For 13 years, Bartolome Mariscal had been going around the country, knocking on the doors of houses and visiting schools to sell volumes of encyclopedia.
It was a tough job that involved carrying heavy publications and speaking with confidence to convince people to buy a set worth P10,000 to P40,000.
Mariscal, 34, thought he would be a salesman forever. An illness in 2011 forced him to quit his job and focus on church and community work in Barangay Ermita, a poor village near Cebu City’s biggest public market of Carbon.
In March 2012, when Mariscal was president of St. John the Baptist Chapel, Ermita’s village chief, Antonieto Flores, announced the need to have a librarian for the local reading center.
The opening of the facility was in compliance with Republic Act
No. 7743, which states that reading centers must be established from the congressional to the barangay levels throughout the country. Each center must have a librarian-designate.
Mariscal took the job with little knowledge about being a librarian. He had studied hotel and restaurant management for a year until he quit for lack of interest.
“I knew a little about the library from my librarian-clients [when I was selling encyclopedia]. That helped me in the job,” he said.
He formed Friends of Ermita Reading Center, now numbering more than 20 youths who help give storytelling sessions and literacy (reading and writing) lessons to children.
After a year, the facility became one of the functional reading centers in the city, according to Cebu City chief public librarian Rosario Chua.
The reading center is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to give students more time to finish their homework and research.
Printing is free. The students only need to bring their own bond papers.
Mariscal never thought of becoming a librarian. He had worked as a sales agent for different products and even as a janitor in a big mall.
In 1998, a friend recruited him to sell encyclopedia sets. The job brought him to various places.
Mariscal used to earn P10,000 monthly from sales commissions. He gave P2,000 to help his parents—his father is a laborer while his mother sells cooked food.
The rest was used to pay the house rental, electricity and water bills, meals and transportation.
“We were given P1,000 to P2,000 additional allowance if we traveled outside our area. Since I worked outside of Cebu, I spent more money because I was always in the field,” Mariscal said.
His monthly quota was P50,000 from 1998 to 2005. It increased to P100,000 in 2006 until he stopped working in 2011 due to an illness, a boil on the chest that made him weak.
He went back to his parents’ hometown in Dalaguete in southern Cebu to recover.
After nearly a year, Mariscal reconnected with church and barangay officials in Ermita, and found a new calling: a librarian.
Mariscal credited the success of the reading center to the support of the barangay officials. Several nonprofit organizations, schools, companies and Cebu City Public Library provided books and trained him and his volunteers.
He didn’t mind the monthly honorarium of P3,200, from which he spent P200 for the library’s Internet connection to a nearby café.
“I find fulfillment in helping the youth with their homework, especially when they are searching for something and they find it in the reading center,” he said
The reading center may be small, but he is determined to operate it professionally.
Mariscal believed there was a reason he was made an encyclopedia salesman before becoming a community librarian.
“I learned self-discipline, time and money management, and the importance of communication in being a salesman. All these, I now use in being a librarian,” he said.