Literary Tourism: Metro Manila
It’s been a few years since I lived in Manila, but I still have fond memories of the bookish places I used to visit there. While books do tend to be expensive and inaccessible for much of the population, there are still some great ways to find new books to read in this bustling metropolis.
What better place to start than at the Fully Booked’s Bonifacio Global City branch? Located in Makati City, there are five entire floors dedicated to books and bookish paraphrenalia, as well as comfy seats to use while you peruse the latest novels. I loved visiting Fully Booked BGC not only because of the lovely layout, but because they tend to have rarer titles that I was unable to find in most bookstores. Fully Booked’s stock isn’t wrapped in plastic, as books usually are in the Philippines, making it easier to browse and decide which books to pick up during your visit.
If you’re craving a touch of history in your reading, a trip to the Filipinas Heritage Library in the Ayala Museum might need to be part of your itinerary before you leave Makati. With over 13,000 books spanning the country’s history and culture, it would be easy to lose track of time reading through the Library’s collections.
The staff of the FHL takes us through some of the planning that has built their collections over the last 20 years, and their dedication and passion for these texts, digital and print, is undeniable. And when you’ve read all you can for the day, the rest of the Ayala Museum is there to wander through and admire.
A jaunt over to Manila itself won’t be complete without a stop on Padre Faura Street, to walk the University of the Philippines Manila campus and see the sidewalk book vendors. Many of the books found here are secondhand classic novels and popular bestsellers that students can pick up on their way out of daily classes. As a former UP student, I had the joy of seeing some of these vendors during my time on campus, and hearing about the books they were reading at the time.
Before you leave Manila, it’s definitely worth stopping by at Solidaridad Bookshop, one of the Philippines’ few long-running independent bookshops. National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose has owned the store with his wife Tessie Jovellanos since its creation in 1965, and filled the space with the largest collection of Filipiniana in the country, as well as many Southeast Asian titles.It’s where I found some of the oldest Filipino literature I had to read for my humanities and Philippine Lit classes. The Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets and Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) also calls Solidaridad home, a fitting camp for its members.