Speech for the Annual National Congress 2022 Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (PLAI)
Iloilo Convention Center | Iloilo City, Philippines
Event Date: November 23, 2022 | 9:00 AM
[STANDARD GREETINGS AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GUESTS]
Maayong buntag. Maayong aga. Good morning to everyone.
Congratulations to the Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (PLAI), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the National Library of the Philippines for the success of your Annual National Congress 2022.
I am honored to be invited by one of the oldest library associations in Southeast Asia and the world.
Some say that physical books are already a thing of the past and that brick-and-mortar libraries are now relegated to storage areas of ancient knowledge.
I beg to disagree. While the digital era has drastically changed our reading habits and decreased our preference for paper-based reading materials, the likelihood of gathering unverified data has also increased.
Many of us present in these halls learned to love reading because there were librarians who understood our specific information needs and ushered us into finding the books that we needed.
We developed some of our most fundamental socio-emotional skills through reading children’s stories.
We became the characters of the books we were reading. We journeyed with them, felt their frustration, their sadness, their grief. We dreamed with them. And down to the last page, we waited for the happy ending. And oftentimes, we triumphed.
Noong ako po ay mayor, nanalo po ang Davao City ng Best Library — three times national and one international awardee ang Davao City Library. Mahilig ako magbasa, that is how I learned English dahil ‘yung nanay ko mahilig magbasa at nakuha ko iyon sa nanay ko.
Naisip ko one day, kapag merong extra money ang City Government of Davao, I will set it aside in building the proper library na kapag manalo kami, sasabihin na ‘This is the best library in the Philippines right now.’
Kung lagi kong pinagliliban ang building of the Davao City Library for next year and next year, hindi ko ito magagawa. Noong 2016, nabigyan ako ng opportunity na bumalik. Sabi ko sa administration, dahan-dahanin natin. Every year, lagyan natin ng pondo ang pag gawa ng library natin. Naghanap kami ng partner at nakita namin ang PAGCOR. One of their mandates is support to education, so sinabi namin, “please, lahat ng budget for Davao City ay ibigay na natin sa library.” We invested every year sa library and I would like to invite everyone to visit Davao City because this library, our 5-storey library right now, is something that the Philippines can be proud kapag sinabi na this is the best library right now that we have in our country.
Merong ngang hindi taga Davao City na lumalapit sa akin at sinasabi nila na napuntahan namin ang library niyo and nagustuhan namin ang mga nakita namin sa library. In fact, ang aming library are very well-thought-of ng mga Bisaya because we wanted to showcase Davao City not only for the information sector, but for tourist attraction for Davao City.
We hope that one day, kapag napadaan po kayo sa Davao City o sa mga kapitbahay na mga lugar namin sa Mindanao, ay bumisita po kayo sa Davao City Library para po kapag manalo tayo in international awards, ay magiging proud po tayo as Filipinos that this library in Mindanao, in Davao City, won an international award because it deserves the award.
I just want to make a special mention kay Ma’am Bing Alajar. She is the one who inspired me to dream of that library. She made sure that libraries are given enough resources.
Our librarians in the Philippines will always have a friend in the Office of the Vice President because I believe in your contribution to our education. Not just to our learners, but even to our adults. Lahat ng residents at lahat ng ating mga kababayan, they deserve libraries everywhere they go and every place they visit.
During my recent meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris, one of the many things that we discussed include the challenges that we are facing at the Department of Education — particularly the impact of Covid 19 to the learning progress of our children.
I also briefed her about our efforts through the K-12 program to ensure that our senior high school graduates are equipped with the right knowledge and skills that make them employment-ready.
But one of the crucial learning losses that the Department of Education wants to remedy is reading. Both parents and teachers play unassailable roles in the success of our campaign to ensure that our learners are able to read and understand what they are reading.
Reading books and accessing correct information from proper, dependable, credible sources improves our young learners’ capacity to navigate life’s ups and downs and gives them a greater understanding of what is happening to the world.
This experience complements the lessons they get from their basic education, enabling them to be well informed, and in the end, allowing them to make informed choices and right decisions.
These informed choices and right life decisions may include resisting the lures of drug abuse or being able to discern the deceitful ways of recruitment of the NPA and terrorists.
We do not want our society’s enemies to win over decent, honest, hard-working citizens — our learners, our children.
We cannot let them take away our country’s hope and bright future.
Just as we do not want fake news, confirmation bias, and conspiracy theories to infiltrate our communities and create false beliefs in our people, especially our children.
Every peace-loving Filipino should aggressively help the government in its pursuit to protect Filipino children from drugs, the NPAs, pornography, fake news, disinformation, from recruitment into violent extremism.
At malaki syempre ang papel ng mga librarians dito.
The goal of developing children reading competency and molding them into productive, responsible, and mentally healthy citizens does not rest on schools and teachers alone.
We need a whole-of-society approach to help our children improve their reading proficiency.
The Davao City Public Library and Information Center was built on the idea of maintaining a literate and informed society.
It has served as a knowledge hub for the Dabawenyos where people from all walks of life can come and go, and speak with respect and nostalgia about how it has responded to the lifestyle changes of the Dabawenyos.
The same is true for Iloilo City’s public library. With bigger, more modernized facilities, our public libraries have evolved from a quiet and quaint repository of books into a dynamic destination center continually promoting social cohesion, equal opportunities for personal development and free education, and initiators of public events for local and national development.
Alam niyo po sa mga syudad, lagi pong merong competition dahil mayroon pong mga ratings ang ating DTI and DILG sa performance ng mga syudad. And Iloilo City is always the city that Davao City benchmarks our projects and programs because Iloilo City is one of the top performing and most awarded city in the Philippines.
By modernizing our libraries we have also elevated the tasks of today’s librarians. Our librarians are no longer just gatekeeping books and other traditional sources of knowledge, they now serve as information managers and knowledge managers using today’s technological advances.
It is high time for our public libraries to go beyond the role of lending books. While the quiet and calm environment of a library makes it a haven to develop our creativity, imagination, and independent thinking, we also need to reinvent and extend services to children and youth from low-income families for whom reading books is a luxury.
But there is hope. By deploying mobile libraries, children and youth in far-flung communities can access the services of libraries and read books in the comfort of their community centers.
With over 7,000 islands, I am glad that many organizations, not just our local government units and the Department of Education have launched their own mobile libraries.
There is the Lakbay Alalay in Tarlac, the Library Van Caravan in Ilocos Norte, and the mobile libraries of Davao City, Isabela City in Basilan, and Lanao del Norte.
May our librarians be up to the task of supplementing school-based interventions by getting out of their comfort zones to help a new generation of Filipinos learn to love reading.
Shukran. Madamo gid nga salamat.