“Help Save Our National Library”

“Help save our National Library…”

By Apolinario Villalobos

The call to save the National Library of the Philippines (NLP)…our Library, came from Atty. Antonio Santos, the Director of the National Library of the Philippines. He voiced this out during our meeting (November 5, 2014), regarding matters on solicitation and donations, with his Asst. Director, Ms. Yolly Jacinto, CDD Chief, Ms. Tess Pimentel and CDD Asst. Chief, Ms. Melody Madrid. He added his call for understanding from readers in view of the ongoing retrofitting project. The loud drone from the drilling equipment below the conference room did not deter the progress of our discussion.

Atty. Santos shared long-ranged plans that centered on how the facilities of the library can be made more reader-friendly and abreast with the fast evolution of high technology. He cited in particular the plan to establish an e-library to facilitate researches, and the expansion of the Filipiniana section which shall include a gallery of rare books. He was positive that all those can be done with the support of the different sectors in augmenting whatever budget can be allocated from the national coffer. He, with the untiring support of the Assistant Director, Ms. Jacinto, has been enthusiastically coming out with his progressive ideas ever since he took over the directorship of the institution.

In the meantime, the cooperative and cohesive attitude of the staff who had been willingly sacrificing their weekends ever since the retrofitting project began, is very much observable. They have been pitching in their time to pack books and equipment for moving to available safe spaces within the building to give way to the retrofitting of the posts and floor areas. Despite the hectic activities and dust, pertinent sections are still made available to readers and clients with other transactions.

After our meeting, I braved the dust to personally see the extent of the retrofitting project, with the help of Delia Tambong, in-charge of the Library’s utility support group. While making the rounds, we met staff with trolleys full of boxes, while some were stacking them in safe corners. What I saw has made me wonder how the institution could still function as normally as it could, despite their difficult situation. Indeed, they show an admirable feat!

Surveys and studies show that despite the hi-tech phenomenon resulting to the unquestionably convenient access to information via the internet, there is still a popular demand for hard copies of reference materials that are available in libraries and bookstores. Add to that the fact that practical and wise researchers, especially, students would rather spend their time, free-of-charge in libraries than in internet cafes where every single minute ticks the peso sign.

The retrofitting project may take some time until the last whiff of dust has settled, signaling the completion of the gallant effort to make the National Library of the Philippines more sturdy and functional. Despite this, coupled with the limited financial upkeep, the institution, with Atty. Santos at the helm, untiringly pursues its set goals of satisfying the requirements of walk-in readers, and serving as the umbrella of all public libraries throughout the country.

The National Library of the Philippines is an integral part of the country’s history. It is the repository of the Filipino’s intellectual achievements. The edifice houses books some of which were written by our heroes, including those of Jose Rizal, aside from different kinds of documents that stood as mute witnesses to the arduous cultural and political development our country in the face of trying times. These reasons are just a few, that should awaken Filipinos to realize its importance, and its need to survive. Personally, I cannot imagine a country without a National Library.

To know more about the institution, friends are requested to check the following:

Website: http://web.nlp.gov.ph; twitter: @ask.the.nlpmuse@gmail.com;

wordpress: nlpmuse.wordpress.com; tumbler: nlpmuse;

facebook: NationalLibraryofthePhilippines



Touristic Manila

Touristic Manila

By Apolinario Villalobos


When I came to Manila during the early 80’s, the city was just gaining a momentum toward its recognition as a prime tourist destination in Asia. The most popular district then was Ermita which would come alive just when the sun was about to set beyond the horizon of Manila Bay. From its daytime drabness the district would undergo an instant transformation into the gaudiness made heady by the loud music that emanated from the hole-in-the-wall beer joints. The jolly racket lasted until just before sunup. A night was never complete without a brawl. And when the sun finally warmed its sidewalks, giddy girls with still rouged faces lined the sidewalks for cheap jeepney ride home.


