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Let’s now welcome Filipino book blogger Chris of Ficsation with a post about her experiences as a book lover outside of the National Capital Region.
Notes from a Non-NCR Book Lover by Chris Mariano
It isn’t difficult to be a Filipino reader these days especially with the proliferation of stores (both mortar-and-stone and online), but there are still times when it can be challenging. It’s doubly challenging for someone like me who isn’t based in Manila. Though I was born and raised there, I currently live in Aklan, my parents’ province, which technically doesn’t have a single city in all its seventeen municipalities. But since I’ve been coming here for a good portion of my thirtysomething years, I think I can adequately share with you what it’s like to search for and purchase books far from the metro.
I’ve spent all my summers here and though I enjoyed playing and running around, I also devoted my time to reading. When I was younger, I had to content myself with my paternal grandfather’s extensive Reader’s Digest collection (most were from the sixties) and my maternal grandfather’s Holy Bible. I discovered my cousin’s Enid Blyton books. I wasn’t aware that I could buy anything from the local stores. If I had wanted to something else to read, like the latest Sweet Valley Twins or Nancy Drew title, I had learned to buy it in Manila.
I think I was in seventh grade or freshman year when I discovered that the local bookstores (there were two here that were owned by the same family) had begun to stock secondhand books. At first there were just a few shelves that later stretched to half a floor when one of the stores expanded. The selections were pretty run-of-the-mill, but I did buy my first books by Catherine Coulter, Belva Plain, Maeve Binchy, and Iris Dart there.
Another book source was a small stall in Boracay. It used to be located at the D’Mall area in the mid-nineties, which was when I first started dreaming of having my own bookstore by the beach. But at that time the road to Boracay wasn’t the smoother highway it is now, so it was far from being a convenient place to get a book. My favorite find there was a pre-loved copy of Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after that the store closed (or maybe the owners just decided that sticking to souvenirs and knickknacks was a more profitable enterprise).
Until now, buying new books has been hard to do in Aklan. It was only last year when Book Sale opened its first branch at the Gaisano Mall, and while most of the books are in relatively good condition, it still isn’t the best place to pick up a copy of George R.R. Martin or even the more common Harry Potter titles. It’s a great place for bargains though!
So what are my best bets?
- Online shopping. I’ve bought books from Book Depository and Conlan Press that have all safely made their way to our home. Delivery fees are manageable to nonexistent so these are still viable options for someone like me. The books often arrive within a month.
- Buying in bulk in Manila. I try to visit Manila for a couple of days every two months, so I usually spend a huge chunk of my money on the latest titles. The staff of Bibliarch Glorietta is used to my reading/spending habits!
- Iloilo. Iloilo’s a four-hour bus ride away, should I get really desperate (fortunately, I haven’t). But when we do make the trip, I often get a bunch of books, like what I would do in Manila.
- E-books. I’ve bought a number of indie titles from Smashwords and I’m waiting to get my Kindle so I can purchase more via Amazon. There are a number of free e-books and extra chapters online: I got a few PG Wodehouse titles from Book Depository, while I found Patrick Ness’ short prequel to Chaos Walking via a friend’s blog.
- Celina’s Books and Magazines. Not only is Cel one of my oldest friends, but she also offers great book deals. I pick up some titles from her online shelves.
So if you’re a book lover outside NCR, arm yourself with a little patience. Keep your eyes open for great deals, whether they come as secondhand books in a bargain store or in an online shop. Borrow (responsibly!) from friends and relatives. Try every available option. Be open to exploring new ways of getting your books, especially if buying online is a bit foreign to you. They always say love should know no boundaries — I suppose that’s true for loving books as well.