Hernando “Nanie” Guanlao is a Filipino free reading advocate. As a man in his early 60s with an abiding passion for books, he set up an informal library outside his house in 1454 Balagtas Street in Barangay La Paz, Makati to share his passion and encourage people of reading. He gave up on his job and survives purely on his savings to maintain the library.
Early life and education
Nanie is the second of five children born to government employees Honorio and Felisa Guanlao. He was introduced to books, at an early age, in pursuit of academic perfection.
Guanlao was not into reading books until his first year in College at the Philippine College of Commerce where he took up accounting that he visited the Theosophical Society in Quezon City. The said institution showcased publications which are usually banned in commercial stores and are very expensive to afford.
After college, Guanlao worked for an accountancy firm. He also sold ice cream and baked goods. He also worked for the government. Throughout that time, he has also been self-employed as a remedial tax practitioner and helped people with trouble of filing their taxes.
The Reading Club 2000
Guanlao started the library, which is formally called The Reading Club 2000 or The Library in Balagtas Street, in 2000, shortly after the death of his parents. To honor their memory and to start a unique form of community service, he decided to set up a library to promote the reading habit he inherited from them. He put the books, a collection of fewer than 100 and majority of which are old textbooks, outside the door of his house and waited if anyone would want to borrow them. They did and even brought the books back with other books to join the collection. Currently, about 3000 to 4000 books are on the shelves and in the stacked boxes in the stairs. The library is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Readers can take away as many books as they want, for as long as they like. But, for the twelve years that Guanlao has been running the library, he has found out that his collection has grown as more people donate to the cause.
Guanlao emphasized the importance of libraries. He added that the Republic Act-RA 7743, which aims for the provision and establishment of libraries on the barangay, municipal, city and congressional levels, exists but is not being implemented properly.
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he said that "You don't do justice to these books if you put them in a cabinet or a box. A book should be used and reused. It has life, it has a message. As a book caretaker, you become a full man.”
Other than his wife Lourdes and their children Lyell, Hansel and Honorio III who help spread the word about the value of literacy, their neighbor Celine, helps sustain the library. She donates books as she says that she loves the concept of the library. She added that Filipinos, especially those who are not wealthy, have limited access to books. She recalled that she has not been able to visit any public library except for the National Library in Manila. She added that books, on the average, cost about PHP 300 and considering the income of Filipino parents, they would rather allot their money on other priorities.
Guanlao is also into a mobile library called “book bike” to go and help the poorest communities in Manila. He brings with him a large basket piled high with books, newspapers and magazines. He has already shared several boxes of books to a man who's been trying to set up a library in Bicol. He is about to help another friend start up a library in the far south of the Philippines.
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