Step Inside La Fuerza's

Tiny, Cozy Literary Space

by Jace Amodo, February 22, 2019 12:40pm

Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila


Step Inside La Fuerza's Tiny, Cozy Literary Space

by Jace Amodo, February 22, 2019 12:40pm
Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

The current social climate is perplexed if not cold towards the future of the publishing industry. Is print dead? The point of contention is a blur; but there’s a vision to have a reading nook in every Filipino home—a vision many individuals share but haven't gotten around—that says otherwise. This vision is Kwago's.

Kwago is a Manila-based independent book bar that aims to provide a platform for local and homegrown writers and publishers to share their works, all the while reaching a wider audience. Its shop officially rose on January 27, 2018, at the doorstep of coworking space Warehouse Eight, home of intimate events like Before Midnight and Komura; Studio. 12 months of experimentation later, Kwago relaunched its space through an event called "Rites of Passage at the Warehouse" held on February 9, 2019, reintroducing a concept as clear as day.

Kwago Book Bar greets at the doorsteps of Warehouse Eight. Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

To be greeted by a cordial receptionist is one—and no doubt warm—thing; to be greeted by a well-curated collection of books is another, at least for book lovers. From the shelves at the wall to the crates at the floor, books are conveniently organized. These things wouldn't be possible without the aid of equally motivated individuals.

The intention to create a cozy, minimalist aesthetic for the book bar was made possible with the help of architect Arts Serrano of One/Zero Design Collective, multimedia designers Reymart Cerin and Vince África of The Public School Manila, and interior designer Jia Cabansag of Altum. Like pieces of a puzzle coming together, these creatives refurbished Kwago Book Bar to be a "headspace for clarity and serious play."

Kwago Book Bar's collection is decidedly a highly curated one. Classic titles like those from Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) and Stephen King (The Shining) gather at one corner of the shelves; the more recent ones like R. J. Palacio's Wonder at another. Homemade zines and university literary folios, stacked and hanged. At the center of it all is one of Kwago's new programs, "A Curated Shelf."

The 'Rites of Passage' event invited guests to be Kwago's ninangs and ninongs. Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

Initiated by Kwago founder Czyka Tumaliuan and poet Roy Voragen, "A Curated Shelf" is an exhibition-like display of 15 books from the book bar's inventory, assembled by a guest curator, no less. For its relaunch, Tad Ermitaño, new media artist deemed one of the pioneers of sound art in the Philippines, served as the first curator. Open any of the featured books and learn the curator's thoughts on it—each book has their personal notes.

Being the book bar it is, Kwago offers alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and unique fiction-inspired ones. There's the "Hemingway" (whiskey, Campari, vermouth), "Dead Balagtas" (gin, tonic, fruit), "Kishida" (soju, Yakult, grenadine), among others, for guests to try.

The refurbished Kwago Book Bar offers a new set of fiction-inspired drinks. Photo by Jace Amodo/Inside Manila

All these changes mirror Kwago founder Czyka's learnings from the past year since its initial launch. As creatives, we are well aware of the many trappings of success, and Kwago's transparency for its ups and downs—of its calm and chaos—shows us the beauty of a work in progress. Kwago Book Bar is more than just a source of great reads; it's a story on its own.

Kwago Book Bar is at Warehouse 8-A, La Fuerza Plaza, 2241 Don Chino Roces, Makati City, and is open Mondays to Saturdays, from 1 pm to 10 pm. For more information, visit or follow @isipkwago on Facebook and Instagram.


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