Philippine ‘library home’ stacked with books to inspire reading

March 4, 2024 - 9:21 AM
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Mang Nanie
Hernando Guanlao, also known as Mang Nanie, 72, poses in front of his communal library at his home in Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines, February 7, 2024. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA — “A good book is easy to find” reads the sign on Hernando Guanlao’s two-story home located on the outskirts of the Philippines’ main financial district which he has turned into a public library where anyone can borrow books for free.

Called the Reading Club 2000, Guanlao’s library showcases a wide variety of books he hopes will inspire people, especially young curious minds to read, especially at this time when reading ability among Philippine students remains low.

“The books that one can see here are those used in K-12 (elementary books), novels which students and enthusiasts can make use of,” the 72-year-old Guanlao said at his home crammed with thousands of books in stacks.

“There are also spiritual books for those who are looking for religious knowledge, hardbound and softbound books, autobiographies, and many different genre’s that one can enjoy, all for free,” he said.

What started as a 50-book display on the sidewalk fronting his home more than two decades ago, Guanlao’s collection has grown exponentially over the years, thanks to a steady supply of books from donors, some of whom opted to stay anonymous.

“They just leave boxes of books outside my house,” said Guanlao, who has also started shipping reading material to public schools in far-flung communities.

Philippine students are facing learning setbacks with math, science and reading scores among the lowest in the world, according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

“My mission is to give away used and donated books to others at no cost and to promote education through literature,” Guanlao said.

— Reporting by Adrian Portugal and Karen Lema; Editing by Michael Perry