June 6, 2023

(Editor’s note: This column is giving way to a guest writer, Damaya Tee Dee.)

“Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world.” – Jeanette Winterson
Books are friends. Whether you are a baby, a grade school pupil, a high school, or a college student, or an adult, books are friends.
Books help us in many ways. Picture books help children be aware of the things in their surroundings. Textbooks provide educational information. Novels provide entertainment and adventure. Sometimes, they serve as our escape from reality. When life gets tough, reading books can be relaxing. Books also present different perspectives, broadening our views. Additionally, self-help books help people become aware of their mental and emotional health, and how they can keep such states healthy.
However, access to a variety of books is still a problem in far-flung areas. Northern Sagada, for example does not have a bookstore. I remember that while growing up, the only picture book that we had was “My Book of Bible Stories.” While this book was helpful in improving our reading and comprehension skills, it was barely enough. Supplemental reading materials were the ones that were found at day care centers but even these were limited.
During the pandemic, the people of northern Sagada blazed a new trail. They organized Tanggew, a community library, eco-cultural learning, and resource center. Tanggew is the local term for the flame from resinous wood. In the olden days, a tanggew was used to light the way.
Tanggew is located in Marycroft, Palidan, Bangaan, Sagada. It aims to provide books to the community in northern Sagada. It also aims to gather informational materials on our cultural heritage, and collect published research papers authored by a member of the community.
Tanggew was able to accomplish a lot of things in a short span of time. It was conceptualized in May 2019 then initiated by the barangays, Bangaan National High School alumni, religious groups, and elders. It facilitated programs such as an environmental talk, tree planting activity, and dance improvisation workshops.
Tanggew also has a mural painting of the IPED room in Bangaan Elementary School in partnership with BES parents.
The pandemic didn’t prevent the operations of Tanggew. Due to the abrupt suspension of classes, then the shift to distance learning, grade schoolers missed the chance to do things that they used to enjoy.
In partnership with Atayde Foundation, Tanggew distributed workbooks and story books to children. The Samahan ng Kabataang Episcopal sa Pilipinas (SKEP) and the Kumbasa Youths lent a hand in the distribution and monitoring of the progress of the recipients of the workbooks.
The latest program of Tanggew is the Read Aloud where they invited children of different ages to participate. Activities in the program include storytelling, coloring, and painting.
The teachers are young people from the community who volunteered their time and effort to help out the children. Originally, the read-aloud center was located in Marycroft. However, due to the increasing number of participants, Tanggew decided to extend their reach, creating Read Aloud centers in the six northern barangays in the town.
On Sept. 30, the community of northern Sagada, teachers, parents, youth organizations, Sangguniang Kabataan chairpersons, and members of the PNP-MPPMFC-CSP signed a a partnership where Tanggew was officially introduced to the community.
Father Marcs Castañeda blessed the signing of the partnership and the books that were given away to the participants of the event.
A community book pantry was the highlight of the event. Mothers were more than delighted to select picture books for their loved ones. Students were thrilled to browse through the varied books of engineering, statistics, medical sciences, and even laws. Parents and teachers were enthusiastic in browsing the compilation of literary works. Towards the end of the activity, Tanggew distributed books to the different barangays for them to start their own mini libraries.
Tanggew champions literacy just with the spirit of volunteerism, organization, and community participation. It does not only promote reading to experience new worlds. It promotes reading and teaching so that every member of the community may learn and educate their fellow members.
As Henry Jenkins said, “Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one individual expression to community involvement.”