The Makati Stock Exchange Complex on
An hour in a busy day of the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress country representative's office in Manila functions as one of the Library's acquisitions centers throughout mainland and island Southeast Asia. The others are in Jakarta, Bangkok, and Singapore. The Manila office does not provide research or reference services to scholars and researchers. Its main function is to acquire publications published in the country about and by the Philippines for the Library of Congress collections, and is not therefore equipped to handle reference inquiries. During my visit to the Philippines in May 2000, I paid a courtesy call to the office and met with the country representative, an amiable Filipina national named Nanette Abbas. The main purpose of my visit to the office was to apprise her of the needs of the Asian Division in terms of collections development, particularly with respect to research materials that deal with the social, economic and political issues in the Philippines. As the Philippine Specialist, I set the guidelines for the country representative, in conjunction with the Field Director stationed in Jakarta, in her role as the acquisitions arm of the Library of Congress with respect to the types of research materials that are required for the collections. My visit was all the more meaningful because it was during the month of May in 2000 that the war in Mindanao intensified.
In anticipation of research needs and reference inquires from Members of the United States Congress and the scholarly world as a consequence of the Muslim secessionist rebellion in Southern Philippines, I have specifically asked the country representative to intensify her collecting activities geared toward the acquisition and rapid processing of related materials for immediate trans-shipment to Washington.
My scheduled official visit with the Library of Congress country representative in Manila in May 2000 coincided with the visit to the island of Luzon of Biring (the Weather Bureau's name for it), one of the Philippines' worst tropical storm to hammer the island nation in that year. The storm, with high winds and unceasing rain, would leave me stranded in the province of Zambales upon my arrival from the States for the next nine days and prevented my planned visit to Manila. The Salaza fiesta which occurred on May 15th was completely washed out. (See also: Salaza Dreamin') On the tenth day of her unwelcome visit, Biring blew northward to Japan.
My Mom and I made hasty preparations for the trip to Manila, as there was another tropical storm brewing out in the South China Sea headed towards the Philippines. We made it to Manila on the 23rd of May, and I promptly called the country representative's office on the afternoon of our arrival in our city home located in Sta. Mesa. Unfortunately, the representative had gone home for the day.
On the morning of the following day, I received a call from the representative, to confirm our appointment for that day, which she had to work around her hectic schedule. She was very busy taking care of business related to the office's pending move to new quarters and picking up official documents from the National Statistics Office. The representative's office will be moving to the 4th Floor of the Makati Stock Exchange complex on Ayala Avenue. Our meeting was set for 1:00 PM, the 24th of May.
Mom and I left Sta. Mesa at noon, arriving at the impressive Filipinas Heritage Library located in the business district of Makati about half an hour before the appointed time. We were met at the door by courteous staff who were elegantly dressed in "barongs." The ambiance of the facility reminded me of a rich ilustrado's Castillian home of 19th century Philippines. There were palm fronds in massive Ming vases strategically placed in various locations of the lobby area that had polished marble floors. A slowly-turning ceiling fan overlooks the lobby's turn-of-the-century furniture and decorative ornamental accents that evoke a bygone era. While jeepneys honked outside in the mid-day heat and humidity of the city, Mom and I enjoyed a pleasant light snack and cold drinks served by the office staff while waiting for Nanette to arrive.
Soon the attractive, diminutive Nanette sauntered in, gushing with genuine enthusiasm at seeing us, pecking my Mom on the cheeks and embracing me with softness typical of a greeting one would receive from the mutya ng nayon. My meeting with Nanette held in the library's conference room was brief, lasting only 50 minutes. In that span of time, we covered a ten-point agenda that I had prepared in Washington and submitted to the Chief of the Asian Division prior to my departure for the Philippines. Essentially, I wanted to apprise Nanette of the immediate and long term needs of the Asian Division in terms of reference service and collection development, as well as to re-acquaint myself with the operations of the Manila field office.
Nanette Abbas, Library of Congress country representative in Manila
Critical Research Materials
It was in the month of May of 2000 that the war in the Philippine South between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Philippine government forces intensified. In anticipation of future research needs in the Library of Congress that will have been generated by the war, I have asked Nanette to rev up her collecting activities toward the acquisition and rapid processing of related materials for immediate trans-shipment to Washington. While it was difficult to obtain publications from the MILF, Nanette reminded me that the proceedings of the peace talks between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine government in 1996 in bound loose-leaf had been forwarded to the Library of Congress via Jakarta. Nanette mentioned that that the MNLF maintained a house, which was converted into an office in Manila from where she regularly receives the group's more current publications. The Manila office continues to receive as "favors" (i.e., gifts) research materials published by significant universities in Mindanao that have strong Islamic studies programs, such as the Mindanao State University, the University of Mindanao, and Xavier University. The total output of press publications of the University of the Philippines, De La Salle, and Ateneo are regularly picked up by Nanette.
In northern Philippines, the communist rebels of the National People's Army (NPA) have become emboldened by the secessionist rebellion in the South, and began making their presence felt again after a long hiatus in their effort to destabilize the government. I have asked Nanette to be on the lookout for leftist underground pamphlets, posters, banners, and proclamations and any literature by and about both groups. Primary sources emanating from the Philippine Department of Defense dealing with the Moro problem, the NPA insurgency, as well as the Spratlys issue are desirable items for reference. A special study made by the Philippines Department of Affairs relating to the contentious issues in the South China Sea involving the Philippines and several Southeast Asian nations and China is of special interest. This has been forwarded to Washington, according to Nanette.
I have reminded Nanette that non-traditional library formats are becoming a major component of the Library of Congress' international collections in this age of technology. In response, Nanette proudly showed me her major "coup" of the day. The Philippine National Statistics Office had given Nanette gratis 6 CDs containing Philippine population statistics that retail for P70,000! At the conclusion of our meeting, Nanette presented me with another surprise: it was a glossy Philippine internet directory. This, Nanette will send to Washington for my special attention for inclusion in the Asian Reading Room's reference collection.
In the short span of fifty minutes of my meeting with Nanette that day, I came away totally impressed by her professionalism, her thorough knowledge of field work, and the diligence with which she performs her job. Her responsibilities are enormous. One has to be totally dedicated and must have a lot of stamina to do the work she does. The day I met with her was an extremely busy day for her, what with selecting furniture for the new office, and picking up official documents from a government agency. She was rushing off here and there in blue jeans and sandals, an unusual outfit in the elegance of the Makati environment in which the Filipinas Heritage Library is located. Nanette was late for our meeting, in fact. But if you were coming from Sta. Mesa, where the National Statistics Office is located, and had to drive across town through Manila's congested noon traffic to reach your office for an appointment and be only fifty minutes late, by Philippine standards, you have made good time.
In the end, I was extremely grateful for having had the rare opportunity to spend an hour in a busy day of the Library of Congress country representative in Manila. To Nanette, it was just another day in the office.
However, the meeting was not all about Nanette. It was also about the needs of the Asian Division in Washington, and the Manila office's responsibility to serve these needs. To this end, I feel comfortable in the knowledge that she and I understood what is expected of one another.
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