Kwago: A place book lovers will love

Amanda T. Lago

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Kwago: A place book lovers will love
The small space at Warehouse Eight is bursting with books, ideas, and good intentions

MANILA, Philippines – Walk inside the La Fuerza compound in Makati and you’re bound to find a series of old warehouses that have been repurposed for all kinds of creative pursuits. There’s an ad agency, a furniture store, a couple of art galleries – spaces that excite your standard Manila creative or hipster.

The only thing missing would have been some sort of library or bookshop – a place where a dedicated bookworm can go to for some much needed quiet time. That void is now filled by Kwago, a small, book-filled space that has set-up shop on the first floor of La Fuerza’s go-to co-working space, Warehouse Eight.

Kwago is not just a bookstore and not quite a library – it’s a little bit of both, and potentially more. At a fundraising event held at the end of January, those who dropped by got a glimpse of what Kwago could be: a lively corner with cocktails inspired by literary works being served on one side of the room, food being passed around freely, drunken conversations happening on the other side of the room, and piles of books encircling everybody.

BOOK LOVERS UNITE. Kwago's fundraising gets busy.

On a regular day, though, there is no booze or food (yet) – only books filling up a space that is tiny in a way that warrants the word “cozy.” There’s not much leg room, but there are piles upon piles of books all over the space. And in a noisy, crowded metro where it is almost impossible to find a quiet spot to simply sit down and read, the space is more than enough.

Kwago is an initiative started by Czyka Tumaliuan, the woman who co-founded the independent, experience-driven book fair, Komura with her friend, Warehouse Eight’s Kayla Dionisio, who is also helping her out with Kwago.

Czyka launched Kwago in 2017, as a response to the impersonal way other thrift bookstores are curated and run.

“When you go there, there’s no care for curating. I grew up loving books, and I like it when people recommend. I wanted to have that space where I myself can recommend,” she said.

FOUNDER. For Czyka Tumaliuan, Kwago is a work of heart.

Aside from that, Czyka said that Kwago is a way for her to support independent publishers and writers who need platforms for their work. True enough, in between heavy copies of dusty literary classics, contemporary novels, and coffee table books are piles of university literary folios, as well as homemade zines. The latter, with their handdrawn art and photocopy-quality printing, add a charming, authentic touch to Kwago’s selection.

WAREHOUSE EIGHT. Kwago is on the first floor of co-working and events space Warehouse Eight.

Czyka, who is herself a huge supporter of the zine community and publishes her own zine, said that Kwago allows her to support independent writers and artists

“When we were organizing Komura I saw that there was this big community looking for a platform to share their work. They were rejected from bookstores like Fully Booked,” she said. “[Kwago] is not just a bookstore. At a bookstore, you just sell. [Kwago has a] commercial side, but it’s more of, we sustain so I can maintain that platform, that playground for us so that we can just explore what literature could be.”

And while Kwago could have easily remained an online intiative, Czyka said that having a physical space for it was important to her. More than just selling books and zines, she sees the space as a place where literature lovers, writers, and creatives can connect, converse, exchange ideas, and experience literature in new ways – whether it’s through a drink inspired by a writer, or a conversation about a book with a newfound friend.

BOOKS AND BOOZE. YDG Coffee's Matt Carpio mixes drinks inspired by literary works such as Ricky Lee's 'Para Kay B' and Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl.'

“It’s about human connections. The physical space allows you to connect and that’s more important, kahit hindi ka bumili ng book (even if you don’t buy a book). That’s why there’s an open-reference library, so you can just browse,” she said.

Kwago is also launching a monthly nightcap called Before Midnight – the first of which will be held on February 28 – for those who want to do more than just browsing. Before Midnight is set to gather book lovers and creatives for a book sale/party, where 10 percent off books and free zines are mixed with Kwago’s literature-inspired cocktails and music by Nights of Rizal, Asch, and Ruru. Tickets are at P350 until February 23, and P500 at the door. Reservations can be made here

The soon-to-launch monthly nightcap is just another step in the direction of Czyka’s vision for Kwago, which seems to be becoming more and more of a reality as the days go by.

NEW READS. Kwago's stock includes contemporary novels, literary classics, and homemade zines.

“It’s more of a space where energies collide…it’s a prompt, it’s trying to spark thinking, creating with your hands,” Czyka said. “It’s a revenge against technology. I want it to be a space where you can just unplug, and talk to people and actually look into their eyes, you know what I mean?”

Kwago is located at Warehouse Eight, La Fuerza Plaza, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati.

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Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.