When I heard about the Cebu Citizens-Press Council’s (CCPC) call for book donations for its Cebu Journalism and Journalists (CJJ) Book project, I thought how history has a way of coming full circle.
During the 45th quarterly meeting of the CCPC on Dec. 1, 2016, the country’s longest active citizens-press council entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Cebu City Public Library (CCPL) to gather journalism books and related materials for a nook at the library, located at the ground floor of the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum.
Book shelves were donated to the CCPL, including 230 books on journalism coming from SunStar Cebu and its public and standards editor Pachico A. Seares, who is also the CCPC executive director.
Seares and fellow editor and CCPC deputy director Cherry Ann T. Lim made a call for more donations of journalism books to the CJJ Book Project.
“As long as books are still published, there are always readers,” Seares emailed this writer.
“There is still room for more books on these shelves,” Lim pointed out in a separate email.
I share the optimism of Seares and Lim that there will not only be books to fill the shelves of the CJJ Book project.
More important, there will be readers who will open the books and take their contents to mind, if not heart.
During the planning of the CJJ Book project, other academics and journalists brainstormed with the SunStar Cebu journalists and CCPC media advocates.
Professors Nestor Ramirez, chairman of the Department of Journalism and Communications of the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R), and Karlon N. Rama, who lectures on journalism at the University of San Carlos (USC), joined their former media colleagues. A SunStar Cebu columnist and Monday editorial writer, I also handle journalism courses at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu’s College of Communication, Art and Design.
A radio commentator, Ramirez leads the Cebu Association of Communication Educators (Cace), which gathers the faculty of the colleges and universities offering Mass Communication in Cebu City. Rama is the national coordinator of The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (Pecojon).
The CCPC and its partners in academe, journalism, and media advocacy groups planned how students, specially those aspiring to become future journalists, can use the CJJ Book project as references for media studies.
The possibility was also mulled to encourage Mass Communication student and faculty researchers to share copies of their studies on local journalism with the CCPL’s readers, which embraces everyone as this is the only public library in Cebu.
The third CCPC undertaking on media literacy—after the annual publication of the Cebu Journalism and Journalists magazine timed with every observance of the Cebu Press Freedom Week (CPFW), as well as the Cebu Journalism and Journalists (CJJ) Gallery launched on Sept. 24, 2010 at the Museo Sugbo—the CJJ Book project is not at all the first citizen-initiated undertaking related to books and literacy benefiting the CCPL.
The CCPL is part of a heritage landmark located along Osmeña Boulevard known to locals and visitors as the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum.
Its pristine neoclassical facade is iconic for the central statue depicting Dr. Jose Rizal in an unusual tableau. A large tome opened on the national hero’s lap is perused by him and his young companions, a boy and a girl.
According to MyCebu.ph, then Cebu Gov. Sotero B. Cabahug led citizens in raising funds through literary-musical programs and carnival-expositions conducted every Rizal Day since 1919.
Construction began in 1935. On Dec. 30, 1939, the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum was inaugurated.
Accompanying the memorial of Rizal with the young readers is a plaque that dedicates the building “To the memory of the most outstanding Filipino educator, patriot, and martyr who is conscious of the importance of education.”
During the Second World War, the Japanese Imperial Army used the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum as a headquarters. Its collection of books was ejected and “dumped in a nook at the Capitol Building,” according to MyCebu.ph.
Despite the invaders’ cavalier treatment of the CCPL books, historical accounts still had a happy ending when, in answer to public clamor, the Cebu City Public Library reopened in 1954. The Cebu City Government also allocates a budget for the library collection and expenses for its operations.
Filling the gaps
The CCPL’s wartime brush with displaced books has not recurred. On the other hand, the library’s brushes with lack of funds and surfeit of bureaucracy have also inspired many Cebuanos to step up once more to fill the gaps in delivering this basic right to information and education.
Volunteers such as the Friends of the Cebu City Public Library and the Basadours, a group of reading (basa) ambassadors led by Cebu Daily News reporter Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo, conduct regular Story Time storytelling sessions and campaign for donations of children’s story books.
At the CCPL, the Basadours launched its Project I Love to Read MORE (Moving Onward to Reading Empowerment). They aim to organize more storytelling sessions in Cebu and neighboring provinces; donate books to barangay reading centers; and generally promote children’s love of reading through non-traditional means such as reading aloud activities, role-playing and puppet shows.
Even in the face of stiff competition from new media and mobile communications-enabled reading, the CCPC’s call for paper books on journalism does not faze advocates for reading.
The CCPL is no stranger to vicissitudes. From its establishment in Parian on April 13, 1919 to the library’s transfer to the Rizal Memorial Library and Museum in 1939, the wartime dumping of its book collection at the Cebu Provincial Capitol, its reopening in 1954, its closure again for renovations in 2008, reopening in 2010, to its current unceasing struggle for funds and support, the CCPL counts on Cebuanos, and vice versa.
Where there will be books, there will be readers. Pepe and his young companions stand outside the CCPL as sentinels.
Do books still matter?
In this digital age, will anyone still flip through the pages of a book when an Internet search will yield without qualms a world of content on every question under the sun?
There’s no match for this straight-to-one’s mobile phone content delivery service, for sure. But it will only deliver what is online.
CJJ Books, a section of the Cebu City Public Library, is a trove of material that may no longer be available elsewhere in Cebu—printed books and magazines, audio books and video films and documentaries related to media.
Here, in print, international authors and news organizations bare the secrets of their craft in biographies, practical guides, and visual feasts of their best photographs and design.
Paper books aren’t going out of style anytime soon.
In 2016, sales of physical books and journals climbed seven percent and children’s books 16 percent in the United Kingdom, as e-book sales dropped 17 percent, according to the UK’s Publishers Association. In the United Sates, paperback sales grew 7.5 percent and hardcover 4.1 percent, as e-book sales slid 18.7 percent in the first nine months of 2016, the Association of American Publishers reported.
Young people drove the paper book sales in the UK, as they sought an escape from their devices and social media. Cherry Ann T. Lim
(CJJ12 was published in hardcopy in September 2017.)