I was apprehensive to ask the lady behind the counter if she could take pictures of me. It was 11 am—the bookstore was virtually empty, and I don’t want to ruin the day of anyone as an annoying tourist. Clutching a couple of books with both of my hands, I slowly approached the lady to pay for my haul. It was only when I am handing her the notes that I became brave enough to ask the favour:
“Miss, can you take photos of me right there [pointing to a cozy corner where some of the most interesting Filipiniana titles are displayed]? Sorry. I came all the way from Rizal, and I would really love to have a souvenir picture.”
“Sure. Ok lang po, miss na nga pô namin ang mga tourists e.” [Sure, we actually miss receiving tourists.]
Not only did the lady, the only staff around during my visit, made sure I have great snaps to bring back home. She was also incredibly accommodating to offer me a room where I could sit and read for a while. At Mt Cloud, a lover of literature is never a stranger.
“I must have done something great either at work or school to deserve this lovely vacation,” I thought.
Baguio’s coziest bookshop
As an independent bookstore in a university town that is Baguio City, Mt Cloud champions both classic and contemporary literary works by Filipino authors. Located at 001 Yangco Road corner Brent Road, the bookshop is a 15-minute walk from SM City Baguio. It carries a vast range of books in various genres and forms, from translation works of Jose Rizal, children’s stories of National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, to the zines of award-winning fictionist Jessica Zafra. There is always inherently electric in visiting a place dedicated to celebrating the genius of local writers and artists. I had such an experience at Mt Cloud.
Mt Cloud looks like a simple structure from the outside. But like any great book with a modest cover, the bookshop is special for what is found within.
Upon entrance, Mt Cloud immediately provides warmth to those who had chilly walks around the City of Pines. The rustic interior, with the wooden flooring and lattice window panes, made me doubt my location. It was easy to forget I was in Baguio and imagine that I was somewhere in Europe back in the time of the Tudors. The rolling ladder attached to the largest bookshelf of Mt Cloud completes the ambience of a Scandinavian library.
The store employs a unique way of categorising books based on subject and genre, showing the brand’s wit and subtle profanity. For example, all books of verse and poetry can be found in the “Kiss my Poet” section, while the “Short Orders” section boasts a diverse collection of short fiction/stories. My favourite part of the bookshop has to be the “Lessons not Learned” section where I got my copy of Nick Joaquin’s A Question of Hero.
There is also a room specially dedicated to children’s literature, from which I was lucky to grab a rare volume of The Molave and The Orchid and Other Children’s Stories by F. Sionil Jose, with illustrations by Bert Gallardo. The facility is a testament to Mt Cloud’s mission to promote the love for literature among young readers.
My book haul
Book shopping is literally a combination of two things I love the most [book + shopping]. When planning a trip, the first thing I research about apart from the best accommodation is the bookstores around the city I’m visiting. Mt Cloud topped my Google search result for the best reasons. It is a bookstore with a purpose and a place that makes an excellent cultural experience.
Below are the books I bought from Mt Cloud that I am excited to finish reading this month:
- Hai[na]ku and other poems by AA Patawaran, with art by Love Marie Ongpauco-Escudero. I have tried several times before to purchase this book from the Anvil website, but it is always unavailable. The book is a lovely encounter between Patawaran’s romanticist verses and the paintings of Love Marie, aka Heart Evangelista.
- The Adventuress, A Story of Love and Money by Jessica Zafra. I haven’t read anything from Zafra before. All I know about her is that she is the recipient of multiple Palanca Awards. It is interesting to discover that a multi-awarded author like her writes in the form of “zines”. I have the 117th copy out of only 500 copies published, signed by Zafra herself!
- A Question of Heroes by Nick Joaquin. I knew Joaquin only as a journalist and a short story writer. When I saw this book, I had the impression that it is going to be a fusion of his impeccably factual journalism and lyrical prose. Also, I think the book will help me in writing papers on 19th-century Philippine literature.
- Guillermo Tell (Wilhelm Tell) by Friedrich Von Schiller (Translated from German to Filipino by Jose Rizal). Since last year, I am in a quest to collect the lesser-known literary works of Rizal. We all know him as a novelist, but it is important to explore his other literary works to understand who he was as a writer. This book is my second copy of Rizal’s translation work, the first one being an anthology of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales in Tagalog.
- The Molave and The Orchid and Other Children’s Stories by F. Sionil Jose with illustrations by Bert Gallardo. The 2001 National Artist for Literature and the 1980 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee used his gift of imaginative writing to deliver a message both for children and adults in the four stories featured in this book. A novelist who turned into a children’s story writer is an interesting concept, and I know I am in for a serious literary treat when I bought this rare anthology.
The words of the lady clerk from Mt Cloud stuck with me. She said they miss receiving tourists. After more than a year of tedious community quarantines, I have heard countless stories of people who are missing certain places. But in the case of Mt Cloud, it is a place that misses people. Mt Cloud misses tourists–bookish tourists.
Update: I messaged the Facebook page of Mt Cloud Bookshop and found out that the woman who assisted me during my visit also manages the store’s social media accounts. Her name is Renz. Hi Renz! 🙂