When I was just starting to work in the Manila area, I was culture shocked. I grew up in Quezon City and studied there all my life so I am used to its residential and more or less safe atmosphere. Also, having worked in Makati for four years, I was used to its towering buildings and clean sidewalks, and my idea of relaxation from work was having coffee at Starbucks and spending hours inside Powerbooks which was a good fifteen minute-walk from my previous office. So imagine my disgust when I realized that one of the things I had to get used to when I started working in Manila, aside from the pollution and the extreme difficulty of getting a cab, was the scarcity of a good bookstore in the area.
But that was before. Slowly, I began to discover the treasures of this place, namely, Alda’s which, sad to say, closed several months after I discovered it; Hizon’s, the famous restaurant reminiscent of the times when Mabini was still the place to be; the banana Q sold outside UP Manila which has been featured several times in TV shows as the best banana Q this side of the metropolis, and of course, Robinson’s Place which has become my second office.
Just recently, I discovered Faura’s best kept secret: this small bookstore just across PAL called Solidaridad. I was told that it is owned by a Filipino writer whose name now escapes me. I must say, I was impressed with their collection. Not only do they have copies of the works of almost all foreign authors, they also have copies of their works in the original language that they were written! But what really strengthened my resolve to visit this place regularly is their collection of books written by FIlipino authors, which, unfortunately, we seldom find in popular bookstores nowadays. My friend Darleth who is “fasting” on books these days had to break her fast and bought three novels. I bought a copy of the Tagalog translation of Pablo Neruda’s poems (I wonder who borrowed my English copy) and the second edition of a collection of short stories written by FIlipino writers of the post-war era.
A book lover herself, Darleth told me that her long commute from Cainta to Faura was definitely worth it. We both couldn’t get over the fact that an unpretentious bookstore such as this is selling materials we won’t probably find elsewhere. And it’s just along Faura, right beside barbershops and xerox machines! We ended up discussing that of all the places in the Metropolis, Manila is the only place that has an element of surprise, character and history to it. I remember what Quentin Tarantino said when he visited Manila a couple of months ago: “I love this place because I can sense that every street has a story to tell.” Knowing now what this place has to offer, I can only agree.
(This article is reposted here with the consent of its author, Atty. Gay Ordenes. Read here if you want to submit your article of something or some place of interest in the Philippines.)