Sunday, March 16 – Manila and the Philippine Library Association
I had coffee this morning with Lydia Robledo, who I met through a circuitous route. When I knew I was coming to the Philippines, I sent a message to our Colorado Library Listserv and asked if anyone had been to the Philippines and could help me plan the trip. Caro Hedge, a retired librarian’ referred me to her minister, Ramon Robledo, who referred me to his wife, Liwliwa Robledo, who referred me to her sister, Lydia Robledo, who OWNS A TRAVEL AGENCY in Manila. Can you believe it?
Lydia helped me plan part of the trip and she joined Lily and me for coffee over breakfast this morning. I am being treated exceedingly well. Lydia planned a side trip later in my time her and Lily said she had also arranged a similar one. I’m just sitting back and doing what I’m told.
By the way, breakfast was amazing and free with the room. There were an omelet station and at least eight types of sweet rolls including the famous (or infamous if you consider the calories) cronuts. There was food for every nationality. I could have had pizza, spaghetti, miso soup, green salad, a cheese plate, yogurt, and more.
Lily seems to have remarkable talents as a negotiator. She had managed to get through security the night before to meet me at the airline gate with a sign saying “Professor Nancy Bolt” (a nice promotion) and with a gentleman who took me directly to a special passport line and helped with luggage. She arranged for a car from the University of the Philippines (UP) with a red license plate which, I would discover, get us to places most cars can’t go.
For example, this is Sunday and the National Library is closed with a padlocked gate and guards. So Lily politely asks if we can go inside anyway. The guard unlocked the gate and we drove in. We really didn’t get past the first floor and what impressed me was that their vision, mission, and long term goals were blown up into about 8-foot panels on full display in the lobby. I was particularly impressed with their mission statement:
The full intellectual and cultural development of the Filipino people through the love for reading books and the new forms of literary materials, the lessons and insights of which enable and empower them to adapt to rapid technological advances and the changes accompanying global trends, for application in their present lives and the lives of the next generations of the Filipinos.
On to lunch at a cultural center with representatives of the Philippine Librarians Association Inc. called PLAI (pronounced “ply” – it took me a while to figure what they were saying when the kept saying “ply.”) Having lunch with us was Beth Peralajo, President of PLAI, Susan Pador, Treasurer of PLAI, and Emma Ray, Legislative Liaison for PLAI. Beth and Susan work at Antenejo University in their elementary/secondary schools as school librarians and trainers. Emma works for the House of Representatives in the Congress of the Philippines.
After the devastating and destructive earthquake the Philippines experienced last year, the American Library Association (ALA) raised $6000funds to benefit the restitution of Philippine libraries. Michael Dowling, Director of ALA’s International Relations Office had wired the funds to PLAI already and sent a replica of a check which PLAI had blown up quite large. I presented the check to the four librarians along with a couple of books about the US and a Prayer Rattle from the US Native American culture. You can see the photo with from left to right – Lily, Emma, Beth, me, and Susan.
The cultural program was quite nice and they convinced me to play a Philippine native instrument and dance a traditional dance where I managed not to fall or get my bare feet caught in the moving sticks. After the lunch, Lily tried to take me shopping to buy jewelry I could bring back to the US and sell but I was so exhausted I could not even shop. So we skipped dinner and I went back to the hotel. I struggled to keep my eyes open until at least 9pm but gave in at 8:30 and went to bed.
A few cultural observations. First, security is ever-present. We did not go into any building, anywhere, without have ouu bags scanned for some contraband. This included the hotel I’m staying, another historic hotel we visited, malls we shopped in, restaurants we visited — every place. I asked if there was a history of violence and Lily said sometimes. I had not seen or heard of any incidences since I’ve been here and, frankly, the inspection seems a little cursory, but they do check.
Almost everybody speaks some level of English. Wikipedia says there are over 120 languages spoken but that English and Tagalog, at least in Manila, seem the most prominent. People I met easily went back and forth between the two languages, sometimes in the same sentence.
Lily lives on campus and has a house in her home town as well. Her family house was destroyed by the earthquake. As she told me this she laughed and I asked her how she could laugh after this happened. She said the whole experience made her stronger and taught her to be more faithful to God. The Philippine people, at least the ones I met seem to accept what life throws at them. They are remarkably friendly, always smiling at me. It’s a very pleasant placed to be. EXCEPT FOR THE TRAFFIC. More about that tomorrow.