An estimated 10 million copies of the Bible have been sold by the Philippine Bible Society in the past 10 years. (Photo by Joe Torres/ucanews.com)
In predominantly Catholic Philippines, the Bible remains the most widely read book.
A readership survey by the government's National Book Development Board revealed that 72 percent of those surveyed said the Bible was their most read book in the past year.
A similar survey done by the agency in 2012 showed that 58 percent of respondents claimed that the Good Book was their most read book. It was also the top choice in all age brackets.
Evangelical Bishop Noel Pantoja, chairman of the Philippine Bible Society, welcomed the "good news."
"It reveals [the Filipino people's] desire to know God and make Him known all over the country and around the world," said the prelate of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.
He said the survey only showed that the Philippines is "a God-fearing nation ... despite all the trials we have."
Catholic Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said the news "is very rewarding, especially for me, because my very special ministry in the church is to promote the Bible among our people. This means that the collective efforts of all persons engaged in the biblical ministry have borne fruit."
Bishop Bastes, who used to head the Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate, revealed that the Philippine Bible Society used to have a campaign to sell copies of the Bible in different Philippine languages at about US$1 each.
He estimated that over the past 10 years 10 million copies of the Bible have been distributed to Filipino families.
"If families have an average number of five members, 50 million Filipinos have a chance to read, pray and share their insights of the Bible," said Bishop Bastes. "The Bible is indeed the most read book in our country. By the power of the Word of God, may the Philippines be transformed into a real Christian nation."
Last year President Rodrigo Duterte, who has previously told Filipinos not to believe in religions, especially the Catholic Church, declared January as National Bible Month.
"The state recognizes the religious nature of the Filipino people and the elevating influence of religion in human society," read Duterte's Proclamation No. 124.
The Philippine leader, who has branded the Catholic Church as the "most hypocritical institution," said history bears witness to the "profound impact of the Bible on the life of nations."
The result of the readership survey, which was released late last month, also revealed that Filipinos still love reading, with 80 percent of those polled saying they read books.
Among readers, however, the price of books is a concern, with most respondents saying they prefer to spend only about US$4 for a book.
Aside from the Bible, people buy children's picture books and storybooks, which ranked second at 53 percent. At least 52 percent of respondents said they read short stories for children.
Romance books scored 48 percent, reference books, 48 percent, and leisure, entertainment, and hobby books 46 percent.
The survey showed that 82 percent of Filipinos read books by both Filipino and foreign authors.
At least 49 percent of the respondents have read books at least once a week in the last 12 months, with 22 percent reading once a month, 17 percent daily, 8 percent never, and 4 percent once a year.