Read the Philippines' Most Banned Books in This 'Secret' Digital Archive
There is a scene in Fahrenheit 451 in which a woman chooses to burn herself alive rather than live in a world without books. In the dystopian novel, firemen start fires instead of putting them out. And their victims? Texts and literature deemed dangerous by overt government forces.
The 1953 novel alludes to the practice of book burning in totalitarian societies. From the Qing Dynasty to Nazi-era Germany, the mass burning of books is often symbolic of the slow oppression of thought and expression.
The healing and transformative power of books is not lost on the world’s greatest educators. Whether we go back to the past or to the possible dystopian future, books remain our anchor to each other and our humanity.
But while censorship seems to be a thing of the past, there’s no telling when it’s going to haunt us again. And true enough, government forces in parts of the Philippines are using their power to unjustly ban books from universities and public libraries.
Sometime last year, books authored by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines were banned at Aklan State University, Kalinga State University, and Isabela State University.
Apart from these incidents, regional factions of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Commission on Higher Education have also asked for some state libraries to pull out “subversive” materials. Because of rampant red-tagging, some forces have also resorted to harassing small libraries and independent bookstores.
But knowledge is for everyone, and that’s why these educators, librarians, publishers, and artists are pushing back against the attack on books. The Aswang sa Aklatan is a digital initiative that houses Multong Aklat Endangered Books Digital Archive, which offers texts on martial law, classic Marxist literature, and writings on Philippine radical thought.
By making these texts accessible, the coalition hopes to protect safe spaces of thought and reinforce the power of shared knowledge.