When Going to the Book Store Meant Everything

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  • We, the generation that was born and raised in the 1960s, grew up reading and loving books, comics, encyclopedias, magazines and other materials in print form. In school, we were required to go to the library whenever our teachers gave us assignments that needed serious research. In the library, we learned how to borrow books and sign our library cards. We also learned how to use the Dewey Decimal Classification Theory, a practical and reliable system for documentation and managing library materials.

    When we were required by our English teacher to look for a book for a book review, we would go straight to the nearest book store. Back then, there were three book stores scattered around Metro Manila that we all knew by name: Alemar’s, Goodwill Bookstore and National Book Store.

     

    Alemar’s

    Dr. Ernesto Sibal and his wife Alegria started their book business by selling American books from a one-table store in 1945. Little did they know that their book sale business would someday grow into the biggest and most modern book store in the Far East in the 1950s and the 1960s.

    The name Alemar’s was derived from Mrs. Sibal’s name, Alegria, and the first given name of the Sibal daughters, Maria. Alemar’s, in its heyday, had its main store in Rizal Avenue and branches in Ermita, Recto Avenue, Quezon City and Makati. The Sibal family also ventured into the printing and publishing business in 1950, through its Phoenix Press and Phoenix Publishing House.

    The nationalization of textbook publishing started in 1951 when economic coordinator Salvador Araneta initiated the banning of imported elementary textbooks and supplementary readers. Under the leadership of Alemar’s Publishing House, the Philippine Educational Publisher’s Association (PEPA) was organized. Its creation hoped to meet the challenges of educational book publishing in the Philippines and serve the national community with books written by Filipinos, for Filipinos and of the Filipinos.

    Alemar’s offered more than just books to customers—local, imported, textbooks, used books—it also sold school and office supplies, magazines, toys, men’s, ladies’ and children’s wear, home accessories, vinyl records, cassettes and more. They also put up Central Book Supply, a division specializing in law books. Unfortunately, with more aggressive competition from other book stores, like National Book Store, and with the heirs of the Sibal family leaving for the U.S., Alemar’s started closing its book stores in the mid- to late-1980s.

     

    Goodwill Bookstore

    Seventy-nine years have passed since the late patriarch of Goodwill Bookstore, Manuel Y. Cancio, put up his first book store with his wife, Juana Tan-Cancio. Established in 1938, Goodwill Bookstore is the place to look for hard-to-find books, textbooks and reference books, especially in the field of medical literature. Goodwill Bookstore has stores in Metro Manila, in the provinces and is engaged in the retail and wholesale of books from local and foreign publishers.

    In 2006, Goodwill Bookstore opened its first Bridges Bookstore at the Virra Mall in Greenhills, San Juan. Now on its 11th year, Bridges Bookstore continues to cater to a wide range of customers—from pre-school students, teenagers and young adults as well.

    Goodwill Bookstore is involved in the publication and distribution of local and foreign-authored books thru its sister companies: EDCA Publishing and Distributing Corporation and KATHA Publishing Company. It has successfully penetrated the international market by exporting books written by Filipinos and trade reference materials. With the global market in mind, Goodwill Bookstore and KATHA actively participates in various book fairs held in the Asian region.

    Goodwill Bookstore is also involved in the distribution of environment-friendly merchandise known as Goodwill Organics. With the merging of Goodwill Organics and the vast merchandise already offered by Goodwill Bookstore, the company dedicates itself to the advocacy of caring for and preserving our environment, thus making people’s lives safer, healthier and eco-friendly.

     

    National Book Store

    If there is one book store that most Filipinos go to, it must be National Book Store. National Book Store started out in 1940 as a school supply and textbook store along Escolta Street on the ground floor of Panciteria National. Now—fast forward to 2017—it is a giant corporation consisting of almost a hundred branches scattered all over the Philippines.

    National Book Store is now a veritable household name and its main branch is at the renovated four-story building in Cubao, Quezon City. If its school supplies you are looking for, National Book Store is the place to go to.

    The woman behind National Book Store, Socorro Ramos or more commonly known as Nanay Coring, said it wasn’t easy to start the business from scratch. She remembered that during the Japanese Occupation of the early 1940s, they would look at and check on every book title on sale in the book store. If they found questionable books, they would tear the pages off leaving them useless.

    Instead of selling books, Nanay Coring and her husband, Jose Ramos, decided to fill their bookshelves with goods like candles, soap, slippers, papers and cigarettes. Their National Book Store stall in Escolta was damaged during the war but they bounced back by selling greeting cards and uncensored books which they had kept hidden in their home.

    In 1945, they relocated National Book Store from Escolta to Avenida. The business was doing well during the first post-war years but in 1948 a strong typhoon blew away the roof of the store and they were left with a lot of water-logged books and other stuff that were worthless.

    Nanay Coring and Mang Jose worked hard to rebuild National Book Store and every centavo they earned was used to buy the lot where the Rizal Avenue branch of National Book Store still stands to this day.

    National Book Store is considered today as the largest chain of book stores in the Philippines. Nanay Coring and the Ramos family has ventured into several businesses, like a convenience-type store named NBS Book Express, publishing companies like Cacho-Hermanos Printing Press, Anvil Books and Capitol-Atlas Publishing, another book store named Powerbooks, music stores Tower Records and Music One (both now defunct), Gift Gate and the Crossings department store. Nanay Coring’s children and relatives run and manage these businesses.

    By Jose K. Lirios

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