As a Filipino child, I grew up reading local comics. I remember bugging my mother to forget about kutsinta and bibingka 'coz I dont mind getting hungry from the trip in the market and I'd rather read the latest adventures of Vitro, the mischiefs of Niknok, the misadventures of Matsutsu and Bardagol, and the current predicament of Super Dog. My mother would buy me a copy of Funny Komiks, if there's no Ninja Komiks available nor the True Pinoy Combat Komiks. Kudeta against Cory has just ended that time, so loads of patriotic and military-themed comics were in abundance.
Pambata (Magazine for Children) were sold in our school by our teacher in Religion since it also served as an additional learning material (and additional income for her). And just as we thought that we were being forced to read something that might bore us to death, we changed our minds immediately after seeing a full page panel of comics in the back cover, Larry Alcala's Mga Salawikain ni Lolo Brigido.
Then there was the story book. My eldest sibling would tell me a parable from our family's one and only copy of picture bible. I love hearing the stories about Moses, performing miracles from the powers above, and even now I still believe the he's the greatest wizard that ever lived. When it comes to the western tales, I can remember a short story written by Hans Christian Andersen about a lavish Emperor and an honest kid. This became my favorite parable of all time.
When I entered in a Science High School, Art & Literature from the syllabus were set aside in favor of Math & Science. We only discussed Noli and El Filibusterismo for days, reading only the summarized editions. Our English teacher would use the writing and reading modules provided by SEDP (DOST) and no literary books nor genre books, only activity modules. Then came the Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (as popularized by a Spielberg film). Horror and Techno Thrillers were becoming fad that time but the greatest surprise came from our Math teacher when he raved about a Stephen King book. It was about a creepy story of a fat dude cursed by a gypsy. I highly respected that Math teacher because he was so easygoing discussing permutations and probability theorems only to finish his day telling us how he enjoyed that Stephen King novel.
The first year in college, Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder is a required read in Philo 1. Then books by Marx, Engels, Sartre, and Rousseau in Social Sciences 1 and 2 and again the Noli, El Fili, and the third novel Etikang Tagalog (Makamisa) in PI 100. More books came as required readings, like art and poetry books in Humanities 1 and 2. Not neglecting a separate (and a very much important) universe of required Math, Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics books in my college course, I was still lucky to manage my time reading novels by Dostoevsky, Golding, Conrad and London, and spy novels by Le Carre, Greene and Clancy. During an exam in one of my major subjects, my instructor offered an incentive or bonus points for those who can guess the "prophetic designation" of Paul Atreides as a messiah in Frank Herbert's classic novel Dune. After losing the incentive in that exam, I wanted to read Dune. My favorite Physics teacher on the other hand raved about the Harry Potter books (that time, the current count is book 3) and how he sandwiched the books between his thesis work. I learned how to 'sandwich' books between studies after that.
I still enjoyed reading comics in college with the borrowed copies of X Men, Batman, and Sandman from my dorm barkada. The Spawn series was the first comic book series I rabidly collected until issue 100 when they killed Angela (after Todd Macfarlane lost the copyright ownership battle to Neil Gaiman). All those reads were very good companions during my summer and semestral breaks. And even during postgrad days when I bungled my training as an Air Traffic Controller in 2008, I find myself seeking refuge within pages of Neil Gaiman's American Gods.
Looking back at all these memories, I can say that the people who really influenced me to read were the authors themselves and the ones I look up to, the people that I admire. They are my family, mentors, friends, and even my critics. I learned that reading may be a solitary and purely volitional activity but it's also highly contagious. That's the reason why we take comfort from the company of fellow bookworms. Reading was a good and rewarding trip especially if it helped you push and challenge your own self. Reading a good story is always therapeutic and addictive. The magic is to maintain that balance, the same balance between Science and Literature, betwen profession and pastime, career and hobby, mentors and detractors, family and friends, the stranger and the beloved.