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More than bedtime stories

In my childhood, I had no memory of bedtime stories, unlike other children. Neither my mother nor my father read me heroic tales of princes saving princesses, or fire-breathing dragons destroying villages and wizards casting spells. Most nights of my childhood were as empty as the dark sky. The rain knew my sense of loneliness, and it made me feel safe and contented. I would fall asleep with coldness blanketing me.

Growing up, I began learning words. It tied me to books and cut the string connecting me to the sadness of the rain. I read the stories I had wanted to hear from my parents. Reading satiated my craving for stories. I could see beyond the superficial intent of the plot and hear the unspoken words of the characters. Each story was a different adventure, and it was always gratifying in the end.

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In high school, it was all love at first read. I discovered “Ang Kwento ni Mabuti,” a quiet yet moving short story written by Genoveva Edroza-Matute. I knew it was the kind of story I had been looking for. The tenderness of the characters and the textured narration stuck in my mind—the evocation of the past that brought a teacher, Mabuti, into the picture, the beauty of life amid much struggle, and the kindness that can touch the deepest parts of a soul. Even now, out of the blue, I can recite in my mind its opening lines.

I also found “Paglalayag… sa Puso ng Isang Bata” and “Bangkang Papel.” I deeply enjoyed Matute’s soft and smooth way of recounting the hard and bumpy realities of life. As I read more of her short stories, I felt a closeness to the author even though I had never met her in person. Through her books, I saw the richness of Philippine literature, and was encouraged to get acquainted with the works of other creative and intelligent Filipino writers and poets.

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But, sadly, we are losing them, the precious gems of our literature, to the hand of time. Time always wins, and it never cries for our literary heritage and its champions.

I come from a place where it feels that no one cares about the beauty of the stories that serve as the pillars of our literature and windows into our way of life. The works of foreign writers are more patronized than our own. Watching shows from other countries has become a more enjoyable pursuit for many than reading the literary works of our writers. It has been tough for our own literature to thrive even on social media; around me, I miss in the youth of my generation the appreciation and love for our homegrown books and stories. I want to hear from them the same stories I grew up with.

But, armed with hope, I continue to teach. Because there, I can introduce the stories of our people to young generations, and celebrate the richness and power of our own voice. And because, there, I will never long for stories again.

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Christian Dave C. Loren, 23, is a teacher at Eastern Samar National Comprehensive High School handling Filipino subjects. He sees education as the best way to enrich our country’s literature, and that celebrating Filipino literature shouldn’t happen only in August, Buwan ng Wika.

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