On the Value of Books, Magazines, Etc.

On the Value of Books, Magazines, Etc.

By Apolinario Villalobos


I just cannot understand how some people can fail to appreciate the value of books, magazines, etc. just because they are two, three or more years old. For them such materials are already outdated, so they do not deserve appreciation. The fact is, these materials, especially books can be updated while retaining their historical usefulness, hence, never outdated. Books are updated based on the old editions, and this is necessary, as some authors are found to bungle or distort facts, especially, on political issues.


Even for scientific and technical books that are supposed to be updated regularly due to the fast turnover of new ideas and discoveries, there is still a need to maintain old editions so that basic information will always be on hand, in case of verification.


The notion that hard copies of books are no longer necessary with the onset of high technology is wrong. What the cyberspace keeps in its archives are actually digitized old books and their new editions if there are, for easy reference. Important issues here are the convenience and affordability of access, as not everybody can afford the installation of computers at home or the expense for browsing in internet cafes. On the other hand, there are the so-called e-books, but such are just “versions” of printed ones. In fact, some authors venture into e-book publication first, to sell their books on-line which is easier, but still print them later, using the earnings.


While before, the book was considered as a precious commodity for the acquisition of knowledge, today, book publication is viewed more as a very profitable business venture. This is the reason why the questionable Philippine educational system has allowed the “conversion” of text books into workbooks with the insertion of a portion on questions and answers at the end of each chapter. This practice of the educational institutions, including government agencies, in connivance with the unscrupulous publishers and agents has made many people shamefully rich on one end, while on the other end, the parents and students suffer. In their haste for printing, some books even come off the press with so many errors. The practice no longer made possible the passing on of old books to younger members of the family, as buying new sets with unanswered questions at the end of chapters, has become necessary and a requirement of the school.


People love trivia. But where do all the information come from? – old books and magazines! Those found in the internet are the upload, patiently done by website owners that earn through ads squeezed in available spaces of their site’s pages, or number of viewers they generate. This is how servers and website owners in the cyberspace earn. Netizens thought that they owe a lot to them thinking that they are the originators of the information, when all these website owners do is upload information. On the other hand, the servers only provide space for these websites from which they earn enormous income.


I have no quarrel with the servers and website owners, but my effort here is directed at how people have been misled by thinking that because of the computers, hard copies of reading materials have become obsolete or on a kindlier view, unreliable.


Before the onset of the internet, students had no choice but to diligently turn the pages of books to cull the needed information for their theses. They were forced to make summaries or condense sourced materials. But because of the advance technology, some of them just “copy” and “paste” pages from sources in the internet, make minimal revisions, by deleting sentences and paragraphs, then, collate them into a “thesis”. That is the ongoing sad reality.


When I did a job on the side editing theses of students from a reputable university, I discovered one time, that four drafts were identical word for word – with the same source in the internet. Two other students tried their best to be authentic by jumbling the sequence of paragraphs that they copied and collated. And there’s the story shared by a librarian about two similar theses, but with submission dates of more than ten years apart.  They were discovered later when a researcher took note of the similarity and called the librarian’s attention about it. And, there’s a classic story of how the whole content of a thesis reference was peeled off from its cover by a student researcher, and who inserted folded newspapers, afterwards, as replacement to make the reference material look intact when it was returned to the librarian who did not bother to check.


I am not saying that we fill whatever space we have at home and offices with books and magazines and hold on to them till time eternal.  What I am trying to share is the restraint that we should observe in disposing books and other reading materials that have outlived their immediate usefulness. What we do not need can be shared, instead of dumping them in garbage bins. What shocked me was when I found two copies of pocket edition of Bible in a box of junk, and worse, a copy of Koran in another junk shop! I found my rare copies of biography of Queen Victoria, “Pepe En Pilar”, and “Codigo Penal” printed in 1870, in a pile of junks sold on a sidewalk.


As a high school and college student in Notre Dame of Tacurong, a parochial school in the far southern province of Sultan Kudarat in Mindanao, I had a grand time poring over the pages of National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and Encyclopedias in our library, all old editions, solicited by Oblate priests in the United States. Some of them were even dated as early as 1950’s, especially, the Reader’s Digest and National Geographic, but I still enjoyed reading them. We were lucky, as our bespectacled librarian, Leonardo Ninte and his student assistants, carefully, rebound the reading materials, to make them endure regular handling. A good number of shelves in the library were filled with donated books, with only very few important current editions purchased due to the scant fund of the school. Those “outdated” materials helped me a lot in developing my love for reading. Accordingly, if some people who are in charge of libraries today will nurture an attitude of abhorrence to old books, they will eventually deny others the opportunity to earn knowledge from books, be they old or new.