Today, Ermita has been transformed into a safe tourist haven. Roxas Boulevard is dotted with five-star hotels, and side by side with the Children’s Museum is the United States Embassy complex at the western end of the boulevard. M.H. del Pilar and A. Mabini Streets previously known for their raucous beer joints are now assuming a wholesome façade with rows of restaurants, affordable hotels, and a casino housed in five-star Hyatt Hotel that provides a highlight. The newly-renovated National Library of the Philippines breaks the monotony of T.M. Kalaw St., and a few meters from the imposing structure is the office of the National Historical Institute. A big shopping mall stands out among the condo buildings being built along the  United Nations Avenue where the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters are also located. Manila Pavilion that adds splendor to this particular section of Ermita was once the popular Manila Hilton.


Avenida, the main thoroughfare of the Sta. Cruz district, is still alive with sidewalk bazaars that overflow to the adjacent Quiapo district. Both districts have historic churches that serve as their centerpiece, and which are popular among pilgrims during Lenten season. Quiapo Church is the shrine of the Black Nazarene, the festivity of which draws millions of devotees every year. On the other side of Quezon Boulevard is the Islamic district, in the midst of which is the Golden Mosque. Though differing in faith, the residents of the two districts live in harmony.


Another shopping district of Manila is Divisoria where malls have mushroomed during the past years. It is still the most popular shoppers’ mecca of Manila where one can find practically everything – from school supply to the latest electronic gadgets. It is, however, more popular as showcase for latest fashions.  Late in the afternoon, a portion of the Recto Avenue is closed to give way to stalls of vegetable wholesalers who come from different provinces. Practically, the whole area is alive the whole night until six in the morning of the following day during which the merchants begin to pack up whatever are left of their goods. It is also at this time that the sanitary teams of the city begin to haul out piles of garbage and mop up the street for daytime shoppers.


The Chinatown of Manila, known more among the locals as Ongpin, referring to the main street, is the oldest in the world. It went through different historic transformations – from its being made as a segregated Chinese settlement or “parian” during the Spanish regime, into becoming a hideaway of urban Filipino guerillas during the WWII, until finally blossoming into an elegant enclave of oriental culture today with its towering condo buildings and restaurants where one could partake of exotic cuisine, though, the reliable steadfast apothecaries are still around with their different aromatic concoctions.


The Pasig River cuts across the landscape of Manila. The Manila City Hall is found on its west bank which is lately enhanced by a newly-built shopping mall, while the Malacaῆan Palace occupies a well-shaded north bank. The so-called “university belt” because of the several educational institutions within this particular section, is located several street corners from the palace.


The Liwasang Bonifacio (Bonifacio Park) near the Manila City Hall is dominated by the Post Office building and across from it is the idle Metropolitan Theater, still trying to stand proud despite years of neglect. The structure, though, could still gain attention because of its classical architecture. The theater was once the principal venue of both local and international plays, aside from concerts which launched several singers, actors and actresses to stardom.


Across the street from Liwasang Bonifacio, the Old Intramuros beckons to those with a desire to quench their thirst for history. Within the walls of Intramuros are the centuries- old Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church. On foot, going around the Walled City, including leisurely stops for refreshing drinks or snacks, takes only about three hours. However, if the Fort Santiago is included in the itinerary, one should add another hour to their stroll. Inside the fort, one can find cells where prisoners were confined during the Spanish regime and the WWII. Local horse-driven coaches or rigs are available for leisurely ride that can be contracted for a jaunt up to Rizal Park or Luneta.


Rizal Park  was known in history as Bagumbayan where Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero was shot for purportedly instigating rebellion against the Spaniards. Behind the grandstand, one can find the H20 Hotel and Ocean Park which are just a few steps from the historic Manila Hotel. Lately, the park has undergone facelifts that made it more alluring to regular visitors. The park’s administration is not daunted by the small area of the park, instead, defied this limitation by using resourcefulness and creativity. The park’s crowning glory today is the cluster of renovated fountains that “dance” with the music and lights. The imposing Department of Tourism building is located on the T.M. Kalaw side of the park with its façade facing the giant bronze statue of Lapu-lapu that stands at what was once the skating rink, and a few meters from them is the National Parks Development office that manages Luneta. The Philippine map lagoon has been made more stroller-friendly with the floating lane that diagonally cuts across it.


The mentioned landmarks of Manila are accessible via the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, jeepneys, buses, and aircon vans.