Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love a Library: A Public Library Grows in Oriental Mindoro

To start this week's Love a Library blog feature, Bernadette Wolf shares the story of the public library in Mindoro that she set up with the big help of Michael Wolf, her husband.Michael is a telecom engineer and Bernadette is an artists and illustrator for children's books.

a. What inspired you to set up a library in Mindoro? .

Mahabang kuwento iyan, Zarah, with us. In a way, we got involved first with the illegal logging issues here and then for so many months and years, my husband and I were discussing why the folks here are just plain ignorant about the consequences of their actions. We found out by observation and talking with the locals that ignorance, poverty and corruption (in all aspect of the word..not just political) were the main factors. And so, we went for the schools and education facilities here and thus we found out that there was just no library (for adults) to speak of in Puerto Galera.

When I was single, whenever i would go to the different provinces, there would be two things i would check out: the public market and the public library...or even the local komiks stand! Call it an idiosyncracy but that's how I learn about the place and that's also how I know that public libraries in the Philippines are usually considered at the bottom priority of the LGUs.

Going back to Puerto Galera, on my first year of living together with my husband, I just had finished an environmental children's book for Palawan and I wanted to present it to the mayor as my token of environmental awareness to the community. We had made a call of course and then I could see that the mayor did not know what to do with it. You see, illegal logging was rampant in our area since we live near the rainforest. And that was our (my husband and mine) way of saying we're environmentalists too. But the mayor then was not biting and had other "priorities." Only when there was a change of administration (last 2006) did we try to check out the aura of the next mayor. And since he was "new' to the position, we found him more open to the idea of setting up a public library. To make it more cohesive and cost-efficient with his government platform, he also established the TESDA here and so with this, the public library can be its educational arm.

b. How did you go about setting this up? Who helped you make it a reality?

Another long story but an interesting one. I was then very active with a blog named "Wish You were here" by a guy who called himself Senor Enrique (Eric Isaac) and he would post about his researches about Manila (of which he is active in its preservation) and one such post was about a library near the UST (of which I forgot the name). Eric was actually getting his "loyal" commenters to donate books for it. I really do not recall how I got into the picture myself also but then I got some pledges from other commenters that they would send books to Puerto Galera too! Hahaha! I told myself, "Hey! this is the Internet so I'll see how serious or real they are!"

And the first HEAVY balikbayan box did come---from a Pinoy in Australia ( Mario Baylon)! He gave two sets of encyclopedia (Britannica!), medical books, childrens' craft books etc. It weighed a TON! But, that pushed us to say "naku, this is for real!" But, we still had to wait for the room for another year so the books had to be stored in the municipal office first. Ironically, the people who really initially helped set up the library were friends (both personally mine from Manila and cyber-ly known.) Other worthwhile people to mention was Ms. Minotte Cuenca of California (also via cyberspace---Candlelight Books) and Robert Alejandro of Manila who just posted via facebook!

But without the present mayor Hubert Dolor's support, it wouldn't also have had become a reality, of course. Other book and knowledge-loving people here eventually threw in their support---a Danish Foundation hereabouts gave support with the computers and Internet to go hand in hand with the book inventory. But the legwork was done by my husband, Michael actually. Without him managing the details like solicitations, library set-up (electrical, painting, structural, etc.) I really do not know how it could have been managed since everyone did not really want to "dirty" their fingers so to speak. Yet, you can see that it really is an effort of many people together.

c. How is it being maintained? Is sustainability part of your project? Or does it end with provision of library materials and turn-over?

It was when we finished with the setting up of the place (computers, books, cabinets, a door :-D as well as others) then we informally gave the keys to the mayor. And that was that. Good-bye. Hope they value it. We (my husband and I) just wanted to get the ball rolling.

As of now, I know that there is an educational officer (also in charage of the TESDA) manning the library. He had made it his office as well since there is no budget for a full-time librarian. And because of the (5) computers with Internet/Wi-Fi capabilities, it has become a hub for also the municipal departments' information. I also found out late last year, that the library will be given a bigger room this year...and with this more bookshelves and computers yata.

d. What are your future plans for the library and the community it serves?

As I have earlier answered, our setting up the public library was culled out of a personal intiative. Maybe we were to "pushy" and too "professional" being "outsiders" and not of the laid-back and come-what-may attitude of the people here, so we had our share of negative comments and innuendos of hidden agendas. We have been cajoled into forming an NGO but that is not our "cup of tea" so to speak even as we (especially my husband) still stay "unofficial" guardian of the nearby rainforest. So, we could only wish that the Purto Galera Public Library florish and that a continual flow of support and usage go with it!

As of present too, I was told that the teachers taking their masterals are borrowing the books that we had placed there---and boy! I would sure want them for my own collection! But that the teachers and some students are starting to pay a yearly fee of P20 (includes a library ID card) is a very encouraging sign!

e. Any partners and donors you would like to thank?

Our partner in the public library initiative is a Danish Foundation named DanPhil School Aid with Mr. Willy Stellander as representative in Puerto Galera and perhaps the whole of Oriental Mindoro.  they had provided the 5 computers as well as sponsored a year-long Internet service for the room.  That is as far as I know.  Their website is :

I have really to thank the generosity and kind hearts of the people (who i had mentioned earlier). Their selflessness is my personal validation of what purity of intent is! I know that all they ask is that the books be used and spread around. No credits nor plaques were asked at all..and that made me think, why should I grumble when instead of a grand parade of appreciation, all my husband and I could count on was treat ourselves to pizza and the left-over sandwiches we gave out when we gave the keys to the mayor and his staff. I am not just thankful but also in awe at what had happened in setting up this library, and that means God wanted it to happen actually.

Thanks, Zarah! More power to librarians and book-lovers wherever you all are!!!


anne said...

inspiring! wish all provinces and municipalities have public libraries

anne said...

inspiring! wish all municipalities have public libraries!

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