Was it The Angel Who Fell to Earth or Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls that was my first book? Memory fails me. But the thrill of saying, “That book is mine,” remains unforgettable each time I cradle a newly acquired title.
When it was my father’s turn to fetch me after class, I would wait for him at the public library across the elementary school I attended. He was working on his doctorate and worked at the university nearby where he was enrolled. It was agreed the school policeman would make sure I made it into the library safely. That was almost every school day from the time I was 6 to 10 years old.
All sorts of books for children and adults surrounded the reading tables. We could delight in all of them. The first time I could not understand a word, I asked the friendly librarian. She taught me how to use the large dictionary. And if I still could not figure out the meaning, I was to return for her help. That is how I fell in love with books and became a voracious reader. Books were at home, in my bedroom, in school, at the public library. My dream still remains to be allowed a comfortable night inside Lopez Library, free to explore the residence of Filipiniana tomes that have become my friends over scores, so I can have an overdue conversation with them.
Reading for pleasure was second nature in our family. It became essential for my career as a former opinion page columnist and an author who still writes about Philippine heritage and now specializes in colonial cuisine from 1521 to 1946. Today, I have no idea what books or how many are in my home library even if they are organized according to the Dewey decimal system. Worse is identifying what ephemera and loose documents are included. I start out looking for some Spanish-era comestible receipt, never find it, but discover something else equally precious and long forgotten about.
But that is life with books. One transforms from bibliophile to bibliophagist. Without a daily ration of the written word, my spirit remains faint.
About Felice P. Sta. Maria
Felice P. Sta. Maria shares her years of research into Philippine food history since the 1970s in books, articles and interviews. She has served as the commissioner for cultural heritage of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the chairperson for the social and human sciences programs of UNESCO National Commission. Her name was added in 2001 to the SEA Write roster in Bangkok, considered the most prestigious authors award for ASEAN. Mrs. Sta. Maria is on the Board of Advisers for Ayala Museum, and Center for Culinary Arts; a trustee of Museo ng Kaalamang Katutubo; and Vice President of the Food Writers Association of the Philippines.