Young Star

Review: A Different Bookstore, Dymocks, La Solidaridad, Filipino Bookstore

- Paolo Reyes -
Shelf Life

No, they’re not Fox Books, that’s for sure. Let’s just say, they’re more like the little Shops Around The Corner. Quaint, intimate, and decorated with soul and character. While the super giant bookstores are good—with great selection, affordable prices, and computerized finders—there are some who prefer the charm and homey feel of seemingly "unheard of" book places. Young Star went around and saw some hole-in-a-wall book stops…those that belong to the antithesis of a book shop in Manila, but at the same time, belong to the category of what a book shop ought to be for true book lovers.


Once called the "best little bookstore in Asia," the La Solidaridad bookstore in Ermita brings readers back to a time when super-malls and giant retailers were non-existent…a time when charming boutiques thrived. Owned and managed by national artist F. Sionil Jose, this little shop stands its ground amidst the flurry of development around it. Inside, various Filipino paintings and native tapestries are decked on high walls, lending a distinct "Old Manila" character often absent in modern establishments today. "A room without books is a body without a soul," reads a quote of Cicero, framed and hung in one of its shelves. Their books, do indeed, give life to the Filipino soul, where majority of their publications are local and Filipiñiana favorites by renowned national writers.

Like your typical university bookstore, they also carry titles under classics, drama and criticism, literature, science and medicine, politics, history, and psychology. But what is most striking other than the Filipiñiana literature collection, is their notable selection of Asian books ranging from Japanese, South-East Asian, South Asian, Korean, and Chinese.

Open since 1964, this hole-in-the-wall shop is one of the few remaining bookshops of the "vintage" sort, where book prices are fortunately still modest as compared to more modern, big-time book retailers in the city. Like Sionil Jose, whose writings deal mostly with the Filipino and his search for identity, La Solidaridad exemplifies its owners ideals by sharing with us a bookstore — somewhat time worn yet still strong — that promotes our nation’s literary treasures.


"Pasok po kayo," reads a tiny placard, welcoming customers at the doorway. The sanguine sounds of the Bolipata Brothers and Kabayao greet warmly as you make your way through this appealing store adorned with palayok, native baskets and hats, miniature model jeepneys, and figurines garbed in barong tagalog and patajongs. White walls are trimmed with colorful sketches and Pinoy trivia are written in every corner. Immediately, you tell yourself, this must be a home of Filipino culture and literature — truly, a Filipino bookstore.

Bienvenido Santos. Jose Rizal. Severino Reyes. Butch Dalisay. F. Sionil Jose. Reynaldo Ileto. Carmen Guerrero Nakpil. These authors are but a few of those Philippine literary gems whose works are to be found in the store. Apart from such masters, you’ll also find titles under social sciences and culture, history and politics, literature, psychology, education, Philippine art and architecture, including a vast section lined with shelves of amusing children’s books. All of them authored and published by Filipinos.

In an effort to promote the culture, the store also has videos on Philippine history and tradition, CDs and cassettes of local musicians, and original board games like Impeachment, the Pinoy Memory Game, and the Pinoy Pregnancy Planner. International award-winning books like Tuason and Cu-Unjieng’s Anilao, are also given their extended congratulations by being showcased up-front, so readers can browse and share in their pride. The Filipino Bookstore is refreshingly one-of-a-kind in a country influenced by so much "colonial" literature. For kicks, you even get a complimentary Choc-nut at the counter. How Pinoy can you get right?


True to its name, this quaint little bookstore exudes heart-warming character. Decorated with several hard-bound books lined up and shelved like a home library complete with movable ladder and wood-trimmed interiors, this place is a sanctuary for romantic bookworms. Customers are encouraged to "open and browse," take their time, perhaps even to crash at the comfy sofa. Indeed, the place simply spells cozy.

Open since 1994, A Different Kind Of Bookstore carries various, hard-to-find titles categorized under fiction, non-Fiction, psychology and self-help, mind and body, poetry and literary criticism, fantasy and sci-fi, philosophy, business, and biography. Titles are carefully selected and personally handpicked by the owner. A religious reader himself, his preference for books tends to veer away from mainstream authors. Another good thing about this book place is that they even have, mind you, an online ordering service, which allows them to deliver books within four to eight weeks.

The homeliness of the place is equally matched with their friendly and impressive staff…very learned and has innate familiarity with authors and titles. Also, many books are tagged with a 20-80% discount, which seems like quite a deal considering that their books are priced cheaper than most large-scale bookstores around. In addition to books, they also sell many Zen-like wind and water table-top fountains, which add to the quiet and undisturbed intimacy of the place.


Amid the hustle and bustle of Manila streets, there is, in one quiet little corner of the Robinson’s Place’s Padre Faura wing, a bookshop called Dymocks. Unknown to many, this franchise of the original Sydney bookstore on George Street, has been around since 1879. In the Philippines, it opened last April 15.

Dymocks offers buyers a multitude of titles divided under every possible category you can think of. They have sections such as craft, cooking, performing arts, humor, photography, art and architecture, crime, career, computers, management, human resources, cooking, food and wine, gardening, pets, hobbies, home, popular science, and many others. These are further divided into sub-categories, like travel, which is subdivided into pictorials, world, narratives, and asia. Book buying and searching then becomes quick and easy.

In addition, they also give their books the "star treatment" by giving their stamp of approval on books recommended by the owners and reviewers. Their well-dressed staff is all over the store, ready to entertain your questions without being obtrusive. If the book your looking for can’t be found, head over to the computerized customer enquiry service where you have the option to order your book through special service. They even have a bestseller board where the TOP 10 are showcased.

The store’s ambience lends to quiet reading, where you’ll find many people, including children, leafing through favorite titles. For many, Dymocks, really is book heaven.
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