I WAS first introduced to Nick Joaquin when I was still in third-year high school. We were asked to write a book report on The Woman Who Had Two Navels.

Though I painstakingly managed to pull it off, it was only two years later that I learned to appreciate the book, when I re-read it for my English class in college. Joaquin’s poetic use of language mesmerized me, even if I could not claim I understood half of what the book really wanted to say.

From then on, reading the National Artist’s short stories became one of my favorite pastimes, leaving me enveloped in mysticism long after I have finished reading them.

Joaquin, though famous for his stories like “Summer Solstice,” which was converted to the film, “Tatarin,” was also responsible for raising the bar of excellence in journalism through his reportage and columns under the pen name Quijano de Manila.

That is why the inauguration of the Esquinita de Quijano de Manila excited me, for it contains 3,000 of Joaquin’s books taken from his personal library that he bequeathed to the University.

As I browsed the contents of the mahogany shelves of the esquinita, I asked myself, how could he have read all these books in his lifetime?

All of the books looked old and weathered–a testament to how much of a wide reader he was. His diverse collection includes biographies, historical accounts, fiction, politics, and even a few volumes of children’s literature. And owing to his devotion to the La Naval de Manila, he owns countless books on Catholicism, the Dominican Order, and even several editions of the Bible.

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It is an honor to be able to access the books that have somehow influenced the writer’s mind. Though I have not had the pleasure to meet this celebrated man of letters, it was as if merely reading his collection enables one to traverse the alleyways of Joaquin’s mind, and at least capture a remnant of his greatness.

Surely, Joaquin would be immortalized not just through his books, but through his shaping of young minds by deciding to share his little treasure trove with the students of the Pontifical University.

The Esquinita de Quijano de Manila can be found at the Humanities Section, fifth floor of the Miguel de Benavides Library.

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