Juan Stories: Aklat

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Books have the power to bring you to far flung places, to live in a world one could never imagine, and to meet unique characters. And it’s quite amazing how books could make a person immerse themselves in a story. Sadly, not everyone has access to books; there are even those who haven’t even held or opened one, even once. Yet some Juan in Makati changes such landscape when he transformed his home into a 24/7 library where everyone can freely go to.

Hernando Guanlao, Mang Nanie as they fondly call him, made his two-storey house into a 24/7 library called Reading Club 2000. He started the library way back in 2000 with just 50 books in his shelf at first. Professionally an accountant and a former government employee, he was about to turn 50 years old when he put up the library. He had what can only be describe as a “mid-life crisis,” worrying about his retirement. “I was inspired to do that because during that time, I am totally bankrupt. Jobless. That [was] the driving motivation that I [came] up with this bold, courageous book project that will serve the community.” Reading Club 2000 has no rules, people can come and go as they please, and borrow and keep the books as their own. As words started to spread about the library, his then less than a hundred books, now beams to over 2 million with donations, both here and abroad.

Natapos ko ang aking pag-aaral sa kolehiyo ng 15 taon, at nakapagtrabaho rin ako ng 15 taon, hindi ko nakita ang tinatawag natin na contentment. Natutunan ko ‘yung materialism and so have to search for the true meaning of why I’m here, in this earth’s school,” Mang Nanie shared. He believes that he isn’t on earth just by accident; rather he deems he has a purpose. And books, his library, were the answer. The library doesn’t even have a door, embracing its 24/7 access for everyone. “Might as well remove the gate and keep it open for them to enjoy and be happy in looking for [whatever] books they need.”

People came to know Mang Nanie’s project not only by word of mouth, but through social media as well. Online, netizens share their love and appreciation for what Mang Nanie is doing, sharing photos of the library and inviting others to join his advocacy. De La Salle University student, Kayla De Quiroz shared “People are so indulged in mobile devices and other gadgets and they don’t see the beauty in books. Holding a book is so much better than holding a device. Like when you’re turning pages to pages. And then you just finish it, it’s just satisfying.” Meanwhile, University of Makati student, Zaira M. Eito, narrated how Mang Nanie’s library is helping her in her studies. Having English as her major, Zaira said their professor encouraged them to read more to learn more. Mang Nanie’s library is heaven sent as books nowadays are a bit pricey. “Kahit konting libro lang, talagang makakatulong siya sa amin,” Zaira explained.

Besides the library, Mang Nanie also involves himself in outreach programs; giving books to children and communities. According to him, children are a great factor in his campaign to educate. “I accepted my effort to compliment what the educational system cannot do. I found out that there is a lot more interest, interesting stories in going down to these areas doing this kind of civil community service. So you really are in touch, in contact, in connectivity with this people.” The reality is, many are not as fortunate to be able to go to school, to have pencils and notebooks, or to read books. But with Mang Nanie’s library and initiative, people are given the opportunity to do so. In Mang Nanie’s own simple way, he is helping others experience what they are deprived of. His selfless advocacy of giving books is like sparking their dreams on the palm of their hands. “If you have the money you go to the bookstore. You use your money as your tool to satisfy yourself. But here, in this kind of activities, I learned you really have to embrace all kinds of suffering.”

Mang Nanie’s sincerity and generosity is a living testament that there is still good in this world despite its toxicity and negativity. No doubt, his heart of service is an example to follow. And despite the modernization of Makati, where everything is modern and techy, there exists Mang Nanie’s library; old school but still cool. His library has touched the lives of many, reaching beyond the corners of his humble abode.

“It is not in the appearance of the books that you give, but the quality. In short, you have to think what is best that a reader will appreciate,” Mang Nanie explained. Truly, Mang Nanie is one of the many Juans out there who selflessly contribute for the betterment of the society.

Be part of Mang Nanie’s advocacy of free books for all. You may visit his library at 1454 Balagtas St, Barangay La Paz, Makati City. For donations, contact him at 0935-153-3031, or send him a message at readingclub2000.yahoo.com or via the Reading Club 2000 Facebook page.

Researcher: Faye Alingod

Videographer/Editor: Badz Bragas

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