There are some places that you can’t help but return to, and not just once. For me, Baguio City is one of those constant destinations.
Baguio reminds me of long road trips with family and siblings’ friends in the ’90s, way back when an eight-hour travel time from Manila was normal, and the long way through Dau was the “shortest” route. Baguio is where we all go to escape the unbearable heat in the city. Baguio’s where you stop if you’re headed further north, e.g. Sagada, Ilocos, or San Juan.
More recently, Baguio is the first place that comes to mind whenever I want to get away from everyone else, but still be just one bus ride away in case there’s an emergency at home. I now also think of Baguio whenever I want to score some great books.
I was back in Baguio yet again last month. This time around, I was a writing fellow for creative nonfiction (CNF) at this year’s UST National Writers’ Workshop. (So yeah, I got in.) While the workshop kept all of us busy for a week – and those damn storms Gorio and Huaning kept us mostly indoors – we had two days to roam around the city and do whatever we wanted.
Of course, my itinerary included book shopping.
Mt. Cloud Bookshop
I wasn’t alone on my third visit to Mt. Cloud Bookshop, as was the case during the first two. This time around, I had fellow writing fellows Deirdre and Abby with me.
The first thing we saw in the store was this poster:
(You know when we found out we were competing in the poetry slam, not just attending? Two days beforehand. Yep. Awesome. The slam became an open-mic event in the end because we backed out because of the storm. And apparently some judges didn’t show up.)
So anyway… the place is exactly how I remember it; the only differences are that the couch/shelf combo at the center has been replaced by a long table, and Reg and the dude whose name I forgot to ask (the folks who assisted me the last two times) aren’t there anymore. Oh, and I wanted to continue my so-called tradition of buying local writers’ work, but then the saleslady said there haven’t been any new Baguio anthologies since Baguio Calligraphy and The Baguio We Know. (Huh. WHY. That was four years ago! #demanding)
Got two books before we left: Clinton Palanca’s The Gullet (for some reason, Manila bookstores don’t have any copies anymore), and Maximum Volume: Best New Philippine Fiction 2014, edited by Dean Alfar and Sarge Lacuesta. I also wish I got many of the children’s books on the first floor; would’ve come in handy while I was taking up children’s literature last term.
Mt. Cloud Bookshop
Address: Casa Vallejo, Upper Session Road, Baguio City
Landline: (+63) 74-424-4437
Our next stop, after braving the craziness of the ukay centers, was Bookends. By the time we gave up on ukay shopping, we were so tired, borderline hangry, and dazed from the crowds that we decided to board a cab to get there. Never mind if it was just like three or so blocks away…
If Mt. Cloud’s the well-curated bookstore with work from local writers and those from “Imperial Manila”, Bookends is its messy, jampacked and obviously uncurated counterpart. It’s a whole lot like Booksale: you have to work really hard to get to the good stuff.
And with every shelf full of books – plus an entire room at the back just stacked to the ceiling and wall to wall with surplus books – you get that panicky, claustrophobic feeling really quickly. My advice? Go there with a full stomach, plenty of patience, and the willingness to get into tight spaces to score cheap reads.
After another hour or so of book-hunting (and a shopping bag stuffed with more paperbacks), we were ready to go and eat an entire pizza right before dinner.
Address: UCPB Building, T. Claudio St., Baguio City
Landline: (+63) 74-422-7382
The shelves at the front of the cafe has several excellent titles that you can read while eating, but can’t buy, take home or borrow. Can’t say much about the food since we went there twice only for drinks, but make sure to get a pitcher of bugnay wine and maybe a glass or two of basi while you’re there. We had plenty of tapuey too, but man it really does taste like ham juice. 😜️
Also, don’t forget to pet the cafe’s dog. She’s probably the sweetest dog I’ve ever met. She liked escorting us out after we’re done drinking, and even walked us right back to our hotel’s front door on our second night.
Address: 25 J. Felipe St., Baguio City
Landline: (+63) 74-423-0839
After the UST CCWLS sold us some of their leftover stocks of books during the workshop…
…here is my official “damage” report.
Always a pleasure, Baguio. Thank you, and until next time! 😃️