Popular Bookstore unfazed but vigilant after red-tagging graffiti

Established in 1946, Popular Bookstore has been the go-to store of intellectuals for hard-to-find books. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

MANILA — “This is foul.”

Julie Po could not hide her exasperation after seeing the words spray-painted in red on the roll-up metal gate of their bookstore located in barangay South Triangle in Quezon City. “This bookstore is like a library, a quiet place,” she said.

On March 22, the staff found the words “NPA Terorista” (New People’s Army, Terrorist) written on the storefront. Established in 1946, the family-run bookstore has never been subjected to harassment before.

Asked who might have done it, Po said the tactic is similar to how government officials red-tags activists.

“If they do read, they would know that there are no NPAs in Quezon City,” Po told Bulatlat, referring to the perpetrators.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is leading an agrarian revolution in the countryside. The NPA guerrillas are based in the provinces, building political power in far-flung communities.

Months ago, the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) led the pullout of several books from the libraries of state universities and colleges. Academics condemned it as an attack on academic freedom.

Read: ‘Purging of books is an attack on academic freedom’

Julie Po, one of the owners of Popular Bookstore, talks about their wide selection of books. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/Bulatlat)

While Popular Bookstore do have books about the CPP, NPA and those penned by Jose Maria Sison, it has a wide selection of books, including those authored by former government consultants such as Jose Almonte, then director general of Fidel V. Ramos administration’s National Security Council, and even red-tagger and newspaper columnist Rigoberto Tiglao. It’s the go-to bookstore for hard-to-find reference materials on history, politics, culture, literature, among others.

Another bookstore, Solidaridad, owned by the late F. Sionil Jose and named after the revolutionary paper during the Spanish colonialism, was also painted with “NPA-Terorista.”

Po said his father Joaquin helped in setting up Solidaridad during its early years.

“Why target the bookstores? Why do this in the city? Is this part of a destabilization plot to stall the elections? Is this just a beginning of something bigger?” Po said.

The 69-year-old bookstore owner was a student activist during the Marcos dictatorship. She was imprisoned for five months in 1973 for opposing Marcos.

Po remains unfazed. “I should be more careful, more vigilant but we cannot keep quiet.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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