Scrolling through his Facebook newsfeed, Jason Cordi spotted something interesting. A WorldRemit video about a free library in Manila touched a soft spot on the Melbourne-based librarian who gathered boxes and boxes of books that he personally delivered to his home country.
“WorldRemit uploaded a video, and it just appeared in my news feed at the time, I was really touched by the story and I decided to share it,” Jason said.
It was about a free library in Manila in the Philippines, run by Nanie Guanlao. For over 15 years he has opened his home to anyone with a desire to read, 24/7.
“As a librarian, I thought, there had to be something for me to do, that I can help or contribute to Nanie’s cause.”
He got in touch with the people that made the video, money transfer and remittance service WorldRemit, to find out how to get in touch with Nanie.
The company arranged for the books to be shipped to Manila and covered the cost.
“Whenever I’d receive a message on Facebook that there would be books to collect, I’d free up a day … and just drive around Melbourne,” he said. “My car was full of books for about a month, because I didn’t really have much space in my apartment.”
When the books arrived in Manila last March, so did Jason, to help Nanie unpack the books – with the help of a small group of WorldRemit staff.
“I was really excited to meet Nanie in person. It was a really happy moment after months and months of anticipation and wanting to come and help him out,” said Jason, a Filipino-Australian who has been to the Philippines many times before but mostly for leisure. His mother is from Lanao Del Norte. This latest trip is one that he treasures.
The library only exists because of the donations Nanie receives, so the boxes of books were a very welcome addition.
“From Melbourne, Australia to the Philippines to my place, can you just imagine,” said Nanie.
“In giving … there is one high spirit, high feelings, not only from Jason but from the source of these books, from the publisher Penguin … from other authors, from the users, from his own library in Australia.”
“We’ve had over two million views on Facebook alone – it’s been fantastic to see the response – and wonderful to be able to support both Jason and Nanie.”
Nanie also takes books to communities in Manila and rural areas where there is little or no access to books.
“Books can change the world. This is the world that needs the books to be read, that makes the books happy. The remotest places the books can reach,” he said.
In the Pampanga region are a group of communities populated by one of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines, the Aeta. Until relatively recently they lived a nomadic life, and although some still do, many now live in permanent communities, especially in areas affected by the devastating eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991.
Many communities have also fallen victim to land appropriation.
It’s to one of these communities that Nanie and the WorldRemit team took several boxes of books.
Their arrival was greeted by huge excitement as the village gathered to see what was inside.
“I just hope that this continues, so we can finish our education. We can say then that we have accomplished something,” said 15-year-old Tricia M Pan, holding a book on Filipino history.
“Reaching the Aeta community or indigenous people in North Subic [with] the books donated by the Australian group – I see life again in the darkness with their interest to have these books to gain knowledge, “ said Nanie.
“Especially [with] second hand books. It is 300% productivity for the books. No royalty, no fees, no printing, publishing expense.
“You are giving back life to this waste of other people … instead of allowing them back to the paper mills. So you make them productive again, useful for human beings.”
For Jason, the trip has been life-changing.
“I have plans to return to do more volunteer work. I’d like to be involved with LGU’s, schools, library associations and businesses and private partnerships to help communities that need books. There is a growing need for books as many schools and public libraries cannot afford to purchase new books,” he said.
“I am continuing to collect books to donate to the Philippines. Mang Nanie has encouraged me to help other places in the Philippines, including Lanao Del Norte. Social media plays a big role in making this happen. Thanks to social media, I was able to learn about Nanie’s library and many people have requested for donations.
“One of the big lessons I learnt from this experience is that you can start from something small and it will grow as long as you have the passion to do it,” he said.
If you would like to donate books to Nanie Guanlao and the Reading Club 2000, the address is 1454 Balagtas St., Brgy. La Paz, Makati City, Philippines 1204