If there was ever a perfect time for Hernando Guanlao to prove that the spirit of generosity—as in the no-strings- attached type of sharing— actually works, it was nearly 20 years ago when the then middle-aged former accountant found himself totally broke. “I had nothing to give during those years,” says Mang Nanie.
Or so he thought. To honor the memory of his parents, whose work as government employees allowed them to give their children the gift of education, he gathered his only possessions at the time, about 50 used books, and placed them on the sidewalk outside the home he grew up in. This marked the start of Reading Club 2000, his all-day, every-day, no-rules library that encourages anyone to take and give books as they please.
Word spread quickly about the humble aklatan sa bangketa and its affable vocabularyo (a play on the words “vocabulary” and albularyo, or folk healer). As countless books were either picked up by voracious bookworms or sent to schools and communities outside Manila and in far-flung areas, countless more arrived in the form of unsolicited donations from people looking for a place to pass on their pre- loved encyclopedias, children’s books, textbooks, and novels. The pledges pour in so fast, sometimes they don’t even reach the aklatan. A set of encyclopedias from a doctor in Caloocan, says Mang Nanie, is going straight to a high school in Valenzuela City.
A Different Kind of Balance
For a venture that doesn’t earn a single centavo, Reading Club 2000 has blessed Mang Nanie with a different and far more valuable kind of wealth. He has described himself as rich in friends, finding kindred souls in book lovers of life and students from the nearby public school who never fail to drop by for their daily book fix.
Even the books themselves prove good company. “My presence is what you only discern,” he says when asked who helps him run the aklatan. “But you must remember: the authors, publishers, and those involved in printing these books are all here, working together.”
Ultimately, by keeping the wheels of give and take in constant motion, Mang Nanie has discovered his true mission—to spread goodness and kindness to the world. “If you can make 200 people happy with 200 books every day, which is my target, you are making the atmosphere a happier and positive place.”