LIBRARIES open their doors. What would be the value of collections if the doors were closed?
During an afternoon’s aimless browsing, I was nonplussed to discover a library that, to become the “unofficial archives of the political underworld,” also went “underground” for 30 years or so.
So wrote professor Francisco Nemenzo in the foreword to the “Philippine Radical Papers in the University of the Philippines Diliman Main Library: A Subject Guide,” (UP Press, 1998).
The book was compiled by the Filipiniana Special Collections Project staff of UP Diliman, which collaborated with the Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin in 1996-97 to catalogue and microfilm the Radical Papers.
According to project leader Verna Lee, the UPD Main Library became the repository of a collection, ranging from underground periodicals to protest poetry, that became contraband after martial law was imposed by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.
After executing the “autogolpe (coup),” Marcos consolidated his dictatorship by rounding up his critics and seizing all means of transportation and communication. Nemenzo observed that Marcos should have then gone for the “secondary targets”: “libraries and bookshops”.
He did not. This wasn't due to dictator’s remorse or oversight. “(Marcos) probably reckoned that the Filipinos are not book readers,” wrote Nemenzo.
Marcos passed an edict against even the mere possession of “subversive documents”. The ultimate cost of criticism against the despot was “disappearance”.
Nemenzo commented that so great was the “nervousness” of UP librarians they removed from the shelves all books about communism AND anti-communism. Only fear of the state auditor stayed their hands from burning the incriminating collections.
Yet, “radical papers” kept turning up in the library, were left on the tables or discreetly deposited on the service desk of the Filipiniana Reading Room, he wrote. Through the cooperation of the three universities, the Radical Papers is now organized and accessible for all.
For keeping these records during an epoch that burned truth and murdered to enshrine lies, the UP Diliman Main librarians deserve the respect of the nation, not just its scholars.
The accounts written by the Left do not constitute truth. Yet, their preservation makes it possible for anyone to scrutinize and test these versions against information contained in other documents.
Through cross-checking, which involves validation or rejection, a semblance of truth emerges. In the post-truth era, that is essential to remember: knowledge comes from sifting through, not stifling the flow.
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* First published in SunStar Cebu’s October 15, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”