Redefining libraries

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo July 28,2017 - 10:13 PM

After an eight-day work trip to China and a 1.5-day volunteer work in Dumaguete, my happy feet continued the work that they do best: travel and explore.

On a Friday night, I flew from Dumaguete to Manila to participate in the 2nd Philippine Children’s Book Summit, which I also attended last year to quench my thirst for knowledge on children’s literature in the Philippines. I was perhaps the lone person in the crowd who flew all the way from Central Visayas to witness this literacy and reading extravaganza.

Attendance to this year’s summit was free of charge, unlike last year’s 800-peso registration fee, so the auditorium and seminar room of GT-Toyota Asian Cultural Center was filled with people — mostly teachers, librarians and children — eager to listen to various talks related to literacy and reading.

Librarian and award-winning author Zarah Gagatiga spearheaded a storytelling festival, which was held simultaneously with the Book Summit. The festival featured books written by Filipino authors and told by storytellers using various techniques.

Rectangular tables were lined up by the hallways filled with interactive arts and crafts activities including paper robots, paper hats and clay magnets. Librarians from the National Library of the Philippines engaged book lovers with a workshop on bookbinding. On display were facsimiles of Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo by Dr. Jose Rizal.

I sat in three sessions — a sharing by three reading advocates on Children’s Literature in the Regions, a talk on Building a Reading Community, and a storytelling workshop.

The session on Children Literature in the Regions made me realize that there are few storybooks written in Sinugbuanong Binisaya about our culture and heritage in Cebu and Central Visayas. The Cordilleras, Soccsksargen (Region 12) and Western Visayas are active on this regard. I would love to be in touch with people and/or publishers of children’s storybooks as I feel the need to promote our local language — and it’s not just because the Department of Education has implemented the Mother Tongue Based–Multilingual Education policy as the language of instruction in kindergarten to grade three.

Language promotes culture and pride of place. This is the reason why in a home where English is the primary language (owing to the fact that Casa Ruffolo Uno’s Pit Boss is American), the Boss of the Pit Boss insists that the mutants also speak Bisaya. I have written about this before and I will emphasize it now: I cannot raise my children without teaching them the language of their country.

The session on “Building a Reading Community” is the most inspiring part of the summit with Architect William Ti Jr. and public school teacher Ryan Homan sharing their projects and how they are redefining the concept of libraries.

Architect William of WTA Architecture + Design Studio is the man behind the Book Stop Project, a pop-up library that is making the rounds in Metro Manila and is changing the way we view libraries.

No need for library cards for people can just borrow books or exchange old books for new ones. Street children have access to them and they can read as much as they want to. As a library, the gateway-like structure was designed to accommodate seats and chalkboards hence people truly have the library experience sans the “Please Observe Silence” sign.

While the Book Stop project is a hit in the urban area, a similar initiative, albeit in true blue rural village fashion, is unfolding in Barangay San Jose, Donsol, Sorsogon.

The main man is a teacher whom I interviewed last year when he became one of the five honorees of the advocacy campaign, The Many Faces of the Teacher (TMFT), run by Bato Balani Foundation Inc. and Diwa Learning Systems Inc.

Ryan Homan is not rich, but he makes do with his teaching salary to build mobile libraries using a kariton (push cart). For his students who can’t go to school because they have to cross rivers, teacher Ryan made a balsa (raft) which takes him and his volunteers to the other side so they can teach reading there. He also organized mothers and transformed them into nanay-teachers with their own reading corners at home, enabling them to teach their children and spend quality time with them.

I left the venue inspired to take on the challenge of being a better writer and storyteller. Thank you and congratulations Philippine Board on Books for Young People and the National Book Development Board for another fruitful summit!

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