Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hungry for a Library

Since we started homeschooling in June of last year, we have been trying to get Elise a library card so she can borrow books.  She is an avid reader and like any six or seven year old,  loves fairy tales, escapades, magic, making friends and being brave. 

I brought her to the British Council over at the Taipan Place in Emerald Avenue, Ortigas Center when we were still in Manila.   I grew up going to the one in New Manila where I would watch classic movies, borrow storybooks and just hang out with my mom.  Even until college, it was an escape for me, somewhere I could be alone where nobody knew where I was. I told her what a wonderful place it was, and she got all excited. When we got there, she happily asked the librarian where the Children's Section was.  The librarian seemed almost scared to tell us.  Then she said something that devastated Elise.  "I'm sorry, we no longer have a library.  All that is left is an English Proficiency Center.  Elise and I simultaneously freaked out.  "WWWHHHAAAAT?!!!" Our anticipation of going there regularly for some precious reading time and  her excitement of having a library card to borrow books, burst to a billion pieces and splattered all over the librarian.  We even asked her what we could do next, since we really NEEDED a library, maybe at the British Embassy?  Elise even asked if she was sure that there wasn't a library in there somewhere.  Of course, she couldn't help us.  And as we walked away, I think she was more devastated than us.  We crossed over to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and shared an iced blended drink.  We survived the afternoon. 

A few weeks later, we visited the Pasig City Discovery Centrum and Learning Resource Center, where the three of us had lots of fun.  They had a good enough children's library on the ground floor and an interactive play area similar to Museo Pambata.  We donated some college books for their third floor.  For a public library in the Philippines, it was a good. one.  We got ourselves some 1 x 1 ID pictures for our library cards and were just about to have our forms signed the following Monday by the barangay captain, when Typhoon Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana) struck. Of course, the Pasig Library was badly flooded.  And when this happened in the end of September, many other unfortunate incidents followed .  Getting a library card became the least of our priorities. 

 When we finally set foot in Palawan, we found the City Library beside the Palawan Museum!  The children's section was the only air conditioned room, and had the usual encyclopedias and some storybooks.  The books were very old and it looked like that there was no strong children's literacy program going on., or funding for one.  Well, we were there to get a library card for Elise. We were informed, however, that we can't get one unless we have a permanent address. After two months, we still did not have a permanent address.  We went back and requested to be issued one anyway, since we are in the process of getting a permanent address. They reluctantly obliged, and Elise and I got our library cards! 

We chose our books, and headed over to the desk.  Guess what, they were doing their annual inventory, and we had to wait until April 26 to borrow books, three more weeks.... Elise's face fell and I comforted her, assuring her that at least, we already had library cards! She was so frustrated, and my only consolation was that this whole ordeal that had been stretching on for about six months was building her character. 

We planned to go last April 27, Tuesday, but it rained so hard that we stayed in.  On April 28, we scheduled ourselves to join the 3:00P.M. shuttle but the van had to wait for a delayed flight, so we left late and arrived at the library at 4:00P.M., just when the building was being padlocked for the day.  

So, this afternoon, we were FINALLY back and very ready to borrow some books.  Yay, right?  Oh no, borrowers were limited to a single wall of four five-foot shelves filled with adult romance, some really old self-help and gardening books, and few young adult books about horses and some irrelevant plots. Everything else was free to be photocopied, can you believe it??????!!!

Anyway, Elise and I chose one book each.  I felt disheartened, but tried to be cheerful for  her.  I hoped that she was more excited about the process of borrowing a book than the actual book she would borrow. 

Puerto Princesa really needs a good children's library.  How does one start a library?  


  1. Didn't you see Shawshank Redemption? To start a library, you have to write to your Congressman!

  2. No, I did not see it. Okay, then we should wait till after the May 11 elections.

  3. Nice to find this library entry. I definitely have to agree with you on the borrowing rules of the library. There is really a need for an early childhood literacy program here. Perhaps we might be the one to start writing "someone" about this? Would love to meet you since I also have a kid who devours books. ;)