MANILA, Philippines – Jose Rizal, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, Paz Marquez, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Bienvenido Santos, Lualhati Bautista.
These are just some of the luminaries in Philippine literature whose works deserve special attention on June 12, Independence Day and National Day in the Philippines.
A small bookstore sitting quietly along busy Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila puts Philippine literature on center shelf everyday.
Solidaridad Bookshop, owned by literary great F. Sionil Jose, is home to Philippine literature classics like Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and the collected reportage of Quijano de Manila (alias of Nick Joaquin), as well as more contemporary works like fiction writer Charlson Ong’s “Blue Angel, White Shadow.”
The shelves below the counter display some of F. Sionil Jose’s more than 30 works from the seminal “Rosales Saga” novels to his 31st book “The Feet of Juan Bacnang.”
The store, easily identifiable from the street with its red brick walls, has been around since 1965 and survived a fire in the ’70s, according to Tonet Jose, F. Sionil Jose’s son.
It opens its wood-framed glass doors to one and all, Filipinos and foreigners who find out about the bookshop by word-of-mouth. While the treasure trove of Philippine literature is comprehensive, the collection of foreign literature can definitely compete. Tonet says visitors often exclaim their surprise at finding rare titles on the shelves.
Though they get a healthy amount of visitors, Tonet says the bookshop does not make a lot of money. Philippine publishing in general is in need of a boost with many publishing houses closing down because of lack of funds and a decreasing number of patrons.
Which is not to say that Philippine literature itself is dying. New Filipino writers like Miguel Syjuco, Samantha Sotto and Lysley Tenorio have had their works published internationally and have been warmly received by readers at home and abroad.
They lead a growing group of new voices breathing life to Philippine literature. A visit to Solidaridad Bookshop further proves that Filipiniana literature is a rich mine of unique perspectives, stories, observations, insights and nuggets of wisdom any Filipino reader would do well to explore.
You will find compendiums of Philippine mythology, collections of love stories, books on every aspect of Philippine history from maps to women guerrillas, books on investigative reporting and much, much more.
The pages of these books record memories from our people’s history. Through them, you can live a day in pre-war Escolta or bring back the horror of a family escaping from Japanese soldiers during World War II.
You can hop from one shelf to another, spend the entire day perusing paperbacks or heavy hard-cover coffee table books to lilting music in the background reminiscent of ’40s romantic films.
In these books, readers will find what they will never find in foreign literature: experiences, ruminations and stories that can only come from a Filipino.
Solidaridad Bookshop encourages readers to give Philippine literature a chance. Every visitor is invited to step inside, pick up a book and reconnect with their Filipino legacy through its pages. – Rappler.com
Solidaridad Bookshop is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm.