CATBALOGAN, Philippines – The pile of books on the table in front of Melita Mallari, the officer-in-charge of the Samar Provincial Library, amazed her.
As she began pulling out books one by one, turning page selections for various subject matters, it made her smile. She felt excitement, thinking that children in conflict-torn areas would now have more access to free books.
Mallari said they were grateful for the initiative of the Philippine Army that gave them boxes of books.
“Majority of our collected reading materials are not readily available in most places, especially those without access to the internet; thus, through (this) project, we (hope to) give them (children and adults) access to different kinds of library materials,” Mallari explained.
For the past three years, Mallari said, the Samar Provincial Library has been providing additional support to barangays and school libraries, including conflict-affected areas.
This year, Samar Provincial Library’s book donation program intends to carry out five donation activities, and the beneficiaries will be selected through the Department of Education (DepEd) Catbalogan City Division office.
On Tuesday, February 21, the Army’s 8th Infantry Division heeded the call to provide educational access to the most vulnerable communities in Samar province.
Division Public Affairs chief Captain Jefferson Mariano said the Office of the Assistant Division Commander for Reservist and Retiree Affairs (ADCRAA) donated educational books to the Samar Provincial Library.
The move was in support of the Barangay Reading Center or School Library program of the Samar Provincial Government, Mariano said.
In all, 244 books were personally turned over by Colonel Erwin Rommel Lamzon, Assistant Division Commander for Reservist and Retiree Affairs of the 8th Infantry Division, to the Samar Provincial Library headed by Mallari.
Lamzon said the initiative aims to aid children who need reading materials, especially those who are in the Geographically Isolated and Disadvantage Areas (GIDAs).
In a mix of Tagalog and English, Lamzon said, “Books are testaments of things, facts, ideas, and places, so even though the advent of technology lets people download information, there are still areas without access to platforms like Google, Yahoo, and others.”
“So, they can still benefit from the books that we are donating as these are K to 12 certified, for various grades,” Lamzon said, adding some of the books are meant for high school students, while others are for college students.
Book donation drives for conflict-affected areas are not new to the government soldiers in Eastern Visayas.
In August 2022, the Army’s 20IB conducted a book donation drive for a school located in a remote village of Siljagon of Mapanas, Northern Samar.
The remote village is considered a conflict-affected community, with the army claiming the village served as haven of armed rebels in the past.
Dubbed the “KinaBOOKasan” Project that started in 2021, soldiers and donors reached the school after three hours of motorcycle rides, hiking, and river crossings.
“This project, which benefitted some 1,715 populace of the village, showcases the commitment of helping the student sector who are usually exploited and became the victim of the deceptive recruitment of the New People’s Army (NPA),” an official of the Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion spokesperson said.
Lamzon said they want to replicate the initiative, allowing it to serve all areas of operations in Eastern Visayas under the 8th Infantry Division in the future.
“Books are important and needed especially in GIDAs that lack modern reading materials, so (we) pushed (for) it,” the official said. – Rappler.com
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