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Old books for fresh eyes 

July 14, 2017 | Updated August 2, 2017

Digital Reporter

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

The first version of this article failed to mention the role of Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in the installation of Singaporean artist Heman Chong. This has since been updated.

There’s very little time in our lives to sit down and read. Work or studies take up a huge chunk of our day, and we’re unfairly robbed of free time by heavy traffic. Have you tried reading a book in a packed MRT? It is nigh impossible.

This weekend, instead of joining the hustle and bustle in malls or in food parks, why not take one of your unread books to sleepy Old Manila and relax? Get lost in the comfort of poetry and prose, and let the busy life pass you by, even just for a day.

Two libraries dedicated to pre‑loved books have chosen Old Manila to be the site for their temporary installations—making the heritage site a perfect place for a lazy bookworm weekend. The Book Stop Project, a pop‑up library network, has two installations at Plaza Mexico and Plaza Roma in scenic Intramuros. The Library of Unread Books, a roving library and art installation, has chosen Escolta—the Queen of Philippine Streets—as its home in the Philippines.

Art Samantha Gonzales

The Book Stop Project

The Book Stop Project aims to make libraries relevant again in this digital age, not just as a place of reading and learning, but also of human interaction. They have several installations all over the Metro, filled with second‑hand books from previous visitors. You can trade a book that you’ve already read and enjoyed with books from the installation, looking for a new reader.

I visited The Book Stop Project library in Plaza Roma, Intramuros, which is right in front of the Manila Cathedral. I traded a copy of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night‑Time for Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars. Because of the eye‑catching architecture of the mini library, it became a popular stop with millennials, international tourists, and locals who curiously stopped by to read a few books before moving on to their next stop in the former Walled City.

The Book Stop Project library in Plaza Roma, Intramuros will be there until July 22, while the library in Plaza Mexico, Intramuros will stay there indefinitely. Check out their Facebook for a heads up on their next location.

Art Samantha Gonzales

The Library of Unread Books

The Library of Unread Books is an installation of Singaporean artist Heman ChongChong, brought to the Philippines by the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design or MCAD. As the name implies, the library is filled with books donated by people who never read them. In this digital age, it’s no surprise that this collection of books include old encyclopedias and dictionaries. But it also has interesting finds, as it came all the way to the Philippines from Singapore, and you’ll be surprised by the kinds of books people have chosen to donate. (Berty particularly piqued my interest because of its macabre science fiction story coupled with intricate, anatomical artwork.)

The First | Coworking Community provided a suitable atmosphere for this library. The view of old rooftops of Escolta from the airy windows and the hanging plants will transport readers to another place, and the cozy cushions in the coworking space is the perfect place to lounge around with a good book. Admission is free. You don’t have to donate a book, but if you do, you’ll get a library card that guarantees your membership to the library and access to it to wherever it pops up next.

The Library of Unread Books will be at the First | Coworking Community until August 26, 2017 and is open from Tuesday to Saturday.