A young couple was one day gifted with a baby boy. Although excited about their first-born, the couple soon enough realized -- with great sadness and tears in their eyes -- that their boy was born quite sickly.
For one, the boy was born premature – just seven months old. He was the size of a rat. He had to be placed in an incubator. The primitive technology then burned his skin, making the color of his tender skin look, well, as black as that of a rat.
The boy proved to be a fighter and survived. Later, he grew up skinny and somehow seen as a slow-learner. Still, the couple was only too happy to see him grow up alive. It helped that a quack doctor advised the couple to make the boy regularly drink a special brew of flying lizards, snakes, iguana and other creepy animals to build his stamina.
Soon, the couple had two more sons. Unlike the eldest boy, the younger siblings were robust, muscular, taller and even smarter. Entering public school in Grade 1 with his second brother, the boy found himself seated in the row of slow-learners. On the contrary, his younger brother was the smartest kid in the class. The third brother also proved to be equally smart.
Having no electricity in the barangay, the parents devised a way to entertain themselves while at the same time teaching their boys numbers and alphabetical lessons by candle light at night. They placed the boys in contest among themselves in reciting the alphabet and doing addition, subtraction and multiplication table exercises. Alas, even at home the younger brothers were beating their elder sibling and the eldest boy would only cry in embarrassment.
Even in reading, the elder boy managed to learn to read well only at Grade 4, far behind his elder brothers. However, it was at this stage when things started turning around. Having discovered the joys of reading, the eldest boy began to see his mind literally sucking up knowledge. There seemed to be no end to his insatiable thirst for reading. He was particularly interested in reading about the biographies of great men – Einstein, President Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, President Abraham Lincoln, Edison and all the movers and shakers in the world.
The boy finally realized that there is no limit to what the human mind can achieve. It dawned on him that his mind can very well compensate for his weak and sickly body. His mind was really on fire with ideas! One time, he nearly literally set their wooden house on fire when he fell asleep while reading and the candle placed on his chest fell and set his beddings aflame!
He loved so much to read the old encyclopedias and was quite frustrated that his dad – who could afford to have an arsenal of firearms and grenades – did not buy one for the family. Fortunately, an auntie – a librarian – allowed him to borrow and take home volumes of the Collier Encyclopedia from the public elementary school. And those he read from cover to cover. As he was too weak to carry the books physically, he loaded them into the “kariton” or cart that he pulled to and from school as the boy was tasked to mind the small grocery or “sari-sari” store near the school. People were amused seeing volumes of encyclopedia along with jars of Chiclets, Tarzan chewing gums, Hall candies, Champion and Hope cigarettes and local pastries in the kariton.
Needless to say, that “dumb” boy eventually made something of himself somehow. Although born in a province and from a poor family, his readings gave him wings to fly and excel in school; and he managed to land a good job in Manila. Fortunately, his line of work brought him fame, allowed him to go places all over the world, and got him to mingle with presidents, senators, congressmen, mayors, billionaires and all the kinds of people he only read about while growing up in a barrio located close to a terrorist-infested island.
Amused and thankful at how life turned out for a dumb provinciano boy, he decided to give back his blessings to God for introducing him to life-saving books. He started collecting books and educational materials from his influential and rich friends in Manila and distributed them to poor kids in the provincial barrio he left behind. He started distributing the books on Sept. 7, 2001. The books were donated by Sen. Loren Legarda.
He called this project “Kariton Y Libro” (Chavacano for “cart and books”). The movement later on became known as the “A-Book-Saya-Group (ABSG)” and now finally – the “Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library (Kris).”
Yes, that boy is fondly called “Arnie” and yes, I am that dumb boy. I am no longer a boy, but still dumb and idealistic in believing that I can really raise P1 million to finally constitute the Kris Library advocacy into a full-pledge foundation.
After 11 years of giving away books, school supplies, scholarships, computers and building libraries in what is still operated as a family-led endeavor supported by relatives, friends and business clients, we at Kris believe it is now time to turn the life-changing mission and operation of Kris to our dedicated supporters, donors and volunteers to ensure that it will become a strong and stable organization; and continue to exist and help poor children long after I am gone or even after my family shall have gotten tired of it.
But then, who knows, I might just pull it off with all of your help out there. It’s a birthday wish—an impossible dream worth fulfilling. We are going for it convinced of the importance of books and the need to continually reach out to poor kids out there whose minds are just waiting to be cracked open by a donated book, a donated computer or a Kris library in an isolated place somewhere in the mountains.
I truly believe in the value of books because I am one such dumb provincial boy empowered by books.
(If you share my dream and believe the books that worked for me – and the books that worked for you – can help raise a generation of bright, patriotic and progressive Filipinos, kindly go to http://www.gofundme.com/wgnss to donate any amount to help us raise P1 million for us to convert Kris into a foundation. If you prefer to give your donation through other means, kindly email me at email@example.com so I may give you our address and bank account. Sharing this message to friends who can help will really be a good birthday gift to me. Thank you very much!)