Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Artists Starve in the Philippines

By nirmonculus

“Ever wonder why there are no Filipino Nobel prize winners?” Asked Alvin Buenaventura, Executive Director of Filcols(Filipino Copyright Licensing Society Inc). We were all there, young writers, painters, performance artists, the creative youth all huddled up in Espasyo, listening to Alvin saying that a country the size of Mindoro and a population of 1.5 Million has a Nobel Prize winner to their name.

In the Philippines, being a writer, a novelist, a poet, book writer, rarely were ever full time jobs. If a writer wants to survive in our harsh economy, one has to take another job and do his or her writing on the side. There are little to no full time writers in the country, it is a cruel fact that a full time writer cannot clothe, shelter, feed oneself on the career alone, what more a family? Therefore others take a job like BPO jobs, waiting or crew jobs and others completely out of the writing range.

Or worse, one artist will totally be buried in debt. I have a painter friend who owes people money, he owed me too. I believe it’s almost a year now and he hasn’t paid me back and it wasn’t even much. But since I believe in supporting artists who have the talent to make it in the industry, it is nothing to help in every way I can. However I’m not rich either, I’m just as broke as he is and though I want to be a fulltime writer, I need the money back. I want to dedicate every facet of my being to writing my novels, poems and stories and whatnots! Not some article my boss wants me to write…

And I am nothing more than a victim of reality. So I work as a writer for some company, writing something else and my novels, stories, poems had to stay on the side for my fear of literally starving. I receive absolutely nothing from my family, no support whatsoever and can I blame them? I could also take a higher paying job, but at least what I have now is still under the writing department.

It is very true what Alvin said, artists who take jobs not connected to their talents and skills will render them dull and not be able to reach their full potential.

Death to the artist at heart.

Alright, a writer’s life is harsh and full of hard work and what does consumers or readers, whom writers pretty much depend on, can do?

Photocopying and reproducing their works without permission, is a great way to render them bankrupt and put an end to their passion and poor existence.

Ever wonder why school textbooks sucks? Because students do not buy the book, they photocopy it so they can get what the book offers for a huge fraction of the cost. If brilliant writers can’t feed themselves they would probably starve to death and fail to write books that would shape young minds, leaving the Filipino youth ignorant.

Don’t tell me that books in the Philippines are expensive! We are the only country in the world that sells the cheapest books, with imported books having a special edition just for our country.

Alvin spoke with Bro. Armin Luistro about the photocopying of books in De La Salle University Taft Library. That these students should pay the authors whom they copy materials from. These payments will be collected by Filcols and be distributed to authors when their books or works were reproduced in any way. It’s not even going to cost much, perhaps 0.05c to 0.10c per page for the starving authors. Miserably to hear it was of course denied. However if we look at it this way, students can afford it. Students pay for some “internet fee” per semester and were all of them able to utilize it? One would have to take his or her laptop to campus, and how much is the fee? A whopping P500, enough to buy two books and a piece of turon. This fee can be seen on our miscellaneous fee, at least on mine when I studied in DLSU-D. Since I’m frugal, I consumed the internet access I forcefully paid for, wisely. Can they really not afford it?

Photocopying a part, maybe a chapter or more of a book is stealing and yes according to a religion one may go to hell for that. Although back when I was a student, I did photocopy a few pages but never the whole book. They said in France, it is free to photocopy only five pages of a book. So I guess it wouldn’t hurt to copy one page of a book if not, I’m very much willing to pay back the amount it cost to photocopy all those books (I photocopied) in the library.

As of the moment I’m writing a novel which I’m planning to submit to one of the publishing houses in the country and when people find out, the first thing I hear after “Wow, really?” is “Can I get a free copy when it’s out?” and I’m extremely nice to say “Sure, you can!” however sometimes in my heart of hearts, I wish I could say “Why don’t you just pick up a knife and please stick it to my throat? That way I wouldn’t have to work my ass off writing a book to simply give it away for free.” It sounds hostile so I don’t say that, I don’t want to appear like Dr. Gregory House. Although I wish I could give the book to my friends for free, I’d be giving it for free on my own expense. I would have to buy it for them, which is pretty much similar to getting a gun, putting it to my mouth and pulling the trigger.

If a book costs P100 in a bookstore. P50 goes to the store, P35 goes to the publisher and a measly P15 goes to the writer who toiled, stayed up all night and probably starved writing the book.

A Filipino writer’s future is bleak, but one thing is for sure, writers will make publishers richer. Truly, intelligence and talent can never be weighed equal to currency.

I understand, perhaps I won’t be a millionaire through writing, however I don’t want to starve doing what I passionately love. I wish to feed myself, buy new clothes when the current ones are worn out, I wish to be able to pay for my date’s meal, pay for movies and our hotel reservations. Is that so much to ask?

If you feel like supporting starving writers such as myself, then you can start with dinner, coffee and driving me to work. But of course there are other ways, I’m just citing examples.

There are no Filipino Nobel prize winners since they can’t dedicate their efforts on their skills and talents alone due to poverty. Budding writers, struggling artists, mad aspiring scientists and others have to in one way or the other, must eat first. Leading to talents and skills be set aside, eventually neglecting their potential. Perhaps abandoning the potential to be a Nobel Prize winner too.

Also read Starving writer struggle

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