AT 7:40 a.m. when the sun has barely made its ascent, Natalie, 19, and Mark, 17 are standing by outside the OpinYon e-Library in Tolosa, Leyte waiting for it to open.
Natalie is 2nd year college student at Leyte State School of Fisheries, Tolosa, Leyte, while Mark is Grade 11 at Tolosa National High School. They are among the regular clients of OpinYon e-Library.
Asked why she frequents the facility, Natalie retorts:
“Pirmi ako nakanhi para tak research, kay libre man. Han una, nakadto ako ha internet shops, pero may bayad per hour. Ngan maaringasa pa gud kay damo it nagmomolay
(I always come here for my research because it’s free. In the past, I used to go to internet shops, but they charge a fee per hour. Besides, it’s noisy there as others are playing games).”
Mark, for his part, said he is a regular patron of OpinYon e-Library as he has no gadget and internet access at home.
“Waray man kami internet ha balay. Imbis nga magastos pa ako pan-print ngan internet, akon na la igsi-save para tak pag-eskwela
(We have no internet at home. Instead of spending on printing and internet, I am able to save money for my studies).”
OpinYon e-Library, located in Tolosa’s Brgy. Imelda, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is equipped with computer sets, a printer, and a WI-FI router, solely for educational use. To ensure that its operational procedures and library rules are followed, a professional librarian (Ms. Belen Fundevela) takes charge of the e-Library.
The free e-Library facility has been in operation for some 5 years already, even before schools adopted distance learning and online platforms because of the pandemic crisis.
Interestingly – if not, oddly (this writer fairly thinks) – for a quite far-off town like Tolosa, a 5th class municipality some 24 kilometers south of Tacloban City, and while other public libraries are used to be operated by government units, it is relatively surprising to find a FREE e-Library owned and operated by a private individual. Thanks to Ray Junia, publisher of OpinYon (a national news magazine with community editions), who took the sagacious extra mile of founding the OpinYon e-Library in Tolosa.
This columnist (BA) had the chance of interviewing Ray Junia (RJ) about his free e-Library. Here are the Q & A details.
1. BA: What does the e-Library offer and what is its “reason for existence”?
RJ: it is offering free access to the internet and printing of learning materials. It’s something of a felt need, then and now, for the development of students. Students should have access to technology where research is faster and handy. Absence of such technology or facility would deprive them of what others in the city or those who can afford enjoy. That’s what this facility intends to fill in.”
2. BA: What impelled you to start or come up with this e-Library?
RJ: Early on, I have noticed that our students here, who were eager to study or do research, would go to the internet game shops. But there, they pay by the hour, spend for printing of their learning materials, and bear the noise from the internet game players. So, I thought that the best way I could help my community is in the field of education.”
3. BA: How would you react to some allegations that the reason for your putting up the facility is for political purposes?
RJ: Yes, I ran for mayor here, I lost, and I did not regret it. I offered myself so I can help the town, but I lost. So, I thought that I can help in another way, and this is it, the e-Library. I have no intention to run for political office again. I’m already 72 years old, and I leave that to the younger generation to run our town. But I want to set an example to the next generation – you don’t have to be a mayor or a politician to be able to help your town.
4. BA: You’ve been a successful entrepreneur in Manila, a respected newspaper publisher, and one of the country’s topnotch PRA practitioners. Is the e-Library your way of giving back to the community?
RJ: That’s right. Somehow you have to return it to the lord through the people. And I think, the best way to do that is to go back to your town, and be a game-changer, not internet game but in education, in your place.
5. BA: What is your message to your town’s youth regarding this facility?
RJ: My simple message is for the youth of Tolosa to realize that education is the best way out from challenges in life, particularly poverty. You should look for opportunities where you can embrace the development of knowledge. More importantly, let this be an example of attitude to help our community, and imbibe the lessons that we can derive from this e-Library. First lesson is sharing. This started from my belief in sharing. Second lesson is better education. Because the e-Library will be your door to better access in information, that will deepen your knowledge on a lot of things. I encourage our town’s youth to take advantage of this e-Library and transform your lives.