I haven’t done a Bookworming In… blog entry since last year, after a three-week backpacking trip to three Asian countries. Didn’t realize it has been that long! Time to break that lengthy spell.
I just came home from a five-day holiday in the City of Pines, two of which were mostly spent on the road. Needed a quick, within-the-budget getaway, and I really missed Baguio’s cold weather. I also wanted to return to a place I’ve been to many times, and not spend so much time adjusting and devoting valuable hours to the usual tourist traps. Another factor: I wanted to go somewhere that’s far enough from everything and everyone, but near enough so I can easily get home in case of emergencies.
The Baguio I knew back then is so much different from the one that exists today. It now has more people, more traffic, and definitely more pollution (and less pine tress and much less of that wonderful pine smell), to name a few basic differences. But there are still plenty of awesome, not-so-touristy places to check out.
I kept hearing about a certain place before I left Manila. The name’s Mt. Cloud Bookshop, and it has become well-known and beloved by locals and travelers after just three years of operations. Of course I had to drop by and check it out!
Mt. Cloud is one of three other businesses in the famous Casa Vallejo boutique hotel, in business since 1909. Its neighbors include the North Haven Spa, and the Baguio Cinematheque. It’s right below that ugly, tree-felling giant SM City Baguio, along Upper Session Road.
Note: if you’re in relatively good physical shape and are already on Upper Session Road, Session Road or neighboring streets, Mt. Cloud is a few minutes away if you go on foot. But if not, take a jeep or a taxi (no trikes in Baguio!), unless you want to be like me and get there all red-faced, huffing and panting. 😉
The bookshop was empty that morning save for a lone staff member, Reg. She kindly kept my tote bag at the counter, hung my cardigan on one of the hooks on the wall, and let me roam around. Like the good folks over at Books Kinokuniya in Siam Paragon, she didn’t hound me, or follow me as if I’m gonna steal something. It might be because she could see me through the surveillance cameras up top, or that my bag was already with her. But I’d like to think it’s just because I look trustworthy and I was the only customer at 11AM. 😛
Started exploring at the second floor, which holds full shelves of books by Filipino authors (lots of Nick Joaquin and F. Sionil Jose books, the latter also a book store owner through Solidaridad Book Shop in Ermita), as well as fiction books, short story compilations, opinion books, travel and world affairs, arts and crafts, and books from international writers. Decorative pieces like paper cranes and paintings are on the wall, shirts for sale were hung along the railing, and that little bean bag at the corner looks so inviting. A cheeky note covered a power outlet, telling customers to grab a book instead.
More books line the stairs, and the impressive floor-to-ceiling book case on the other side holds more selections, reachable via wooden ladder. The vintage typewriter and metal butterfly piece by either Kidlat Tahimik, Kawayan de Guia or Kabunyan de Guia (I forgot the name Reg gave me, but I do remember he’s from the de Guia family) on top of the case are nice touches, but sadly not for sale. 😉 Peruse those upper shelves if you have good balance.
The ground floor has children’s books, more fiction works and anthologies, historical and cultural books, reference titles, guides and how-tos, educational works, magazines, YA and science fiction titles (e.g., some Harry Potter books and a The Hunger Games box set), paper goods, personal and home accessories, and more Filipino publications. A comfy one-seater couch with built-in shelves is right at the center of the room, urging customers to sit down and take their time.
Two titles caught my eye that Sunday morning: World of Geekcraft: Step-by-Step Instructions for 25 Super Cool Projects by Susan Beal, and The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics by David Dodd. Also spotted EDSA UNO, A Narrative and Analysis with Notes on Dos & Tres by Angela Stuart Santiago, News of the Shaman by Karl de Mesa, and a book by Bebang Siy — it was hidden in a drawer because Reg said it’s “damaged” (missing some pages).
In line with my (new) travel tradition of purchasing books by local writers, I opted to buy two collections of writings by Baguio-born and/or -based wordsmiths: the essay book The Baguio We Know, and the poetry and fiction compilation Baguio Calligraphy. Both titles were recommended by Reg; and one of the featured writers, Padmapani Perez, is a part-owner of Mt. Cloud. She also showed me The Boys in the Boarding House and Other Stories by Geraldine C. Maayo, but eventually had to pass on it.
Left around an hour later, and after several other customers have come and gone. There were 1PM and 3PM screenings at the Cinematheque, and Mt. Cloud was holding an open mic poetry reading the day after my visit, but I didn’t get to go back. It also holds book launches and signings, author talks, and storytelling sessions for the young’uns.
Thanks for the new reads, Reg and Mt. Cloud! Will definitely visit again if/when I’m in the city. And for those going up to Baguio, do drop by Mt. Cloud — support smaller bookstores and local writers! The cozy interiors, nice ambiance, and book selection make it an excellent addition to your itinerary.
Three full days in the city didn’t give me enough time to go to other non-chain bookstores. Let me know if there are other awesome book places I should hit up in Baguio! My only request is that they not be in SM Baguio. Please and thanks! 😁️