Photo By Gio Gorostiza
Photo By Gio Gorostiza.

Doulos Hope has arrived and they’ve brought treasure—pages and pages of it!

Doulos Hope in Manila—the world's biggest floating book fair—dropped anchor to welcome the country's capital.

By Gio Gorostiza | Friday, 19 April 2024

Take everything you know about book fairs and cast it into the sea. What you'll have, as a result, is Doulos Hope, a floating library carrying a boatload of books. The international floating book fair has been sailing around the world since the 1980s, and for the past few months, it has been touring various ports in Luzon, visiting the shores of Subic Bay and La Union. But before it begins the final leg of its Philippine trip to Batangas, the vessel docked at the port area of Manila Bay for a 19-day visit from Mar. 27 to Apr. 14.


Upon arriving at the port of Manila, you can already sense that Doulos Hope does not offer the stock experience of your typical book fair. To get to it, visitors must first walk their way up the gangway to embark on the ship and then climb two flights of spiral stairs before reaching the bow side of the ship where the book fair is held. But what sets it apart from other book fairs is its setting. With nothing but the vast expanse of the West Philippine Sea as its backdrop, the shelves of books in the venue seem to take on a slight air of surreality, adding a patina of uniqueness to the whole experience.


The place quickly becomes crowded, especially on weekends, when it attracts the most visitors. However, the bustling crowd only signifies a comforting fact, the Filipino reader's passion is very much alive and well. Long-time enthusiasts and newcomers alike flock to the venue. After all, it's not every day they have the chance to immerse themselves in a sea of books in Manila Bay, especially with enticing price tags as low as Php 100. The vessel carries titles upon titles of fiction, biographies, history and science, classics, cookbooks, health, children’s books, and religion—with the latter two comprising a significant portion of their offerings.


Even if none of the pages pique your interest, the view from the ship alone is worth experiencing. Doulos Hope provides a moment of respite from land, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in watching the horizon merge the sky and sea, or observing cargo ships fade into phantoms as they vanish into the distance.


If you opt to stay around after purchasing your books, you can head over to the stern of the ship where a café stands, offering a variety of drinks and snacks. With ample seating, visitors can relax and enjoy their newly acquired books in comfort.


It is interesting to note that all the staff working at the fair are volunteers hailing from various countries all over the world. So, if there's still any doubt regarding how far volunteerism can take us, the staff of Doulos Hope proves that we can take it as far as we want—no matter where the ports are.


After they hoist up their anchors in Manila Bay, the ship's next stop will be the Port of Batangas where it will dock from Apr. 16 to 28. So, for bibliophiles who missed their chance at the previous ports, this would be the last opportunity to visit before it sets its course to Hong Kong. If you want to receive updates regarding ticket sales and schedules, make sure to check the Doulos Hope website for the latest information.

Last updated: Friday, 19 April 2024