| A Book Lover’s Paradise
Forget durian and the touristy beaches. Davao’s bookshops are just as exciting and rewarding, where getting lost is not necessarily a bad thing.
By Gabriel P. Millado
There has been a noticeable increase recently in the number of bookshops around Davao City. This is particularly true in the malls, where each one houses at least two bookshops. I had occasions to visit these literary paradise, and here’s what I found out.
This is the most familiar name in Davao City for second-hand books. If you don’t have a particular book in mind that you want to buy, Bookshop is the place to go.
Bookshop is now on its 8th year of operations, with four branches at Victoria Plaza (ground floor), Gaisano Mall (third floor), Gaisano South City Mall (ground floor), and a small branch at the Matina Town Square. Even from the outside, buyers may already see the immense collection of books stacked against walls, nearly from floor to ceiling, on “book islands,” and sometimes even precariously on the floor.
Although Bookshop’s selections is not as varied as other bookshops, the place offers the works of more popular writers such as Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Saul, Sidney Sheldon, Daniel Steele, and many others. Among my finds are an almost complete collection of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles (Victoria branch), and the Rabbit series by John Updike (JS Gaisano branch). You can also find Pulitzer Prize or Noble Prize winners like E. Anne Proulx’s The Shipping News (also a winner of National Books Awards), Heinrich Boll’s Silent Angel and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. However, my most prized find was a collection of short stories written by various literary masters like James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield, and Dylan Thomas.
Tips: If you don’t mind the musty smell of old books, search in the lower shelves, where you might find some hidden “treasures.” Also, make sure to check books arranged backwards (those with spine turned away from you) – this is a trick that one uses to hide the book that he wants to buy but couldn’t buy it just yet. And since new stocks arrive on Fridays (straight from the U.S. and Australia), the best time to search the shop might be during the weekends.
Books on Bargain (SM City, 2nd Floor)
As a friend of mine has described it, Books On Bargain is like a hobbit’s library. The first thing that you will notice is that it gets warmer once you step inside (although the place is totally open), perhaps due to all the books inside, which literally surround you. Walls are covered with books, bookshelves are at chest level, and there are even small towers of books on the floor.
Of all the bookshops I have gone to, Books On Bargain has the biggest area, thus giving the place wider aisles that give the customers more comfort as they browse. Since the place is so big, customers who may not really want to buy and just have some free read would not feel awkward staying for long.
One advantage of Books on Bargain is that, even as a second-hand bookshop, it still has different sections – historical, biography, health, medicine, nursing, religious, philosophy, business, management, and computer – so buyers would not have a hard time looking for the books they need.
Another plus: Almost all of the books can still be discounted -- a whole set of encyclopedia at 3,780 pesos can be discounted up to 20 percent, and novels (50-100 pesos) and hardbound books (100-200 pesos) can have a discount of up to 50 percent.
Books On Bargain also offers rarer books by good writers like Margaret Atwood, John le Carré, Stuart Dybek, Bret Lott, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Tan, and David Foster Wallace. On my search, I found a book on Flash Fiction, which is a collection of “very short stories” written by popular contemporary writers. With a good search, one may also find hardbound copies of still recent novels at a fourth of the paperback price in commercial bookstores.
Books On Bargain also has a “satellite branch” at NCCC Mall (second floor), which, at first glance, may look like a poor pile of rejects. This, however, is where I found a hardbound compilation of the works of John Cheever (150 pesos), a collection of poems by Robert Frost with corresponding reviews and criticisms (on sale at 35 pesos!), a biography and collection of poems of e.e. cummings (60 pesos), a collection of Mark Twain’s short stories (65 pesos), and an anthology of the best American plays of the 19th century (65 pesos).
If you’re looking for a different kind of reading material, the best place to search might be at Babasahin, a chain of small stalls offering different types of short reads such as guides, magazines, and pocketbooks.
The store’s main items are magazines, from electronic game guides like Wizard to wedding cakes magazines. Entering the stall, one would easily notice whole lines of fashion magazines (Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Glamour), Men’s Journal, FHM, magazines for teens (Candy, Hello), Home Improvement, Architectural Digest, and Home Style. There are also local gossip magazines such as The Buzz, Star Studio, and PBB, together with lines of National Geographic, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and Time.
Babasahin also offers a wide assortment of other reading materials, which include Feng Shui, astrology, dream meanings, chess, cockfighting, DC and Archie comics, Witch, songbooks and various other topics. It also has a good collection of pocketbooks, from Pinoy romances to language translation dictionaries; from handbooks on public speaking and “Great Speeches” to “Competence in English” and various quote books.
