In anticipation of World Book Day, Far Eastern University Institute of Arts and Sciences (FEUIAS) Dean Diego Rivera Abad, together with FEU Publications and Tams Bookstore, staged Amorios de Rizal last April 20 as part of Día del Libro 2024 at Ayala Triangle Gardens, Makati City.

Abad, a literature professor, presented FEU Publications’ The Complete Poems and Plays of Jose Rizal translated by the National Artist Nick Joaquin. He did a short lecture about the book and accompanied it with a reading session led by FEU literature students, namely Una Annica Santos, Sie Aquino, Sofia Ramos and Lance Iraola.

“As a member of FEU, and as a literature teacher, Nick Joaquin is close to our hearts. We celebrate Nick as the foremost Filipino literary figure and are proud of the connections we have with the writer. On the other hand, Rizal, as a writer, was a poet first before anything else. And by reading Rizal as a poet, we are able to have a deeper appreciation of the writer,” said Abad.

The Complete Poems and Plays of José Rizal translated by Joaquin was initially published by FEU Publications in 1976. Since its publication, the book became a major literature reference for many, and a staple in many libraries inside and outside the country. Copies of the book can be found in the UP Diliman Main Library, Ateneo de Manila University’s Rizal Library, and Aklatang Emilio Aguinaldo of De La Salle University-Manila as well as at Cecille H. Green Library in Stanford University, USA.

Amorio de Rizal was part of this year’s lineup of Dío del Libro organized by Instituto Cervantes de Manila. It was a collaboration between the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines, AECID Filipinas, Ayala Land, Make it Makati, and the Embassies of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, Harper Collins Ibérica, WTA Architecture and Design Studio, and the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines.

This year’s edition was participated by FEU Publishing House, Ateneo University Press, Vibal Publishing, Milflores, Anvil, Ortigas Foundation, Biblio, Everything’s Fine, Kahel Press, Tawid, and Gachapress.

Younger and future generations

According to the website Wattpad, a self-described storytelling and writing community, Generation Z readers, ages 18 to 24, are avid readers. Among those surveyed, 35 percent said they are reading more today than they did two years ago. Meanhile 55 percent of them also read every week and 40 percent read daily. This changes, as noted by Forbes Magazine, were due to effect of the pandemic to the current youth’s lifestyles.

It can also be noted that modern technology is also playing a huge role in the reading habits of all generations. In the same survey of Wattpad, 67 percent of Gen Zers read using phones and other mobile devices while 51 percent still prefer the paperback and hardbound printed books.

For many local writers and readers, reading locally written and produced literary works can influence the youth’s association to local history, culture, and tradition. For Abad, the importance of revisiting and reading the works of Rizal and Joaquin can be deeply rooted to the Filipinos’wn personal connection to Filipino-ness.

“Of course, it goes without saying that reading provides us with a different kind of pleasure, different from, say, watching a movie or listening to music. For poetry in particular, a good poem lets you appreciate the writer’s craft. At the same time, and this for me is what I personally enjoy about reading, we get to know a little more about the person behind the text. A writer always writes from what he/she has lived. In reading the works of Rizal and Joaquin, both of whom were so aware of their Filipino-ness, we get a glimpse of their own sense of the Filipino identity from their own respective contexts,” said Abad.

The Complete Poems and Plays of Jose Rizal translated by the National Artist Nick Joaquin is available for purchase at Tams Bookstore, Ayala Museum, and other local bookstores.