MANILA— A reading center is set to open in January in Surigao City, the first such facility there that will also be free for the public, in a bid to “increase the reading habit” of Surigaonons and other visitors, the city’s tourism officer said Saturday.
“Reading books is the key to gain knowledge. Books will bring you to places you may or may not have seen,” Roselyn Merlin told ABS-CBN News when reached for details about the city government’s “Reader’s Hub @ the Park” project.
“It will increase your vocabulary and will open your mind to many things.”
Merlin said the newly-built center, located at the city’s Luneta Park in between City Hall and the Surigao City Cathedral, will house books from Inday Matugas, who initiated the project. She is the mother of city Mayor Ernesto Matugas, Jr.
“The city has no public library at the moment. So, this one will hopefully supplement the need for avenues to have a pastime for reading and to increase the reading habit of the Surigaonons,” Merlin said.
Matugas, a self-confessed book lover, disclosed in a separate message that up to 3,000 books, both fiction and non-fiction including mostly those sent by a sister-in-law from the United States and some of her and her family’s collection, are currently being moved and arranged in the center.
Most books are for adult readers, but “we would strive our best to be able to procure books” that are appropriate for younger readers, she said.
“Books are meant to be read and shared, especially when books are getting so expensive that it has now become a luxury that only few people can afford,” Matugas said.
“It will be such a waste if the books will just gather dust in bookshelves,” she added.
Details of the center’s operation are still being ironed out, but free access by any guest for reading inside the facility and even borrowing of books free of charge for outside reading for a week are already certain.
“They may enjoy the books for free. This is our advocacy,” Matugas said.
“We hope that as a recreation center, we will be able to provide an alternative source of enjoyment and activity for the younger generation. And as they begin to enjoy touching, browsing and reading these books, we hope to instill in them the love of reading.”
“Reading broadens one’s horizons and helps develop critical thinking. Generally, it makes one a better person,” she said.
Residents of nearby municipalities, Dinagat Island, Siargao Island and others who may be visiting the city are welcome in the center, she said. Home to a population projected at over 169,000 this year, the city sits on the northeastern tip of Mindanao island.
Merlin, the city tourism officer, said that in supporting the project, Mayor Matugas wants “young Surigaonons to learn the value of reading and not just focus on gadgets.”
In a Facebook post, Merlin also said that with the center, book lovers in the city no longer have to worry about subscription fees that online reading apps charge.
She said she would suggest that the center be open 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She hopes that by January, Surigao City would be under modified general community quarantine, allowing greater ease in movement among residents.
Matugas, for her part, said that for the test run, she proposes to start opening the library on weekends.
Matugas also said the plan is to tap volunteers, such as retired teachers, senior citizens and scholars of the city government, to manage and operate the place.
The city, which has 59 active COVID-19 cases as of Friday, Nov. 6, is under modified enhanced community quarantine until Nov. 15. It has so far recorded a total of 257 confirmed coronavirus infections.