BAGUIO — The City of Pines may be known for strawberries, its prized tourist spot Burnham Park and its clout for tourism. But it also has a hidden gem — a local bookstore that sells books for a cheaper price.
Maricar Docyogen, a reading advocate, shared with ABS-CBN News her story about why she put up Bookends Baguio, a bookstore she described as “best-kept secret of the city.”
Bookends is only a few steps away from Baguio City’s premier street Session Road, thus can easily be accessed by tourists and residents.
Books here can be bought for as low as P25, with varieties covering a lot of subjects and topics.
In an interview, Docyogen said being a bookworm and a reading advocate never came into her mind, reasoning out she is a nurse by profession.
“I always call it serendipity, because it’s not something I planned. It never came into my mind!” she said.
Despite not having the luxury of time to read due to her work, Docyogen still tried to mix in reading amid her busy schedule.
As an overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia in the 2000s, she had access to books unavailable in the Philippines.
Docyogen shared a side story in Saudi, where she met a patient’s watcher and was reading a book. After some chitchats, the watcher eventually gave her the book which she later read.
When she came back to the country, the continuation of books she was reading abroad was not readily available.
“When I returned to the Philippines in 2009, I was looking for the other books. Unfortunately, wala akong mahanap kay National Book Store, wala akong mahanap kay Booksale,” she said.
“Kaya ayoko na ng series,” she quipped, adding that by then, she would only read “one book” or pieces of literature without continuation so she would not get hooked.
Docyogen also found interesting books on e-commerce platform eBay, however, she described the shipping fee as “gold.”
“Nanay ako, I’m not going to buy it kahit gustong-gusto ko… Budget muna tayo, family first," she said.
But the passion for reading never left the Baguio-based bookworm, and she still curated her shelves of books.
Acquiring the space where Bookends is located right now, she has put on sale the books she accumulated through the years. And since her shelf is personally curated, customers would eventually ask for books that are not readily available in her then-mini book store.
Docyogen met a person online who was into disposing of his books, and she eventually bought the books in bulk at a reasonable price.
Her mini-book store expanded while acquiring networks through the years to buy and resell books at a cheaper price.
SURVIVING THE PANDEMIC
Local businesses were not spared by the coronavirus pandemic.
Docyogen said Bookends faced the issues brought upon by COVID-19, but the bookstore survived through online selling.
“During the pandemic, ano’ng gagawin? Walang tao. What I did was… post all, everything online. Bargain na lang, diyan, basta benta mo na lang ‘yan. I didn’t even know how we’re going to send them.”
They also talked to couriers, Docyogen said, to ship books that were ordered online during the lockdowns.
BOOKS AS AN INVESTMENT FOR READERSHIP
Docyogen shared that some customers would still ask for their books lower than the retail price, and they would still grant the bargain or even give it for free if the customer has no money at all.
“Ganoon nga kamura tayo magbigay… I instructed the staff, if you think the person would really like this book but walang budget, give it to them. You don’t keep them… Kung gusto niya ‘yung libro, bigay mo. Kahit libre ‘yan, kung talagang gusto niya.”
Asked about the current readership of Filipinos, Doycogen said there is hope.
“What I’m doing is investing, investing to them… Merong pag-asa. The fact that we are using technology, internet, hindi naman tayo lahat audio eh. We’re reading. That means also na kailangan lang na bigyan ng mas pansin siguro. From there, i-develop din ‘yung interes nila.”
Several public schools in the Cordillera became recipients of free books from the shop, Docyogen said, as part of her advocacy for stimulating Filipinos’ readership.