Bookworming In Quezon City: Bookay Ukay

Remember Multiply? Remember when it was the social media service to use for easy online shopping (and mass uploads of incriminating party photos)? I didn’t do that much shopping on Multiply, thanks to my fear of bogus sellers and annoyance at people who called me “sis”. (Hindi kita kapatid, gaga.) But when I did, I bought only one type of product (books), and through only one online retailer.

Years later, I finally got to see Bookay Ukay‘s physical store for myself. It has since moved to a new retail outlet, but still within the now-famous Maginhawa St. in Quezon City. I rarely go to QC, but for one Sunday afternoon to evening back in October, I made the trip with a few friends — three of whom are fellow bookworms.

The store — selling secondhand and brand-new books as well as CDs and their own merch like bookmarks and mugs— takes its name from ukay, an abbreviation of halukay or hukay, which means “dig”. Ukay-ukay is the term used for secondhand-clothing stores in the Philippines, with Baguio City as the recognized mecca.

The same concept goes for the Philippines’ secondhand-book stores: like every experience we have at outlets like Booksale, you dig through stacks and peruse shelves to find your next reads. But Bookay Ukay’s new location is (or looks like it’s) much smaller than the original store, making book-digging and browsing a challenge if there are other shoppers in there with you. The place is packed with books, stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves on both sides, and with smaller shelves at the center and right by the entrance. It’s best for claustrophobic bookworms to visit at odd/off-peak hours.

Selection’s good too, with brand-new tomes mixed in with the secondhands. There’s the usual fiction paperbacks and hardbounds, non-fiction books, biographies and autobiographies. We also saw textbooks and reference titles I recognized from my years as a Political Economy student, comics (mostly Marvel), and a good number of erotica titles. Folks looking for business, self-help, entertainment, pop culture and classics titles will find ’em here, too.

As for “quirky” and uncommon finds, one of us picked up an anthology of erotic fiction about historical figures. Ended up getting it myself, mainly out of curiosity. 😉 I also found a copy of the Keith Richards bio Life; I’ve wanted to read it since I saw a French version at my Bangkok hostel back in 2012.

Don’t expect a standard figure for book purchases. The newer books (with plastic wrap) have bookstore chain prices, or hover within the same range. Secondhand titles can go much lower (like PhP200-PhP300 low). If I remember right, five books — two new and three secondhand — gave me a bill around PhP2,000. Not bad, but for those on a tight budget, you better stick with the secondhands.

One more thing: thanks to the cashier girl manning the store that Sunday. She didn’t mind that I had to ask her to grab a book at the very top shelf, or that our group stayed in there longer than the other customers, and made a fair amount of mess and noise. I don’t know if she overheard everything we said while hanging out outside the store, but uhhhh… yeah. Thanks a lot, lady. 😉

When you’re done looking around Bookay Ukay, I also suggest exploring Maginhawa and nearby streets. Book-hunting can really work up your appetite, and there are plenty of food establishments within the area that are worth checking out.

Bookay Ukay
78 Maginhawa St., Teacher’s Village East, Quezon City, Philippines
(63) 917-647-4956
bookayukay (at) gmail.com