The fast advancing technology on information is proving its great help to mankind. But we should understand that technology in whatever form has limitations. The gadgets we see now as “repository” of information, still need to be fed with basic information by man as basis for their mechanical “intelligent” subsequent actions. Most importantly, what are fed to these machines come from the human brain. These invented and fabricated machines come about as forms of convenience that man seeks tirelessly for his comfort. Man started with barks, leaves, rocks and even pot shards in recording events long time ago. What resulted into modern day codices – books, should therefore be given due respect and importance for all their worth which is fathomless. To tip the balance in favor of these machines as regards the perception on the value of books, therefore, is not fair.


Foods are for the Stomach, as Writings are for the Mind

Foods are for the Stomach

As writings are for the Mind

By Apolinario Villalobos


The foods can look appetizing by how they are presented, so are the writings that can be made attractive for reading by their title and first few lines. The writings are the poems and essays, and foods are appetizers, main dishes and desserts. While the print media, and today, the internet are the venue to showcase writings, outlets such as dining places and parties, are for the food.


Every country has its own specialties and distinct recipes or styles in cooking. So are the different nationalities that have their respective and distinct kind of literature, based on their culture. Honesty in presentation, though how seem simple they may be discerned, are on what the foods and writings are judged.


The intriguing simple dishes of a far away Asian country can elicit curiosity and admiration due to their exotic taste, just like the equally intriguing broken-lined poetry of young poets today.


Respect is what foods and writings should be given. They should not be altered based on the whims of others. Those who cannot take the taste of certain foods and intriguing literary style should prepare their own dish or come up with their own poems or essays.


Invented gadgets, contraptions, and machines can be altered and improved based on their progressing necessity. But dishes should remain as originally concocted and can just be made as basis for new ones by food enthusiasts. In the same manner that the different styles in writing poems and essays should remain as they are written by the author and those who have been inspired should come up with their own style of presenting the idea.


Based on the above, nobody should be timid in coming up with their own cookery, essay or poem. What they come up with, unconsciously reflect their personality, such that, simple people may come up with simple dishes and simply written poems, as well as, short essays. Those with complex character, on the other hand, may come up with equally complicated dishes due to various ingredients, as well as, poems and essays with difficult to discern messages.


What I mean here is: everybody can cook and write which are just two of the many expressions of life…our various reasons for living. Most importantly, while the styles in preparing foods and presenting ideas vary, their respective essence remains the same.

Hindi Kailangang Magbasa ng mga Mamahaling Libro Upang Malaman ng Isang Tao ang mga Layunin niya sa Mundo

Hindi Kailangang Magbasa ng mga Mamahaling Libro

Upang Malaman ng Isang Tao ang mga Layunin niya sa Mundo

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

Nagtataka ako kung bakit kailangan pang bumili ng mga mamahaling na libro ang isang tao upang mabasa niya sa mga ito kung ano ang mga layunin niya sa mundo. Para lang masabi ng ibang nagbabasa sila ng mga librong isinulat ng mga dayuhan, ipinagyayabang pa ang mga titulo. Ang kayabangang ito ng tao ang isa sa mga hindi matanggal na mantsang nakabahid sa kanyang pagkatao.

Para sa mga naniniwala sa Diyos, ang isang simpleng tanong lang tungkol dito ay, “bakit ginawa ng Diyos ang tao?”. At, sa mga hindi naman naniniwala sa Diyos, “ano ang layunin niya o bakit siya nabubuhay sa mundo?” Sa mga naniniwala sa Diyos, bibliya dapat ang basahin dahil doon ay malinaw na sinasabing kaya ginawa ng Diyos ang tao ay upang may magsamba sa Kanya. Sa mga hindi naman naniniwala sa Diyos, ang pinakamagandang sagot, ay “malay ko, basta ako ay nabubuhay”.


