BOOKS + LITERACY
WaterBridge Outreach Funds Unique Mobile Library Project in the Philippines
by Barbara Bundy, PhD, Coordinator, Books + Education, WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water
She was so inspired by reading Monica Brown’s award-winning picture book, Waiting for the Biblioburro, to the children of Dagdag Dunong Reading Center in Manila that she resolved to follow the example of real-life librarian Luis Soriano. One fine day Luis loaded his own children’s books onto two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, to create a traveling library for bringing books to children in faraway places throughout his native Colombia.
The result: a “biblioburro” for Dagdag Dunong in the form of a brand new silver dune-buggy style jeep called the “Jeepney of Hope” loaded with books in Tagalog and English — and funded by WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water.
“She” is “Ms. Ana,” Ana Maria Bacudio, chief storyteller and project leader at the nongovernment, all volunteer Reading Center that is trying to make a difference in the lives of poor Filipino children hungry for books and reading as well as for food to nourish their bodies.
When WaterBridge Outreach donated copies of Waiting for the Biblioburro to Dagdag Dunong a couple of years ago as part of its books and water outreach program, Luis’ story convinced Ana Maria that she could do something similar in the Philippines--create a mobile library to bring books to the desperately poor indigenous children in remote areas on the island of Mindoro, who have no books, and do Read-A-Longs with them and teach them to read and write.
The Jeepney of Hope is Ms. Ana’s second attempt to create a “biblioburro” for the children of Mindoro. The first mobile library was a used motorcycle that she and her husband obtained and renovated, complete with shelves, to serve as a “bibiosiklo” that they were going to ride on Mindoro. However, typhoon Nona devastated and paralyzed the central Philippines in December 2015, flooding much of the area. The bibiosiklo was irreparably damaged. In the face of this disaster WaterBridge Outreach was able to reach out and help Ms. Ana and Dagdag Dunong realize their dream, but this time with a much sturdier vehicle—a jeep-- as the legendary “biblioburro”!
With Ms. Ana, a medical technician in Manila by day and devoted volunteer in the evenings and on weekends, at the helm and with help from other volunteers, the Jeepney of Hope has started “rolling its wheels,” as Ms Ana says. With books, mats, and parasols on board, they headed first by ferry to Mindoro and then along rural mountain roads to Baco Oriental to bring books to the children there. They have also traveled to the barangays (districts) of Lantuyen and Dulangen 3. Most recently, on April 14-17, the Jeepney of Hope journeyed to Bulalacao Oriental, 200 kilometers from Baco, to meet with the Mangyan children there and to do a Read A Long and storytelling sessions.
These children and their families are desperately poor and deprived by the government of basic human rights because of discrimination against them as members of indigenous tribes of Mangyan people who have lived on Mindoro since before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines. A total of eight Mangyan tribes currently live in 27 districts on the island. Ms. Ana says that the children are very bright and eager to learn—are “hungry” for books and stories.
The children’s smiles hide the oppression they experience from having their basic human rights violated and from discrimination, according to Ms. Ana. Their family lands are being confiscated from their parents by mining companies eager to profit and who have the backing of the government. Because of the existing mines and 100 applications for new mines pending, the habitats of the Mangyan people are at risk of being destroyed. This risk is intensified by the armed conflict on Mindoro between government armed forces and armed local groups resisting the mining.
Living with the Mangyan children for four days this past April taught us a lot, said Ana Maria. "They shared their ethnic culture with us, and we slept in tents in the mountains and bathed in a well in the forest. They have no potable water and no electricity.”
A seven year-old boy named Emmanuel at Dadag Dunong gave his response to Waiting for the Biblioburro, “Children are always waiting for the biblioburro. They hunger for stories, like Ana, the girl in the book. I like Ana. She is like me. I also want to read books and hear stories and also write a book some day.”
The grassroots venture represented by the Jeepney of Hope is a noble cause. As part of her literacy program on behalf of Dagdag Dunong Reading Center, Ana Maria Bacudio is planning to teach the Mangyan children to read and write in their native language as well as in Tagalog and English. In Mindoro, the Mangyan tribes write in a system that is based on the original Philippine phonetic system in Baybayin, which was discarded when the Spaniards arrived on the island.
The Mangyans offer a rich artistic heritage, which must not be allowed to die. The National Museum declared the Mangyan tribes’ systems of writing a “National Cultural Treasures” in 1997, and in 1999 UNESCO inscribed Mangyan scripts in the “Memory of the World” registry. And yet very little research has been done to date on the Mangyan tribes and their rich artistic and linguistic histories, and therefore very little is known about them.
PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTION TODAY TO WATERBRIDGE OUTREACH: BOOKS + WATER to support projects such as the Jeepney of Hope for Mindoro! Click here to be taken to our donate page. Contributions are tax deductible within the United States.
Click here to visit our Projects Now page for the Dagdag Dunong Reading Center.