January 7, 2005, 5:30 P.M.
MV Doulos, as proclaimed by a welcome streamer by Gate 1 of the Manila South Pier, was the “world’s oldest-going passenger ship,” which puzzled us for a while until we thankfully saw a flier which revealed that it was actually the world’s oldest ocean-going ship. Ocean-going or oldest-going, what we were certain of was that it was a ship full of books, and the ship was going to be docked in Manila for almost a month, and we weren’t going to miss it.
Amazingly, thousands of other people also had the same idea. Our cab brought us within sight of Pier 13 where the ship was docked, but some distance from the pier gate we saw the queue of people waiting to get in. We had to check to make sure that the queue did indeed lead to the ship. It was a long queue too, snaking from outside the gate and going on several loops and turns before finally arriving at the ticket booth near the stairs leading up to the ship. We queued up for at least 40 minutes, which I never I would ever have to do to get into a bookshop. For those of you who think that nobody ever reads anymore, the sight of the line to MV Doulos that late Sunday afternoon would cheer your heart. I especially loved the sight of the little girl walking out of the ship with her nose already buried in her book (Ship officials Iater said that 10,094 people stepped on board that Sunday).
It also cheered our hearts that it was already evening by time we went onboard, because the heat would have been intolerable otherwise. The ship’s bookshop area was crammed to the gills with people milling about that we were afraid to separate for fear we might never find each other again. The lines to the cashiers were also quite long, which really made sense. If I waited that long to get into the bookshop, I’m not leaving until I’ve bought some books.
The collection, at least for that particular Sunday, consisted largely of books on inspirational/Christian living, children’s literature, cooking, and some general reference books. After more than an hour of browsing, I came up with five purchases:
- Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat book and tape (yes, cassette tape. Mas mahal ang CD e) – P150
- The penguin who wanted to fly, or something like that, for my nieces – P50
- More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell – P150. The book discusses historical, archeological, and scientific debates on the divinity and character of Jesus Christ, and so has the right mix of analytical geekiness and Christian principles to appeal to me.
- Devotional Commentary Series discussing Philippians and Colossians (P200) – there was a whole shelf of commentaries on various books of the Bible, but of course I picked Philippians because it’s my favorite. So cheery (“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Talagang ulitin pa daw ba?)
- Two Bibles – a small NIV translation for attending church (P150), and a pretty sizable Life Application Study Bible in New Living Translation. Hard-bound, all wrapped-up, and sold with a CD of the iLumina digital Bible, it was a bargain at P800. The NLT translation might throw me at first because I’m more used to NIV, but what snagged me was the extensive discussions and commentary, taking up as much as a third of each page. This means that I now have three Bibles, but of course, all the Bibles in the world won’t do me any good if I’m not going to sit down and actually read. My old Bible has long been gathering dust on my bedside table, but let’s hope I’ll get to do something about that soon.
As for my companions, Abby collected several inspirational books before dropping them all to be able to afford a P1,500 Quest Study Bible. It’s the Book, after all, you’re hardly going to need the others. Like my Bible, it also had extensive commentaries; the difference was that Quest’s commentaries focus more on the historical aspect and mine focuses on the life application. No matter. We’re just going to switch every three years or so, he he. Don got three John C. Maxwell books for P400 each (As usual, I am amazed at his discipline. At the Powerbooks warehouse sale last year he just got three-book sci-fi series and then smilingly watched us sort through our baskets during the painful elimination process of deciding which of our picks we’ll really purchase). Lastly, Jaypee got several of the Cat in the Hat package to be given to various inaanaks and relatives, and “The Ultimate Cookbook,” a pretty ambitious title even for a pretty hefty book. Goodness knows how can any cookbook claim to be the ultimate, but apparently she’s happy with her purchase.
The ship’s crew, a United Nations of volunteers from around the world, seemed quite surprised by the heavy turn out, but cheerfully rallied just the same, repeatedly pleading over the speaker system to please help keep the books in their proper place. I like to think that they’ve never experienced this level of enthusiasm before, not in the fifty-odd years of the ship’s ocean-going existence.
MV Doulos will be docked at the Manila South Harbor until January 23, after which it will sail to Cebu City.