Remember the library I wrote about last time, the one the embassy inaugurated during our National day? Couple of weeks ago, Sentro Rizal launched its first project, with a timely commemoration to the guy the whole place was specially named after. To celebrate our National Hero’s 151st birthday, we hosted a film showing for high school student, and an essay writing contest about him.
I was a mere projectionist during the film showing but it was really great to see the Centre starting to serve its purpose for one of the main group of beneficiaries we thought of when this project was put to plan. We showed a sort of Hollywood-ish version of the life of Dr. Jose Rizal, which was filmed about 14 years ago, starring one of our country’s Action stars Cesar Montano. It’s funny because when that film was produced to celebrate our nation’s centennial independence in 1998, I was in high school too, and I remember thinking how it was high-time money was spent on making a film on one of the most prominent men in our history. Major production companies after all had no qualms making films on every cliché in life there is in the Philippines, ranging from poverty to puppy love. But I digress… It was as if, even as a mere projectionist, I was passing on something to the next generation of Filipinos. Of course it was also great that the kids had a chance to visit the library, it may not have that many of books but it was nice because it did not take long for the youngsters to pick up some of them and started browsing.
We also organized an Essay writing contest, which also turned out great as we were floored at the number of participants. It was also interesting to read the contestant’s answers, papers that varied from the most adorably innocent, to the most serious and surprisingly deep responses considering these are individuals no older than 16 years old. Anyway we initially planned on crowning one winner per level, but some of the answers were so interesting, the judges (JG included), agreed to give tokens to the runner-ups as well.
The winner of the elementary level garnered a unanimous vote as the winner, and personally impressed me as well. For the theme of the essay, they were asked to give what they would like to learn from Rizal, and while most of the other kids talked about the usual stuff like being good and patriotic; in her essay, the young winner of 12 (I think) talked about wanting to learn of courage and perhaps naively, perhaps knowingly, wondered how Rizal might have felt while anticipating the bullets that were sentenced to shoot him dead. It kind of gave me a whole new perspective to the phrase “from the mouth of the babes”.
What really made me feel good about these past activities is that some of the students that visited really appreciated the library as well as saw the potential of what it can do for them. I am more hopeful though that they really do come and more importantly pick-up a book and read. I for one, who considering grew-up back home, and yet did not really did my best to learn my heritage, and despite my often tongue-in-cheek complaints about the Philippines and its everyday rustics, must say that this is something I regret. Now that I am an adult, I better understand what a crucial tool understanding your roots is all about. As a Diplowife, meeting people from all parts of the world, I often find myself envious at how many of them find joy in talking about their culture, whether it be food, or their history how much of a big part it is in who they have become.
And thinking about these kids, I fear that growing up in a foreign country makes it even more challenging in shaping themselves. This is why I am very hopeful that the library will at least help them in this burden, and at the most guide them to be better Filipinos, just as Rizal was, that is of course minus the firing squad ending.
*photos courtesy of the Philippine Embassy, Muscat, Oman.