I have to be honest. Sometimes I really don’t understand how I am able to catch up with these advocacies. Before the pandemic, I had this campaign called “Project Learn”. It’s just a simple book giving and storytelling project for far-flung communities here in Capiz. I discovered there are really many people who would like to give their resources to advocacies such as mine but they don’t know where to begin. My volunteers and I were able to collect boxes upon boxes of books from these generous folks which we turned over to remote schools around the province.
My other advocacy is in cultural education. I volunteer in various cultural organizations here in Capiz including Ang Panublion Museum in Roxas City, the newly organized Provincial Library, the Cuartero LGU, Philippine Librarians Association and other organizations that are working towards expanding cultural transmission. My goal is to awaken the Capiznons’ love for their heritage. I’m attempting to open the eyes of anyone who would listen to what I have to tell about our distinct and diverse culture so they can become champions of their own heritage and embrace being a Capiznon even in the simplest way. One of these ways could be realizing that their barrio was named after a plant that thrived there once upon a time or realizing that a former senator is buried in the cemetery next door to where they live. I mean, culture is something that we really have to put above anything else and it starts within us. It should be the root of our pride as a people.
What was one of the most unforgettable experiences you had while performing your community outreach program?
I took a three-hour jeepney ride with several big boxes of books followed by another three hours of habal-habal ride to reach an upland school in Jamindan. My pants were literally torn up by the time I arrived and I had mud splattered all over my face and body. I was laughing at myself about it but boy, I was treated to an exhilarating view of the countryside when I got there!
You have coauthored two books and wrote research papers about fishing practices and folk stories. What are your takeaways from these stories that have been passed down through generations?
I find the stories colorful and they made me realize how creative our ancestors were because all they had for entertainment back then was simply exploring their own imagination. But they also reflected the reality of that era and a piece of our history. I think that was an exciting pursuit.
As a librarian in the digital age, how do you motivate your students to come to the library and peruse the resources offered to them?
I think we have to do away with the idea that libraries are solely for “storing” books. Libraries are now learning spaces where people interact and exchange ideas. Of course, it’s still a place where they could ask the librarian how to find the right information for a particular topic. Librarians around the world are now turning libraries into interactive spaces. The online space is also being explored as a means of sharing information given the limitations brought about by the pandemic.
Let’s talk a little bit about your other creative pursuits. When did your passion for monarchies and royal families get started?
When I was in high school, I would go to the library during my vacant period and read all the history books and encyclopedia that were on the shelves. That’s where my interest for monarchies and history in general got started.
Your blog, Royal Splendor, and Facebook page of the same name has over 60,000 followers. Why do you think people are fascinated with royalty, especially Britain’s royal family?
They are enthralled by the magical lives of these royals. Not everyone lives in a castle or rides in a coach, so there’s a special effect these royals bring to the lives of every “commoner” and that’s what makes them interesting.
How do you keep royal family fans riveted to your blog?
I have no idea. I just write what interests me. I think the secret is keeping the articles evergreen so they can be shared again and again without making the story irrelevant or outdated.
You’re never one to waste any time. Now you’re occupied with gardening. What draws you to gardening and how do you choose the plants to grow in your garden?
Thanks to my grandparents and parents who instilled in me the interest for gardening, I’ve actually been gardening since I was a child. Since the lockdown, I’ve been gardening every day. When choosing plants, I try to find those plants that my grandparents used to grow so I can relive the good old days we shared when I was a kid. Gardening is also a creative pursuit for me. That’s where I get ideas for my research projects.
Are you working on a new book or project at the moment?
I’m trying to write short historical pieces and post them on my blog. I intend to compile these later for a book which I hope to work on probably next year. I’m also writing a research paper about local traditional knowledge and practices which I intend to submit to an academic journal. I’ve just had a historical paper published by a Mindanao-based journal and there’s another paper to be published in November by Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Romania.
What is your dream project?
Write a bestselling novel (laughter).
How do you envision your future?
I could be somewhere in Europe, sipping coffee at an outdoor café or exploring a castle. I could also be in the field interviewing folks or just in a library writing a research paper. I could be pottering around the garden, nurturing my plants. But in all of these settings, I will sigh with relief and tell myself, “Katahom!”.
About the author: Charie Albar is a travel writer and lifestyle blogger. She is the founder of Balay ni Charie Foundation, a grassroots organization that gives school supplies to the children in Capiz. She divides her time between Capiz and California. Check out her stories at travelswithcharie.com.
Conversation with a Capizeño is a series of interviews with Capizeños who are making a difference in their community.