Sunday, September 19, 2010

Circuiting Manila 5: National Library of the Philippines

* the entrance to the NLP building

* Trailer Pransis waiting in line to register himself on the list of library patrons

* a view of the Filipiniana section reading area

* Trailer Pransis happily reading For the Love of Freedom, an account of World War II experience by a fellow San Pableño, Juan B. Hernandez

* The guerilla leaders in San Pablo during World War II; (center) Juan “Cayacas” Eseo and his wife, (clockwise, from upper left) Pedro Peres, Gertrudo San Pedro, Romeo Maghirang and Arsenio Escudero

At some points in time, I begun to look back on the reasons why I chose to imposed on myself a work that is not entirely profitable (in the sense that no sure money can get to me) and time-consuming (there is simply no other term to describe it but that). Perhaps those things only happen when I get stuck into some setbacks but I nevertheless go on. This ‘work’, as I have finally decided upon after several considerations, shall be shared here at Back Trails in due time. Whether any living mortal would take time to read upon them (or even this entry!) or not, it does not matter much. Writing about things about the past, however shallow or trivial at times, is a pleasure in itself. Especially from this work I am doing now. Anyway, this introduction is now rather long so I’ll stop at that.

The point of the brief narration above is that the visit to the National Library of he Philippines (NLP) was connected with that work. I badly needed some materials that are found there. I hope not to isolate our city library, but the materials there are rather lacking, especially those that concern our city. Most of the history books there concern Ferdinand Marcos. Thus to NLP we traveled, filled with anticipation of the books to be devoured.But not before paying some fees and running to and fro the OPAC and the staff to bring details of the book we wanted. To a large extent, I was culture-shocked for the process of borrowing books was rather tedious that I immediately missed my beloved UPLB Library. I think they should consider revising those elaborate writings on those paper pieces. Security on the part of NLP should be enforced in exchange for that, if they are really protecting the books. Two books at a time are alright, but to a potential researcher, one has to live near NLP to fully pour over his or her much-needed books. But I can say that the Filipiniana section is a treasure! Owing to a time-bound schedule in Manila, I was not able to exhaust that four-hour time I allotted for NLP. That was the prize of coming late.

* personal belongings of Lope K. Santos in exhibit at the Filipiniana section

* personal belongings of Amado V. Hernandez

* more personal belongings of Amado V. Hernandez

* the typewriter of Amado V. Hernandez!

* and his electric fan! where I got the inspiration to a short poem about electric fans

As to its historical background, a short read is a journey back to its life of continued survival. It began as part of the American Circulating Library that was established in 1900 and later turned over to the government a year later. It became a part of the Education Department in 1905. Through Batas Blg. 1935 of the Philippine Assembly (in 1908), all books from town libraries were collected and put up to form the National Library (1928).

War came and displaced the library. Parts of the collection were transferred to the University of the Philippines and the other more important documents to the Philippine Normal School (now a university). There were some breath-taking moments when the books had to be concealed on the underground of the Manila City Hall but since I have only read about it on the internet and not obtained from our visit to NLP, the chance reader better find that for himself on the net.

More than displacing the library during WWII, the return of the Americans to finally push the Japanese out of the country proved to be a disaster to it. A large portion of the collection was destroyed in 1945. What was left was put up for the Bureau of Public Libraries. It was only in 1984 that the name National Library was used again.

As a final thought, I think NLP should not be just limited to students or researchers. The way we exhibit enthusiasm in going to malls should be shown also for NLP, perhaps more than that NHCP chairman Ambeth Ocampo admitted it himself on one of his Inquirer articles that we are generally a non-reading nation. If this cannot be overturned in the near future, at least for those who know the difference that it would make to be ‘at one’ with the world of books, we should not cease to show it to others.

[How to go to NLP: From Gil Puyat LRT Station, board the LRT and drop off at Unied Nations (UN) Avenue Station. The place is close to T.M. Kalaw Street. Just walk through this street towards Manila Bay and you’ll find NLP eventually. The place is sandwiched between the National Historical Institute or NHCP and the Seafarers Center.]

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