Another school year ends here, and begins in Manila

I’m counting the days to Angelo’s “Moving Up” ceremony and the end of his first year in the “real school” as he concludes Pre-K. Yes, another year has passed. Just 2 weeks ago in Manila, I witnessed the frenzy of getting ready for school again as I accompanied my niece to get a schoolbag as she got ready to go into Grade II at the very same school I went to for my own elementary education.

Only those who have grown up in Manila will understand what I say when I reminisce about the “magic of being in National Bookstore“. It was, to me, the equivalent of being let loose in a toy or candy store. Even as I grew older, it was always such a treat to browse the shelves of books, dig into the bargain bins, choose the right ballpen brand and color, pick the unruffled or uncrumpled sheet of cartolina.. To dig into a bin of candy-scented erasers, choose your notebook based on the character printed on the cover, or as was my personal preference, those plain blue but smooth and bright papers in the much coveted Corona notebooks. (They were so expensive even back then!)

We would go to the nearest branch with the list of school supplies in hand, and we’d buy yards and yards of plastic cover. Covering the notebooks and books became another ritual for me which I attacked with much gusto and a sense of artistry. The plastic had to be cut right, the corners when folded should not be sharp, and the folding within the covers had to be done in a way that the flaps were done uniformly.

So each time I go home, I stop by a National Bookstore branch to pick up some magazines and postcards. Although this trip saw me sending home some vintage postcards (with yellowing backs and all) from part of my collection which I didn’t realize was still in the house in San Juan, I still picked up a handful as part of the posctards I sent to Angelo. I was hoping to get one book only but the salesladies at the Shangri-la Plaza branch couldn’t find it. If there was one book I was hoping to pick up during this trip, it was Pilar Pilapil’s “Woman without a Face”. 

The card racks are not as many as it used to be, and there are less of the licensed cards from Hallmark, but you can now pick up greeting cards in the vernacular. Scrapbooking seems to have caught on as well which merited it its own display stand where you’ll find paper, scrapbooks and embellishments (some of them even handmade) all with a Philippine flavor. Handmade paper can likewise be found in their gift wrapping section, and I couldn’t help but be amazed at how a full sheet of brightly dyed handmade paper good enough to wrap a sizeable gift box can cost only P39.35. I remember when a similar size of handmade paper bought straight from the supplier cost twice that much 10 years ago. My sister, Ofie, gently reminded me that the industry has grown and there are more suppliers in the market, driving the price down.

National Bookstore and the memories it brings… I can go on and on.. And on. It’s one of those everyday things back home everyone takes forgranted, but which one can’t help but feel nostalgic about when you find yourself far from home. (So who says it’s just the food you’ll miss?). Staples, OfficeMax, Barnes & Noble, Borders.. They just don’t quite do it for me. Iba pa rin ang laking National Bookstore…

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