National Bookstore (SM City ground floor; Gaisano Mall ground floor)
National Bookstore offers a vast selection of reading materials – from all-time Classics such as Moby Dick and Peter Pan to Precious Hearts and Valentine’s Romances pocketbooks; from Disney bedtime storybooks to Marvel and DC comic books.
National Bookstore offers the latest international releases, so it’s best for those who keep track of their favorite authors. Customers are also ensured that all the selections have their merits since all recent books are award-winners or are written by popular writers, if not bestsellers.
The store also offers the widest selection of books. Some which you may not find in other bookshops are those by Shakespeare, Penguin Classics, fact books, a wide array of novels adapted from film (or the other way around), and the latest works of popular writers, mostly on paperback.
Like in other bookshops, it is not surprising to see people simply standing about and already deep in the middle of a book – National Bookstore also allows customers some free read, although not all books are out of their cellophane covers. It is also a well-lighted place, which is very suitable for reading.
All books are arranged and organized, but if you still can’t find the book you’re looking for, the salesladies are nice enough to look for it for you.
However, the big hitch is the prices, which could reach up to four times the price of the books from second-hand bookshops.
U.P. Press Bookstore
As you enter the Terraza Milesa building (Anda St.), and as the sound of the nearby traffic slowly quiets down, you will find a quaint and neat bookshop that opens to the eastern sky, the U.P. Press Bookstore. This store is the first of the three branches of U.P. Press Bookstore.
As a publishing house owned by a state university -- the only one in Mindanao -- all the books are directly shipped from the printing press in U.P. Diliman in Quezon City. Although many of the books are by the U.P. Creative Writing Program and the U.P. Press, the bookstore also offers selections not from U.P. Noticeably, all of the books are written by Filipino writers and researchers, except for two titles.
The U.P. Press Bookstore accepts walk-in customers. It also accepts bulk orders. But in the case of the latter, the bookstore only takes manager’s, institution’s or company checks. Personal checks are not accepted. The prices of books range at 100-1,000 pesos, equivalent to commercial bookstore standards, with discounts from 5-10 percent for U.P. student and faculties.
The attendant, Raymund Diaz, says that although the prices are on the expensive side, it is worth it. Firstly, because customers are assured of buying a copy of certified Filipino literary masters and researches relevant to any Filipino readers. Most of the books are also recipients of various literary awards such as the Don Carlos Palanca Award and the Manila Critics Circle Award. But if this isn’t reassuring enough, Diaz also says that all the books have their own merits since they passed the “U.P. standards.”
Furthermore, on the price of the books, Mr. Diaz added they are already at their lowest possible price, and all sales would go directly to U.P. funds. He also said that they used to sell in some commercial bookstores but stopped the practice because they “want the general public to have access to their products at the least amount.”
Although customers won’t have much use for their book-scavenging prowess inside this little bookstore, they certainly would have to use a lot of good judgment in choosing which books to buy. Understandably so since they would have to choose between books by Gemino Abad, N.V.M. Gonzales, and Edith Tiempo, among many other literary greats.
The bookstore also has best-selling titles like Pablo Neruda (Mga Piling Tula), 1904 World’s Fair, Remembering N.V.M. and Looking for Rizal in Madrid (by Gregorio Brilliantes). At a corner of the store are the 2004 U.P. Jubilee Student Editions which includes Charlson Ong’s A Tropical Winter’s Tale and Other Stories, Rio Alma’s (A)lamat at (H)istorya, and Jose F. Lacaba’s Kung Baga sa Bigas.
Available also are books of Likhaan (The U.P. Institute of Creative Writing) which includes the Philippines Writers Series, anthologies of Philippine literature in English, and an annual release of a collection of poetry and short fiction.
Despite its humble size, the U.P. Press Bookstore has various sections - Arts and Humanities, Literary Annuals, Literary Theories, Language and Composition, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies. It also has a section on Math, Economics, Management series, Social and Political science, and Mindanao studies.
One perk in buying from this bookstore is that it has a single table inside which the buyers could use to read first the books that they want to buy. Also, books available here are not always available in other bookstores.
This little bookstore also prides itself for being the largest distributor of Filipiniana books in Mindanao. In fact, different universities and colleges in Davao, as well as by international entities (NGO’s and libraries) as far as the Netherlands and Thailand, subscribe to their titles.
The U.P. Press Bookstore is open from Wednesday to Saturday, 7:30 am to 6:30 pm, and may be contacted at (63-82) 222-2223. (Gabriel P. Millado/davaotoday.com)