This Independent Bookstore Is a Treasure Trove for Philippine Art and History Books
by Anne Marielle Eugenio, February 22, 2019 10:10am
Art by Dani Elevazo
This is the sad reality: We are all too familiar and exposed with various Western Art that we hardly recognize (or appreciate) local art. Because unless you’re an art student in the Philippines, the rest of us may only have basic knowledge, resources, or exposure when it comes to Filipino art. But Artbooks.ph wishes to change all that.
This nook, located along Pioneer Street in Mandaluyong, houses hundreds of local books for your purchase or for you to just indulge in. Artbooks.ph welcomes those who would just want to spend a quiet afternoon surrounded by literature. And if you’re lucky, the founders (or owners) are there to further enrich your stay, too!
Passion turned project
Artbooks.ph was founded in November 2014 by Katya Guerrero and Ringo Bunoan (both are artists from UP Diliman). The absence of bookstores focusing on the local art scene drove them into establishing their advocacy through Artbooks.ph.
"Wala namang bookstore dito na nagfo-focus sa art, so we saw that as niche. Something we could do since we're both artists. We know that these books exist. It's just that there's no place to gather them," Ringo said.
More than just a bookstore
Artbooks.ph is an easy miss along the busy Pioneer street. Unless you go for a walk or have really keen observation, you would fail to spot the bookstore. Its easiest reference is that it’s right across Sparta Gym, and you’ll find the modest Artbooks.ph bookstore behind tree branches and leaves. From the outside, Artbooks.ph may be a little intimidating—even Katya and Ringo know this.
But once you step inside, though, the sight of shelves filled with books aesthetically arranged in an intimate space immediately feels like home. Artbooks.ph is more of a library than a bookstore, as it is a nice space where you can browse and skim through pages to your heart’s content. If you have inquiries, you may freely approach anyone at the front desk, they’re always ready to answer your questions. In fact, they would be willing to take you on a tour if you want to.
Since the bookstore is part of Katya and Ringo’s cultural literacy advocacy, it doesn’t matter if you buy a book in-store or not. If you just came to read and learn, that’s fine, honestly. The least you can do is spread the word around and support local art and literature.
The Rare Necessities
There are certain books about arts and culture in mall bookstores, but the choices are limited. Despite its name, Artbooks.ph is not only limited to local art books, but they also offer around 700 reading materials from artists’ books and zines, architecture, photography, travel, and even books on Philippine History cultural heritage. Some of the specific titles include Bistro Filipino, Pina, A Visual Dictionary on Filipino Architecture, and Roberto Chabet (yes, the legendary artist himself).
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For Ringo, the main challenge for arts and literature is the public’s access to books. Today’s generation resort to the internet because it has “everything”. And while we really can’t argue with that, at the end of the day, the internet may be quicker, but books are always more reliable. Books are companions in a way that the internet can never be. And besides, the internet is no match for a friendly bookstore like Artbooks.ph.
Artbooks.ph is just around the corner, waiting for you to discover the treasure of books that await you within its doors—making sure that when you leave the place, you have with you a deeper appreciation for Philippine art, culture, and advocacies like that of Katya and Ringo’s. Long live local art and literature!