Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some People Need LOVE Spelled out for Them

Stanley and Iris, starring Robert De Niro and Jane Fonda, was based in part on Pat Barker's debut novel, Union Street (1995 Booker Prize Winner) by Pat Barker. It was Jane Fonda's "retirement" film before she returned to the silver screen with Monster-in-law. It was marketed as a love story, hence the blurb which I used for the title of this blogpost.

Not your typical date movie, Stanley and Iris serves a new twist to a love story. At the beginning of the film, when Iris learned that he was single, lived with his father and could cook, viewers jumped to the conclusion that he was gay. They both worked at a pastry factory: he in the cafeteria and she in the assembly line. Iris discovered Stanley can't read and write. The most moving part of the movie was when Stanley recounted to Iris what he had to go through because of his illiteracy. When the cafeteria boss accused Stanley of pilferage, Iris defended him and disclosed his secret disability which cost him his job.

Stanley's illiteracy caused him to lose subsequent jobs and he had to bring his father to a nursing home because he couldn't take care of him. Confronting his predicament, Stanley swallowed his pride and asked Iris to teach him to read and write. Being newly-widowed, Iris found in Stanley
qualities she never saw in her late husband. Stanley eventually learned to read and write and became a successful inventor. Spoiler: this movie has a happy ending.

Man builds no structure which outlives a book. This quotation by Eugene Ware is featured in a sign at the library entrance where Iris brought Stanley for his initial steps towards literacy. One cannot emphasize enough the importance of books to society and the world. The national goverment, through the Department of Education and efforts of non-government organizations, has initiated steps to address adult illiteracy through the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Manny Pacquiao, the famed boxer from General Santos City, was the recent graduate of the ALS. He took accreditation and equivalency tests to graduate high school. ALS also offers (depending on regional needs) various programs like caregiving and other livelihood training.

Let us not forget that adult illiteracy starts as child illiteracy. Despite free elementary and high school education here, poverty has forced many children to drop out of school to help eke out a living for their families. Many organizations including McDonalds and Jollibee are addressing this need by making books accessible to children in far-flung barrios. In our own little way, we can donate books and other reading materials to daycare and reading centers in our communities. Share your books with security guards, jeepney/tricycle/bus drivers and janitors. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see them reading during their free hours?

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