My wife and I are opening a children’s library to address the needs of the new generation to rediscover the pleasure of reading books. We took advantage of the discount sales in Powerbooks and National Bookstore this weekend, and we have gathered a hefty harvest of children’s books. In the course of buying the books, I managed to sneak Adrian Cristobal’s "The Tragedy of the Revolution" in the shopping list, as I argued that our children need to be familiar, if not enamored, by Philippine heroes. Cristobal’s book is full of illustrations, pictures, and even replicas of Bonifacio’s letters that could excite young and old minds alike. I thought, it might be a good start.
When we got home, I opened the big book immediately and gathered my older sons, Juancho (six years old) and Hans (four years old) around it. Juancho was particularly impressed, and judging from his reaction, I expect that he would be opening this book regularly. But Hans -- well, after I announced that the book was about Andres Bonifacio, he asked, “ Where is George Washington?”. I dismissed his question as a joke, but after I explained to him who Andres Bonifacio was, I still am not sure if he understood.
Hans’s innocent question has made me feel guilty. What are we feeding the mind of this child? Cable TV, computer games, foreign written children’s books, Pixar and Disney movies? And what a shame it is that my Filipino son knew George Washington before he knew Andres Bonifacio. And this brings me back to my point, we need to make our children familiar, if not enamored, by our Filipino heroes. For it is only through the awareness and understanding of their history that our kids will appreciate what is to be Filipinos and find their place in the world.
But for a Filipino parent, the task is difficult. Mass media is dominated by Hollywood. I have not seen a decent film of Andres Bonifacio in my life. And Cristobal’s book is one among few books on the man that is accessible to all ages. There is very little about Filipino heroes on the bookstores and video shops. In spite of the fact that our history is never lacking in material, our mass media have not given our children a decent fare of Filipino heroes. It is quite an irony that in the age of mass media, Filipinos would have to pass stories about their heroes by oral tradition.
Why? One word says it all: chicken.
Our media moguls are afraid to exploit the untried and untested as they are afraid to lose money. And so they give us their regular mediocre material that rakes in the cash. But they are unaware that if only someone would dare, they would find a generation hungry for their heritage. And it might even be a more profitable proposition, for what could be a better reward than the certainty that our kids will carry on with the ideals of our heroes and avoid the sins of their forefathers?
Hollywood did it to them. Hollywood did it to us. It took away our courage -- the courage to be ourselves. Let’s not allow it to do the same to our children. I won’t allow it anymore. No. Not to my Juancho and Hans.