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A Bookworm’s Guide to Metro Manila

by Jean Arboleda

To read, and especially to read for pleasure, is a revolutionary act.

To get lost in words, and in other worlds, is to see beyond your everyday environment. You gain a new perspective, as well as a new way of seeing and understanding the world. Great books change you, and stay with you.

For the bibliophiles out there who are constantly searching for their next great read, fear not: there’s something in Manila for every literary taste. Whether you’re looking for a new place to discover and enjoy a good book, or searching for a like-minded community, we’ve got just the place for you.

1. Discover our heritage at the National Library of the Philippines.

INSTAGRAM: charieszaira

Did you know that our national library has been serving the public for 131 years now? It houses the largest collection of materials reflecting the “intellectual, literary and cultural heritage of the Philippines.” If you’re looking to get in touch with your roots, this is the perfect place to go. You don’t even need a library card to enter; since 2016, admission to the library has been free, as long as you present any valid government ID. Here you can access millions of pages of Filipiniana materials, over 200,000 books, and thousands of other manuscripts, newspapers, maps, photographs, and other documents. Students will also appreciate the available access to electronic resources, such as the Philippine eLibrary. The NLP also houses incredibly rare items such as the original manuscript of “Lupang Hinirang,” the National Anthem of the Philippines, and Jose Rizal’s masterpieces Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

National Library of the Philippines
T.M Kalaw St., Ermita, Manila
(02) 310 5035 Mondays to Fridays, 8 AM - 5 PM

2. Broaden your local literary horizons at Solidaridad Bookshop.

INSTAGRAM: surrealistsushi

Don’t let the unassuming interiors fool you. Solidaridad has been a go-to spot for local bookworms and writers since it opened in 1965. Owned and managed by National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, Solidaridad is widely regarded as having the largest collection of Filipiniana titles in the country. Philippine classics, such as those of Jose Rizal and Nick Joaquin, are crammed into shelves beside historical books and contemporary titles. Apart from local publications, they also carry international titles hand-picked by “Manong Frankie” himself, including a notable selection of Asian books.

Solidaridad Bookshop
531 Padre Faura St., Ermita, Manila
(02) 254 1068
solidbookshop@yahoo.com

3. Dig for secondhand treasure at Bookay-Ukay.

INSTAGRAM: josephofren

You’d be pleasantly surprised at the second-hand treasures packed tightly inside this Maginhawa Street thrift bookstore. Their diverse collection, ranging from classics such as Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte, to romances by Meg Cabot and Jude Deveraux, to more contemporary titles like Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events, offers something for just about every kind of reader. As in any ukay-ukay, the thrill is in the hunt—with books squeezed into every nook and cranny, you’ll definitely have to take some time going through their selection. But it’s well worth it—you can find books in good condition for as low as ₱60!

Bookay-Ukay Pilipinas
78 Maginhawa St., Teachers Village East
Diliman, Quezon City
(0905) 428 3125
bookayukay@gmail.com

4. Support the local indie scene at Kwago Book Bar.

INSTAGRAM: michaelcufua

Tucked inside the creative establishments inside the La Fuerza compound in Makati is a hidden literary gem. The intimate space of Kwago Book Bar feels less like a bookstore and more like a cozy private library. This is the kind of place where you can easily chat up the bookseller and get a personal book recommendation. Founder Czyka Tumaliuan says that Kwago is also her way of supporting Filipino publishers, writers, and creatives who need a boost—which is why the shelves are also stocked with homemade zines and university literary folios. They also have special events for local artists and musicians.

Kwago Book Bar
Warehouse 8-A, La Fuerza Plaza
2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City
(0915) 457 0709
isipkwago@gmail.com

5. Pay it forward at the Reading Club 2000.

INSTAGRAM: extracelestial

Part community book club, part informal library, the Reading Club 2000 started out as a simple project, that grew thanks to the generosity of the community. It began in 2000 when Nanie Guanlao, a former accountant, set up a few shelves outside his door and filled it with books. No rules, no catch: anyone was free to browse, borrow, and even take the books home. As the sign outside says, “A good book is easy to find.” You might think that this a recipe for losing books, but as Nanie discovered, it was the exact opposite. People began donating their own, and now it houses over a thousand books—a great way to encourage reading in the community.

Reading Club 2000
1454 Balagtas St.,
Brgy. La Paz, Makati City
(0926) 645 7641
readingclub2000@yahoo.com

6. Be part of the local reading community at Fully Booked BGC.

INSTAGRAM: lalainesolatido

Named one of 50 Must-Visit Beautiful Bookstores On Six Continents by Book Riot, Fully Booked’s flagship store on Bonifacio High Street is a reader’s dream. A 24-foot high book sculpture by LA-based artist Mike Stilkey instantly captures your attention as you enter. There are five floors housing an extensive collection of books (ranging from new releases to cult favorites to rare classics), CDs, DVDs, graphic novels, and more. They even have arts and crafts supplies in the basement, for anyone looking to take up painting, calligraphy, or other new hobbies.

Fully Booked BGC also builds a strong local community of writers, readers, and art lovers through regular events. They often hold art workshops, talks by international and local authors, book launches, and film screenings. Let’s not forget their beloved and much-anticipated annual Free Comic Book Day! It’s the perfect place to meet fellow bookworms and art enthusiasts.

Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street
Ground Floor, B6, Bonifacio High Street
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
(02) 858 7051

Want to explore more of the city? Check out our Manila section for more ideas.

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About Jean
Jean Arboleda will try anything once. She has, at different points in her life, worked in government, telecommunications, social media, music, gaming, and tech. On any given day, she would rather be reading, preferably surrounded by puppies. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @jeanarboleda.

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