Book Fairs

Books for sail! What it’s like aboard floating library Doulos Hope in Manila

Sophia Gonzaga

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Books for sail! What it’s like aboard floating library Doulos Hope in Manila
For a one-of-a-kind reading experience on water, the Doulos Hope vessel is currently docked at the Batangas City port until April 28!

MANILA, Philippines – Books have always made a splash on Philippine shores. Despite the sweltering summer heat, Filipino bookworms of all ages have been making their way to the MV Doulos Hope – the country’s first “floating library” – in Manila to snag some books at affordable prices. And on a boat, nonetheless!

The Doulos Hope previously made stops in Subic, Zambales and San Fernando, La Union before docking in Manila for a leg that ran from March 28 to April 13. It will soon be making its way to Batangas for its fourth and final Philippine leg (at least for now).

All aboard! What to expect

Aside from being outfitted on a ship, another of the floating library’s selling points (or should I say sailing points?) is the cheap prices.

DISCOUNT CORNER. The Doulos Hope sells some of its books for as low as P60. Sophia Gonzaga/Rappler

To see this for myself, I booked tickets online to ensure my group’s slot at the former cruise ship and made my way to 25th Street in Manila’s Port Area. At 1:00 in the afternoon, it was unbearably hot outside, so we brought umbrellas and fans with us (don’t forget the SPF)!

When we arrived at the ticket booth, I showed our e-tickets to the attendant and paid the entrance fee of P50 each so we could get the physical tickets. We also had to pay the P6 terminal fee at the guard house.

THE SHADE. The walk to and from the ship is short but hot. Sophia Gonzaga/Rappler

After a three-minute walk, my parents and I finally got to the Eva Macapagal Super Terminal, where the Doulos Hope was located. The organizers have advised that the ship is not wheelchair-accessible, as you’d have to use stairs to get on and around. Once we got off the gangway, we made our way up a spiral staircase that led us right to the book fair. 

BUZZING AND BROWSING. The crowd on the Doulos Hope is controlled, keeping the ship light and giving visitors enough space to walk around. Sophia Gonzaga/Rappler

The Doulos Hope implements a units system for pricing their books, where 100 units are equal to P120. Here, prices run as low as P50, while some of the books are also sold as three for P100. They also sell other merchandise like stationery, keychains, and bracelets.

KNICK KNACKS. The Doulos Hope doesn’t just sell books; they have other merchandise too. Sophia Gonzaga/Rappler

A standout feature of the book fair is its selection of devotional literature, self-help, and children’s books. With the Doulos Hope being run by a charity, it makes sense that their books would be family-friendly. However, this also makes it a very limited selection, so if you’re looking to snag a beach read for the summer or cheaper copies of books to catch up with your TikTok reading list, then the Doulos Hope might not be for you. 

Still, I most appreciated the cookery section, where we found a wide range of cookbooks covering global cuisines. By the end of our browsing sesh, my parents and I were able to buy five books (three of them cookbooks) for under P1,000 and a Doulos Hope tote bag for P60!

WHAT’S COOKING? Some of our purchases from the ship. Sophia Gonzaga/Rappler

After paying at the cashier, we arrived at a dining area where they sold simple refreshments like soda, coffee, and popcorn. Though we didn’t stick around for the food anymore, other visitors lounged here, snacking, taking in the views and the salty sea air, and reading.

FLOATING ABOUT. Visitors rest from browsing books and take cover from the afternoon sun. Sophia Gonzaga/Rappler
Sharing knowledge, help, and hope

The ship’s name, translated from Greek, means “servant of hope.” Owned by the Christian missionary organization Operation Mobilisation and German charity Gute Bücher für Alle or Good Books for All (GBA) Ships, the floating library is not the first of its kind and definitely not the first that Filipinos have boarded. The MV Logos Hope is another floating library that made trips to the Philippines in 2012 and 2015, and is currently in South Africa.

The Doulos Hope was built in 1988 and served as a cruise ship under a few other names like the Lady Sarah and the Taipan, before becoming a floating library in May 2022. As of writing, the Doulos Hope has seen over 110,000 visitors and sold over 140,000 titles across the countries of Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, and now the Philippines, according to the GBA Ships website.

SERVANT OF HOPE. The Doulos Hope opens its gangways to people of all ages and backgrounds. Sophia Gonzaga/Rappler

A six-decker, the Doulos Hope is fairly small for a cruise ship, but it boasts of a diverse staff: over a hundred volunteer crew members from around 30 countries, including the Philippines.

Since 1970, GBA Ships’ vessels have made over 1,600 port visits in over 160 countries and territories, and have been visited by over 50 million people. Through these book fairs and by partnering with the local communities they visit, the organization aims to share “knowledge, help, and hope” and promote “literacy and education, cross-cultural co-operation, and social awareness.”

The Doulos Hope will be in Batangas City, Batangas from April 16 to April 28. From Tuesday to Thursday, the Doulos Hope is open from 11 am to 5:30 pm (last entry at 5 pm), while from Friday to Sunday, they’re open from 1 pm to 7:30 pm (last entry at 7 pm).

While an online booking is not necessary, priority is given to passengers who get their tickets online. Tickets are booked by hour-long timeslots. You can book your tickets at the beginning of the week you plan to visit, although bookings are also re-opened on the day of, if you’re visiting last-minute.

For more information, visit their Facebook page or official website. –

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