However, that award is not what I would like to focus on in this piece. What touched me as well during the event was the keynote speech delivered by Prof. Felipe De Leon, Jr.--chairperson of the NCCA. Simply put, his speech was about reading.
For a man with a collection of 10,000 books at home, he lamented that, as a Filipino, he is an exception to the rule. To put it boldly, he said that Filipinos don't like to read. Why? Because Filipinos are kings in the arena of social connections. And reading is usually not something that requires social connections--it is a lonely affair. But we love to socialize. We love to communicate. We love to gather. Because of this trait, we are the Number 1 in the world for online social networking. Because of this trait, our culture of texting is indispensable. Books for Filipinos? No way, we would rather just watch a movie with family or friends.
Later on, in his speech, he said that, in order to promote the idea of reading to Filipinos, we should use these 'cultural peculiarities' to our advantage. If they want to be social, we'll give them social reading.
Coming upon this realization, I discovered that 'social reading' is what we have been unconsciously cultivating in our KRIS Libraries. Early on, our primary objective was to build an environment of learning among youth of different religions in order to promulgate peace as well as education. The learning we had envisioned was a shared learning; a learning that not only taught, but also brought people together. Back then, we were thinking: if a Muslim boy and a Christian girl grew up together through books and computers in our Libraries, would they be hostile towards each other as they grew older? I don't think so. Also, in KRIS Libraries outside Mindanao (Quezon City and Rodriguez, Rizal), the libraries have become these communities' collective symbol of hope. The children are helped by volunteer teachers and parents; and the children are also helped by other children.
Truly, throughout our KRIS Libraries, we have formed reading ecosystems that are not only social but also interdependent. And in interdependence, every single part has to cooperate. Otherwise, all fails.
If we aim to use this social peculiarity almost unique to Filipinos, it is time to adopt change. Libraries should cease to be the strictly quiet monasteries where book-readers converge alone together. They should instead buzz with activity, from planning projects to critiquing works to tutoring to story-telling; they should come alive. The peculiarity of the ideal Filipino library is that it is not about about the books. It is about the people.
This was and will continue to be the vision of KRIS Library. We hope with renewed vigor that other libraries will see the same.