This article is written by Cris Evert B. Lato-Ruffolo and was originally posted at 

The former location (left) of Book O’Bar now houses a laundrymat.

The former location (left) of Book O’Bar now houses a laundrymat.

There was a time in the past when downtown Cebu was a destination for bibliophiles and bookworms.

The bookstores did not boost of air-conditioned spaces or nooks that sold macchiato or cappuccino. They were plain and simple. Most of them were situated on Cebu’s busy commercial district—near and around Colon street—and were literary destinations for families and students.

Hendri Go, the human being behind Cebu Literary Festival, remembers some of these bookstores with fond memories. He was perhaps so happy with the memories that he did not stop bugging me to join him in organizing a Jane’s Walk in Cebu with the theme, “The Lost Bookstores of Downtown Cebu.”

Jane’s Walk is an annual festival of citizen-led walking conversations with the goal of making spaces “for people to observe, reflect, share, question and re-imagine the places in which they live, work and play.”

The walk was inspired by Jane Jacobs, a writer, urbanist and activities who passed away in 2006, but not without championing the voices of “everyday people in neighborhood planning and city-building.”

Hendri’s persistence made me agree to do a mock walk on the last week of April; to visit the locations of the once glorious bookstores. The game plan was to revisit the locations of Cebu
Music House, Cebu Thrift House and Gaisano

Super Bookstore along with the newsrooms of The Freeman and Sun.Star. We also passed by the spots where the famous department stores, Gaw’s and Rosita’s were located.
On the day of the walk, Hendri and I were joined by a couple and a student. It was a small group, an ideal size for the first attempt to jumpstart a series of citizen-led walks in Cebu.

The walk started at the Halad Museum, which people can visit for a glimpse of Cebu’s musical heritage. We then visited The Freeman newsroom and pointed to the area near the
taytayan (bridge) of Gaisano Main where Cebu Music House once stand. We headed straight to the former location of Gaisano Super Bookstore, now an empty warehouse with a guard and a man selling cigarettes.

The writer (far left) and Cebu LitFest founder Hendri Go (fourth from left) in a group photo with participants of Jane’s Walk: The Lost Bookstores of Downtown Cebu last May 4

The writer (far left) and Cebu LitFest founder Hendri Go (fourth from left) in a group photo with participants of Jane’s Walk: The Lost Bookstores of Downtown Cebu last May 4

We crossed the street heading to the University of the Visayas. Hendri asked us to look up at the edifice near the Manila Bulletin office. We were told that abandoned building was once a hospital.

We turned left to Sanciangko Street then right to Junquera Street. We entered the V-Hire terminal to pass by Barangay Kamagayan which had a notorious reputation of being Cebu City’s red light district. The Kamagayan of my college years, between 2003 to 2007, is a far cry from the Kamagayan I visited in that walk. There is a Day Care Center now and a building is under construction to become an improved space for barangay officials and residents to meet and discuss issues and implement projects with partners.

Exiting Barangay Kamagayan brought us back to Jakosalem Street. We walked to the direction of P. Del Rosario St., crossed the road and turned left to the direction of the University of San Carlos.

We passed by Rex Bookstore and then paused for Hendri to point to us the location of Book O’ Bar, which writer and poet Myke Obenieta described as “free and intimate as one’s living room.”

We visited the Sun.Star newsroom and was welcomed by editor-in-chief Isolde Amante. From Sun.Star, we passed by Elicon House, crossed the street again to get to the downtown branch of La Belle Aurore, which closed shop in early 2013.

Before we called it a day, we stopped by the former location of Goodwill Bookstore just across the University of San Carlos Downtown where the family of lawyer and Book Swap Cebu founder Chappy Piramide shared stories of their bookstores and printing press.

We walked to Cup N Saucer Restaurant on Pelaez Street for snacks of binignit and avocado shake and called it a day. We started the walk at 3:30 p.m. and ended before 5 p.m.

For all the stories I heard that day, I wished more people joined us.

Then again, there is Jane’s Walk 2019.

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