The National Archives of the Philippines (NAP) is an agency of Filipinas that is mandated to collect, store, preserve and make available archival records of the government and other primary sources pertaining to the history and development of the country. While today’s archives was a result of the passage of Republic Act 9470 in 2007, its roots can be traced to the 19th century when the Spanish colonial government established its Division of Archives.
As our country’s primary records management agency, the NAP is tasked to formulate and implement the records schedule (retention period) and vital records protection programs for the government. As such, it has in its vaults and shelves over 13 million Spanish-era documents, with some dating back to as early as the 16th century when the Spanish Empire was still establishing the so-called Capitanía General de las Filipinas (the basis of our country’s nationhood) under then King Felipe II.
Today, October 21, is National Archives Day as proclaimed by former President Fidel V. Ramos. As stated in his Proclamation No. 660 of 1995, the Bureau of Archives, the predecessor of today’s NAP, was established on 21 October 1901.
In sum, the National Archives of the Philippines is the official repository of public records and archives where they are preserved, conserved, and made available to the public. Our country’s “documented memory” is stored here for posterity. It is a haven for historians and other researchers from both within and outside the archipelago who are interested in our country’s history. Its vaults still await to be mined as millions of Spanish-era documents are still pending to be translated and made known to the public.
My wife peeking at some ancient historical documents behind the glass door. This was taken on 2 August 2010, during our first ever visit to the archives. The reading room (or the area where researchers can study old documents) during that time was at the building of the National Library of the Philippines in Kalaw Street in Ermita. Back then, accessing old documents was easy: just present a valid ID, and you will be granted entrance. Today, while the old documents are still housed within the premises of the National Library, the reading room has since been transferred to Cristóbal Street in Pacò. And in order to gain access to the old documents, one cannot just visit the archives unannounced. The researcher must first schedule a visit and present two letters of reference from professors, organizations, or any
authorized personnel of an agency aside from a valid ID; worse, this transaction has to be done not at the NAP’s main office at the National Library but in its satellite office in Binondo.