In the huge social cataloging world that is Goodreads, where can Filipino readers find a home? Well, it’s fairly easy: just do a group search for the word “Filipino” and go to the first result on the list. Now you’ve found the biggest Goodreads group for Filipinos that is also one of the active local book clubs in the country.
There are many, many ways to call this group — Goodreads Philippines, The Filipino Goodreads Group, or simply The Filipino Group. Until finally, everyone just settled on calling it by an acronym: GR-TFG. The group was created in Goodreads in 2007, but most of the discussions happened online because of the original administrator was located in UK. It wasn’t until 2010 when the members based in Manila decided to do their first meet-up, which pretty much set the rest of the other meet-ups later on.
Most of the group’s book discussions were done online first, with the group’s meet-ups reserved for chats and book exchanges — something they call “palengke meet-up” because everyone in the group likes to talk. During the early years, they would meet-up about four times a year with mini-meet-ups on the side where they would also talk about books. The group also had several members who are also authors. During their 5th official meet-up, authors Samantha Sotto and Mina V. Esguerra were their special guests, who were there to promote their books and answer questions.
In 2011, some of the group’s most active members decided to create a list that would somehow define what the members’ favorite books are. Inspired by list like 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, the TFG 100 Favorite Books was born. Members were asked to nominate their favorite books and the books with the most number of nominations were shortlisted and deliberated on by the administrators and several active members of the group. They came up with the final list and distributed it to the members during the group’s 2nd Christmas party. This list also started the group’s Face to Face discussions the following year. From this list, three books will be chosen based on a theme or a genre, and the members would vote for the book that they want to read for the month. In January 2012, the group met again not for a palengke meet-up, but for their first offline book discussion with 1984 by George Orwell.
An online discussion is also done during the month to support the offline one, as well as to provide the people who will not be able to go or those who are not in Manila to participate in the discussion as well. The moderators of each discussion is in charge of what gimmick to do for their discussions, and attendees often have something to bring home. So far, there were giveaway chocolates, towels, bookmarks, CDs and story booklets, all related to the theme of the books discussed. These discussions were often followed by “after parties”, where the members hang out and talk about everything, and sometimes they end up being (almost) kicked out of several venues for being too noisy, or because it’s closing time. :)
In February 2012, the group also held their first outreach activity where they donated almost 200 books to Virlanie Foundation, a group that houses street children, for their library. The members spent an afternoon with the kids and got to know them, and helped them put the books on the shelves of their library.
There is a wide range of genre preferences among the TFG members, but there is a considerable number of members who are into YA and Fantasy books. Aside from the monthly Face to Face discussions, the group also has ongoing Buddy Reads, where members buddy up (with some eavesdroppers) to read and discuss the books in their own threads in the group homepage.
You can find TFG in the following places online:
You can join TFG just by sending a request to join the group via Goodreads and saying hi in any of the threads or showing up for any of their monthly book discussions. If you want to test the waters first, though, the group will be hosting a book discussion during the 2nd Filipino ReaderCon on August 18 at the Filipinas Heritage Library! The group will do another run of their discussion of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry — so if you’re a fan of this classic children’s book, you won’t want to miss this. :)