The National Library of the Philippines, Manila, Republic of the Philippines

March 1940 National Library Circulation Division (American Circulating Library) Supplemental Library Card No. 38218 S issued to Bernardino Orque from Araullo High School

March 1940 National Library Circulation Division (American Circulating Library) Supplemental Library Card No. 38218 S issued to Bernardino Orque
from Araullo High School (front)
March 1940 National Library Circulation Division (American Circulating Library) Supplemental Library Card No. 38218 S issued to Bernardino Orque
from Araullo High School (back)

The National Library of the Philippines was established as the Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas through a royal decree by the then-ruling Spanish colonial government on August 12, 1887. The library opened to the public with 100 volumes on October 24, 1891. On December 10, 1898, as part of the peace agreement between Span and the United States to end the Spanish-American War, the territory of the Philippines was granted to the United States.  

During the American occupation, the Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas was abolished and replaced by the American Circulating Library (ACL), which was stocked with books donated by the American Red Cross. By 1901, the ACL’s collection grew to over 10,000 volumes and proved challenging to manage. Thus, the ACL donated the library collection, mainly comprised of English-Language fiction, periodicals, and newspapers, to the government of the Philippines. The formal acceptance of the ACL’s library collection on March 5, 1901, ushered in the official beginning of the National Library and public library system of the Philippines. The National Library’s original location was Rosario Street (now Quintin Paredes Street), and growth necessitated a move to the Hotel de Oriente (on Plaza Calderon de la Barca) in 1904.

The American occupation proved chaotic for the library system in the Philippines. Over the next 25 years, the name, location, and governing of the library would change multiple times, but on December 7, 1928, Philippine Assembly would again become the governing body and changed the name of the library to the National Library. The National Library moved to the Legislative Building on Padre Burgos Street in Ermita and would serve as the library’s home until 1944.

The Legislative Building on Padre Burgos Street in Ermita, which now houses the National Museum of Fine Arts (Pambansang Museo ng Sining), would serve as the National Library’s home from 1928 to 1944. (public domain)

In 1942, the islands fell under Japanese occupation, and the US and Philippines military forces fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. Initially, the Japanese occupation did little to disrupt the functioning of the library, but the Battle of Manila resulted in significant destruction to the library’s collections.  

On March 23, 1960, construction began on a new building to house the National Library. The new six-story library building opened to the public on June 19, 1961, with a capacity of one million volumes. The National Library currently holds over 1.6 million pieces in its collection, including over 210,000 books; over 880,000 manuscripts, more than 170,000 newspaper issues from across the Philippines; theses and dissertations; government publications; 3,800 maps and 53,000 photographs.

The present home of the National Library of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines, 1964 (no known copyright restrictions)