The Philippines has a wealth of beautiful stories and wonderful imagery that children can…
In a virtual tour of Mt Cloud Bookshop on Yangco Road, Baguio City, co-owner Feliz Lim Perez showed and proved how such a business can conquer the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic that kept the place shut for the first three months of the lockdown.
The tour, part of the “My Book, My City” series of the Philippine International Literary Festival and sponsored by the National Book Development Board, was aired on Facebook and YouTube recently. In it Perez presented the uniquely named sections of the shop that has been immortalized in many an FB, Twitter and Instagram post.
The long table at the center is dedicated to “Death by Cuteness,” stationery items for the young and not so young at heart. Popular are the shelves “Lessons Not Learned” carrying history and social science titles, “Imagined World” for works of fiction, the children’s room which is almost like a bookstore in itself and which emphasizes how important children’s literature is to the Perez sisters Padma and Feliz.
There are shelves for books on photography, art, design, theater and textiles, special shelves for works on the Cordillera, spiritual and meditation books with a fish bowl that a visitor can train his/her mind on to relax, a shelf exclusively for Jose Rizal and another called “Never Again” containing books on martial law and fascism.
The sisters grew up surrounded by books. “We loved bookstores,” Perez said, recalling how, when they were children, their mother, the writer Adelaida Lim, would park them at Bookmark on Session Road while she went to market and attend to other errands in town.
The sisters always dreamt of having a bookshop. They had definite ideas on how they were going to run it. When they opened Mt Cloud in 2010, there were no bookstores in Baguio selling brand-new books. It was all secondhand books. But they realized that setting up shop involved responsibilities like doing inventory, among others. They had to learn those.
When the shop opened, all their friends came by at the restored Casa Vallejo where it was housed. Some aired worries how the shop would survive in the face of the rising popularity of e-books. Perez said, “Physical books seemed on the way out, but we managed to survive that.”
She and Padma decided to move to the larger Yangco Road space with a garden so they could “do more things” while at the same time make rent. Mt Cloud is part of One Yangco Hub that also includes a cafe, a bike shop and a children’s and youth creativity center.
She hoped that for most part of the shop’s existence the locals would support them, but the many people who came to the Casa location were tourists who took pictures and selfies but didn’t bother to look at the books. What she did was to put up a tip jar to encourage visitors to give tokens to the staff and to keep the shop running.
One night, a thief broke in and made off with the jar. But since the staff just emptied it hours before, the thief only got twenty pesos. No books were stolen although concerned authors called to ask if their titles were carted off.
Mt Cloud prides itself in concentrating heavily on Filipiniana unlike other stores that only have a token shelf for it. Cloud, as it is fondly called, was able to sell the entire back catalogue of historian William Henry Scott until it couldn’t find copies of his books anymore.
It holds the monthly community open mic “Third Monday from the Sun” that encourages poetry reading and performance. The event gathers from as few as two performers to as many as 20 participants. The author talks it sponsors, that have featured the likes of Candy Gourlay or Jessica Zafra sometimes turn into writing workshops on the spot. “Interesting projects are built,” Perez said.
She belied the impression that poetry books do not sell. She said, “Poetry sells. People who find our poetry books hug them as they approach the cashier’s counter and say, ‘I’ve been looking for this.’”
Mt Cloud makes it a policy not to wrap their merchandise in plastic. Perez said, “We want the customer to know the book before taking it home. People are welcome to browse and read.”
The shop re-opened in July last year a little at a time and focused on online sales that boomed. Perez said, “It’s been great that everyone is buying books so we’re finding better ways to sell books. It’s a process.”
Authors, illustrators, editors who drop by and whose names appear on the covers of the books for sale are entitled to a cup of coffee on the house. It’s among the personalized little touches that will ensure this shop will be here for the long haul.