I’ve only met a handful of people who do what they do not for love or for money, but for the sake of kindness. They’re the kind of people who wake up in the morning not thinking about how much money they’re going to make, but how many lives they’re going to change. So when I read an entry about Reading Club 2000, the free library on Balagtas Street, I pitched an idea for a feature about it to Jared, Stache’s associate editor, and what followed was an inspiring story from a stranger, Hernando Guanlao, perhaps the kindest and the most grounded soul I have ever met.
The library started like a seed in 2000, with an estimate of 200 books from Guanlao’s personal collection. Because of his passion for serving his countrymen, he set up a free library in front of his ancestral house. What makes it special is not its growing 500-book collection or its unconventional location in the middle of the bustling district, but its free 24/7 service. In fact, Mang Hernando encourages you to come as you are, and leave with a free book.
In the hope of discovering the story—the man—behind such a selfless advocacy, we found ourselves on 1454 Balagtas Street, Makati, awestruck as we browsed hundreds of titles. A student was looking for research material, children who were reading looked up to smile at us, and at the end of the street was Hernando Guanlao, saying thank you to a family who came all the way from the South just to donate books. After introducing ourselves, the first thing he says is, “This is junk. There is nothing impressive about this.” Before we could object, he gestures to the books, most of them worn-out, hand-me-downs, torn at the edges, but he says, “I give life. My goal is to give life [through these books].”
Read the whole article in Stache Magazine Online’s literary issue
We noticed books on an upside down boat across the street. He was salvaging wet books by drying them under the sun.
Kids borrowing books from the library
Hernando Guanlao’s hospitable wife
More books line the stairs of his ancestral house