Kaakibat ng paniwala sa Diyos at pagsamba ang dapat ay pagmamahal sa kapwa…na kung hindi gawin ay nagpapawala ng silbi sa pagsamba sa Diyos, dahil lumalabas na ang ginagawang pagsamba ay ka-ipokrituhan lang pala. Ang isa sa mga nakikitang kawalan ng pagmamahal sa kapwa ay ang pagpuna sa kanilang ginagawa upang palabasin ng pumupuna na siya lang ang tama. Dapat manalamin din paminsan-minsan ang mahilig mangpuna ng ibang tao.

Sa mga hindi naniniwala sa Diyos, kailangan nilang makisama sa kapwa man lamang upang mabuhay o maging ligtas. Kung hindi nila ito gagawin, baka isang araw na lang ay makita silang nakahandusay at duguan sa isang sulok. Dapat isipin ng mga taong ito na hindi man sila naniniwala sa bibliya ay mayroon pa ring kasabihang dapat gumabay sa kanilang buhay, ang: “huwag mong gawin sa iba, ang ayaw mong gawin ng iba sa ‘yo” na babala tungkol sa masamang gawin…o ang positibong “gawin mo sa iba ang gusto mong gawin nila sa ‘yo” na may kinalaman sa pagtulong at pagmamahal sa kapwa.

Ang nakatikim ng “masarap” na buhay sa mundo ay lalo pang naghahangad ng matagal na pamumuhay. Mangyayari lamang ito kung kabutihan ang dapat umiral sa mga kilos at pananalita…ibig sabihin, mamuhay ng marangal at may pagmamahal sa kapwa, lalo na sa Diyos! ‘Yan ang mga layunin ng tao…iilang kataga, na hindi kailangang basahin mula sa kung ilang daang pahina ng mga mamahaling libro na isinulat ng mga dayuhan!

Imitation of Christ: My First Owned Book….from Fr. Robert O. Sullivan, OMI

Imitation of Christ: My First Owned Book

…from Fr. Robert O. Sullivan, O.M.I.

By Apolinario Villalobos

I got the paperback, “Imitation of Christ” when I was in first year high school, as a prize for besting other contestants during the extemporaneous writing in English competition as part of our school’s Foundation Day celebration. It was donated by the school’s Director during the time, an Irish Oblate priest, Fr. Robert O. Sullivan. Unfortunately, its only part that I was able to read was the dedication which said: “Apolinario, be like Christ in any way you can”…with the rest of the pages, I failed to read.

My reading interest during the time was limited to the National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Hardy Boys series, Philippine Free Press, and occasional encyclopedia about history and geology. As a first year student, I felt I was not prepared to immerse myself into something which I was afraid I might fail to comprehend. I carefully kept and brought the book with me anywhere as far as Tablas in Romblon when I was first assigned there by PAL, as a precious property, until I finally gave it to a childhood buddy, Teddy Lapuz, who was suffering from a failed kidney transplant, and which eventually caused his death later on.

I did not regret giving my book to a dear friend who chose to die alone, or rather in the company of Christ, as he would always tell me when he was still alive. His statement gave me the idea to give him my precious book. I just hope that he was able to read it and blessed by its message. If indeed, he did, what I have missed, has become his spiritual gain.

Despite my missing the content of the book, I love to presume that when imitating Christ’s acts, one should be spontaneous, so that no compulsion is felt. The acts should emanate from the heart. The consciousness about the acts of Christ should form the strong foundation of a person to support his subsequent actions. To do the acts of kindness should not be forced on someone. The act may be inspired by others, or by an experience, if not as an innate desire. And most importantly, to be Christ -like is to be universal in all acts of kindness that knows no barrier. Easier said than done? Not really, because one need not start with something big to do it. All that such act needs is something within the means of a willing and sincere benefactor that can be shared with others – discreetly and unconsciously.

Many people are actually imitating Christ without their knowing it. Ordinary cigarette and candy vendors who give direction to lost pedestrians, are among them. Even the street sweepers, who do their job sincerely, knowing that they get paid out of the hard-earned people’s money. The street is full of modern-day Christs, people who do not think twice before sharing a few coins with a child driven by the pang hunger to beg, a student who helps a fallen old woman, and many others.

I may not have read the book given to me by Fr. Sullivan, but the cover and title are deeply impressed in my mind, reminding me that one need not be rich to be able to share blessings. I realized today, that to be Christ-like is the moving spirit behind the school where I learned the rudiments of Christianity, although, named after His mother…the Notre Dame of Tacurong College, a humble school with a big mission, and which tries to reach out to all, regardless of their religious affiliation.