Lucky Arno! How different is his life going to be from my childhood days in a barrio in far Zamboanga where old newspapers wrapped in dried fish are like precious gems to this wide reader. I can still recall the pungent smell of fish assaulting my nose as I try to brush off fish scales and sometimes fish blood from newspaper pages so I can read them.
That sorry situation has changed for kids in my barrio in Manicahan, Zamboanga City after we put up in 2008 the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library which has more than 5,000 collection of imported books – one of Mindanao’s biggest NGO-owned libraries – and eight computers for free use by students there.
Unfortunately, my childhood situation has not changed for millions of poor kids in the country. According to the latest available data from the National Library of the Philippines, there are currently 688 public libraries in the country servicing almost 91,983,000 Filipinos and counting! No wonder rich and more educated China is spitting on us in our own shores!
And you know what, for all the millions our congressmen get – P60-M to P80-M a year in pork barrel funds – only four of them managed to build libraries. Why? There is little commission or “tongpats” in building libraries compared to roads, waiting sheds, basketball courts etc.
I should know, I've build one such library from scratch with the help of friends and public relations clients and we did it at half the price congressmen spend for similar structures. There are more than 220 congressional districts in the country.
There are also only 52 provincial, 97 city, and 535 municipal libraries to service the general populace. This situation makes the law (Republic Act 7743, enacted June 17, 1994) mandating the creation and operation of a public library in every congressional district, city and municipality throughout the country inutile. If the law is strictly implemented, there should be about 2,000 libraries by now.
My thoughts are on our lack of libraries as I see little Arno's wide, innocent eyes glowing as me and other volunteers busy ourselves packing up books for the setting up tomorrow of the Kris-Kapatirang Claretiano Inc. (KCI) and Claret Urban Poor Apostolate (CUPA) Library in a resettlement area for the victims of typhoon Ondoy, the fires in Manila and demolitions in the metropolis in Rodriguez, Rizal. Please read more about this at http://www.krislibrary.com/1/post/2011/07/post-title-click-and-type-to-edit1.html.
Tomorrow one more library – not fancy but enough to provide the needs of far-flung kids like me -- is rising up in Rodriguez, Rizal. Tomorrow, our third library will rise up after the softTomorrow there will be one less shortage of libraries in the Philippines.
And so we thank everyone here and abroad who have donated books and school supplies to help make the Philippines great again – one library at a time!