Indie book bar Kwago relaunches with a renovated space and new curated collections

February 06, 2019 – alike Editorial Team—After its birth in 2018, Kwago has grown from a small book bar to a community of readers, zine makers, authors, and artist-publishers. This coming Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, Kwago will be unveiling a renewed space with a more curated inventory, new programs, and partners at an event called Rites of Passage at the Warehouse in collaboration with Warehouse Eight.

Everyone is invited to join the event, whether you're a book lover, self-publisher, budding artist, or beer lover—Kwago is a quaint little place for you to discover and enjoy. On Feb. 9, pledge to be one of their Ninongs and Ninangs, as they dub their reopening a rebirth of sorts—a "binyag" as they call it. Entrance is at P380, and guests are each given a free zine and a fiction-inspired cocktail, the latter being one of the new and fun upgrades of this renovated Makati hangout.

With the help of architect Arts Serrano of One/Zero Design Collective, multimedia designers Reymart Cerin and Vince África of The Public School Manila, and interior designer Jia Cabansag of Altum, Kwago is refurbishing the book bar with an aim to have a homey, minimalist aesthetic that could accommodate more books and longer conversations, as well as create a headspace for clarity and serious play.

“I have learned a lot from 11 months of constant experimentation, from failing a lot and from meeting brilliant and passionate people in the book bar like Roy Voragen, my partner for Kwago’s new program: A Curated Shelf. The ongoing changes at Kwago reflect everything that I’ve learned, and all the insights I’ve gleaned from being hands-on in bootstrapping the book bar at the doorstep of Warehouse Eight for over a year now,” Kwago founder Czyka Tumaliuan said.

But more than a rebirth, Tumaliuan shares that Feb. 9 is a big thank you to everyone who always believed in her from the very beginning, especially Warehouse Eight. More importantly, it’s a declaration of Kwago’s commitment to be of better service to the community of readers, and local and independent publishers that continue to trust Kwago.

"Wouldn’t know what Kwago is today without Warehouse Eight’s tough love. Tough because I am not really given your typical guidance or mentorship which are usual in incubation spaces. I started Kwago under so much freedom limited with natural, real-life constraints that I encounter and solve as I try to make my vision sustainable. I’m put in a circumstance where I have to be sharp, resourceful, and learn how to ‘diskarte’ on my own. Pinabayaan lang ako. Pinabayaan magkamali at matuto," Tumaliuan confessed.

“Yet, the space is subsidised. It's really expensive to rent in Makati. People at the Warehouse like Kuya Dom and Ate Arlene secretly clean the coffee bar and get rid of the beer cases if I was too tired to remember to do it after an exhausting event. Even one of the founders does this for me. Nakakahiya, but I've learned to accept help. I can't do everything."

"There are many more ‘quiet support’ that they give me without expecting anything in return, like connecting me to the right people and giving me casual business advice. They just do it because they believe in reading, in books, in what I’m trying to do. There’s no systems in place. No metrics. No one checks on me regularly. They don’t ask me to report. They just make sure I pay the rent. Everything is so organic. It feels serendipitous. That’s gotta be love, you know.”

Warehouse Eight co-owner Kayla Dionisio shares that she’s just sincerely happy that her friend and long-time collaborator was able to create something meaningful and disruptive at her second home—Warehouse Eight.

“Czy and I started as friends. I just wanted to give a home to her vision because I believe in it. It’s really a genuine desire to see it grow, making sure she’s okay but not hovering over her so she has room to find her own footing,” Warehouse Eight co-owner Kayla Dionisio said.

“I’ve seen Kwago through and throughgood and bad, orderly and chaotic. Now that it has found its focus, I’m excited to see more. I’m so happy that something beautiful blossomed in our tiny doorstep that used to have no use.”

On Feb. 9, Kwago will welcome a new co-owner Jean Karl Gaverza, founder and writer of The Spirits of the Philippine Archipelago. He used to just volunteer and frequent Kwago a lot, but ended up offering to help in a deeper way to make the vision grow even more.

“Kwago is a space where you can exercise freedom without constraints, where you can be yourself, where you can debate with people, and find yourself through the works of others. Kwago is more than just a bookstore, it’s a community of people who love what they do and do what they love. This is the reason why I’m here to help it grow,” Karl Gaverza said.

Additionally, Kwago will announce a long-term partnership with a new publishing platform Comma, which will be Kwago’s guide and partner for curating its collection of books, zines and other publications. They will be launching their first collaboration at the same day—A Curated Shelf, which is a 2-month publication exhibit at the book bar, where they will invite an individual to curate 15 publications under a certain theme. Their first curator is new media artist Tad Ermitaño. Comma is a brainchild of Kwago founder Czyka Tumaliuan and poet-curator Roy Voragen.

Art by Hulyen for Haliya Publishing