museum With No Frontiers by copyediting their texts to ensure that contents are factual and updated.
Last 2017, I started teaching Lumad children in the Asian Institute Studies of the University of the Philippines Diliman. We had fun celebrating poetry and stories and numbers. We also talked about the political strife in their ancestral land. The current regime has been the main culprit.
I’ve discovered that many Lumads are versatile and bright. They are not only skilled in agriculture but also capable of intellectual debates. We engaged in sophisticated conversations where I become interested in their stories.
Moreover, I gave away colouring books, crayons, etc. They taught me that learning is an endless cycle where we aspire for greatness.
I never thought I will be politically informed and aware of the present situation of my fellowmen.
Many are struggling because of the war on drugs, extrajudicial killings, graft and corruption, etc. The marginalized sectors of society are the only victims.
As much as I wanted to help them, I told myself I will write about their plight. But I was a fiasco. Right now I believe it is never too late. What I promise them before could drastically change history.
I have been planning to read and write and teach many about the political structures of my country as well as cultivate their minds and hearts to be better.
Since 2015 I’ve been organizing book drives and donations for the children and youth. Book drives have been fruitful and I’m really proud of these. Many lives have been transformed positively. We’ve impacted more people significantly and we shared our love for reading to more individuals.
Various books have been donated and we’ve seen how this promotes literacy. From fiction to poetry to nonfiction, these books become a part of a reader’s existence and gradually help them during this pandemic.
We also share some children’s books and we enjoy this endless cycle of giving and taking. Dedicating our time and effort to this advocacy prepares us for a better future. I always believe that these children’s books can be magical portals to distant lands just like Narnia, Hogwarts, etc. We do not think that books can bring us away from reality, it brings us nearer to reality and we become more consciously aware of the social needs of our people.
Also, we should advocate for local literature so more people can enjoy the fun ways of reading. I have this fascination in Janus Silang and I even messaged the author, Edgar Calabia-Samar about his fictional character, Tala.
If Tala were living now, she would also strive to help children and youth not only in the Philippines but the entire world.
Presently I’m reading Gapo by Lualhati Bautista and I’m in awe enjoying this. I can say that local literature impresses me and I am quite glad I began this pilgrimage.
Moreover, I am a proud book hoarder though I must admit I need to collect more local books.
Local literature taught me to engage in the social and political struggle of the Philippines. I must work hard to better serve my nation.
Furthermore, I am into buying and selling books. Even though I stopped this entrepreneurial skill since I love local literature and I want to reread these wonderful books.
These amazing books made me an empath, they showed me that emotional intelligence is crucial in our society. I also discovered that reading can multiply our human existence into more lives so we can fulfil our desires and wishes.
Reading should be normalized. More people should open books and encourage each other to promote literacy.
Normalizing reading as part of our lives should not be a difficult path. We should allow more books to transform and revolutionize our ways of life. Books recharge us to think critically and act radically.
Right now I’m applying for the World Literacy Foundation Ambassador Program and I’m quite ecstatic I’m doing my part to end poverty with good education and literacy. This noble advocacy can be a game-changer in the industry.
Last 2019, I was a reading mentor to our neighborhood. I gave away books, cookies, coloured pens, crinkles, etc. to kids and we had fun. We exchanged stories and laughter and smiles. These kids inspired me to be a better person. The more I teach them, the less anxiety and depression strike. Also, we played street games like patintero and others. I can be childlike with these youth.
I shared a lifetime of reading with tales of happiness and woes with these children. Our friendships go beyond ages, we become best friends in an instant. These youth motivated me to aspire more and challenge myself to more amazing opportunities. They led me to realize I can pursue my greatest passions which include teaching, reading, and writing.
In addition, we tried basic math skills, spelling, etc. I also shared some financial literacy tips and advice such as saving money so they won’t end up broke someday.
Writing this enables me to reminisce the happy memories and I am beyond grateful for the awesome chance to help.
These children empowers me to think radically about the educational system of my country. We should support the needs of our children and youth by building more libraries and creating digital libraries and archives so more people can enjoy the benefits of literacy. Lots of authors should take part in this challenge to help reach a wider audience of more Filipinos.
I also suggest that more teachers and educators participate in creating a holistic approach to education for our youth. We should not only make them intellectuals but socially responsible and aware Filipinos who create more opportunities for their fellows. Our Filipino youth should serve the masses while taking care of themselves and others such as animals, trees, etc.
Ten years from now and beyond, I see myself a part of this campaign to end poverty with education and literacy. We need to help and support our fellowmen, especially the marginalized sectors of society such as the indigenous people, homeless individuals, and the underprivileged children and youth. We envision a brighter tomorrow not only for them but for everyone.
Moreover, we must work hand in hand to educate these kids to eradicate poverty and crime. Our goals should reach thousands if not millions of lives. When we create positive change and transformation, we share responsibilities and this should help maximize potentials.
Even if I am just a small voice on this planet, I’d like to inspire more people to act and encourage our world to speak up and own reading as a part of our lives. We should make reading a habit.
As more youth become part of this transformation, we should begin our journey to a more reading-inspired world. We must exchange more books and enjoy reading, and promoting gifting and receiving. We might experience some hardships along the way but we must be steadfast with our mission to help others. Reading can enlighten paths and we brighten our future with every child learning.
Once we commit ourselves to reading and literacy, we unite our nations to a more powerful advocacy that could radically transform lives. I always believe that we could impact our Filipino youth positively if we share and connect and empower lives.
Whenever I write, I always bear in mind my audience because I want to instil and cultivate their minds with some positive insights. My objectives are all about supporting the personal growth and development of these readers. My poems might not be succinctly written but they resonate with some people and I’m happy with this. These works allow me to embrace the inner peace while encouraging motivation to other people.
My journey as a reader and writer lets me empower my audience and inspire them to be better citizens. I can humbly say I help them grow and develop into people who serve our country with their hearts and souls.
Writing poetry no longer becomes a solitary act. Solitude while writing is no longer an unhappy poetry, it becomes a mighty epic that powerfully narrates the heroism of our Filipino readers and writers.