Manila is known for their malls. However, you’d be surprised to know that the best of Filipino shopping isn’t necessarily always done at the malls. Most tourists and balikbayans (Filipinos returning to the country) look forward to shopping not only because of the cheaper prices but also because of the great finds. The stuff you’d find here are basically from China or Bangkok (Bangkok for me will always be the shopping haven in Asia), but nonetheless if you’re visiting the country, you’re bound to pick up a few stuff here and there. And if you are, you might as well do it right. Here’s a quick guide on everything you need to know on shopping– Manila style!
Greenhills is the shopping mecca for tourists. From souvenirs to house decorations, from clothes of different styles to replica designer bags, and from iPhone cases to any gadgets you may need– Greenhills has it all! There are over a hundred tiangge, (stalls) lined up from one floor to another. The energy is full in the entire building. You’ll hear vendors offering goods and prices at every customers that passes by, haggling wars, and maybe luring customers at the back for some of their “specials”, which are usually replica LV bags (somehow fake LV bags aren’t completely legal to sell there so they hide them in the back). Haggling is a necessary skill to have once you fully commit to experiencing the real Greenhills shopping experience. But even if you aren’t very well trained in the area, you would still come home with bags of cheap finds. Go gaga over $20 replicas (even suitcases!), 2 for $3 sunglasses, $10 shoes, generously discounted phones, and anything else you may need for whatever matter.
Pros: Cheap finds, great variety, haggling allowed, airconditioned
Cons: Pushy vendors, no dressing rooms, clothes are mostly limited to Asian sizing
Watch out for: Heavy crowd on holidays, pickpockets, low quality gadgets (it may look appealing, but remember this is Replica Land)
Tip: For bargaining, you may have probably heard that going 50% lower will be offensive. But you don’t need to worry about that because these are not handmaid stuff that they’re selling. Plus, it is a fact that they do raise the prices MUCH higher for foreigners, so try to start with 50% until you can meet and agree on a decent price. It’s also best to come with a local here. I make sure my husband, who doesn’t look very Filipino and does not speak very good Tagalog, is not next to me when I’m trying to make my bargain game strong.
If the tourist shopping mecca is Greenhills, Divisoria is the local’s. If Greenhills was inexpensive for you, wait until you see the typical prices in Divisoria. They have mostly the same goods you’ll find in Greenhills, although others argue that you’ll find better qualities in Greenhills. On another hand, Divisoria is bigger and offers much more variety. It has basically EVERYTHING else. Aside from the malls (168 Mall and 999 Mall) that hosts hundreds of tiangge, there are also plenty of stalls lined up outside in the streets where the prices are even lower. Locals who own shops and businesses usually come here to purchase their materials in bulks. You can find all kinds of beautiful fabric for less than a quarter a yard. People come here to shop for giveaways and party souvenirs too (actually, even party materials as well). You can get costumes, accessories, household materials, knick knacks, tools, and whatever you may desire. Most of the owners of the stores here are Chinese and haggling is still applied. Another great thing about Divisoria is that it’s a short jeepney or tricycle ride away to China Town (the world’s OLDEST) so you can head out there after shopping for amazing hole in the wall dimsum restaurants.
Pros: Extremely cheap, whole sale available, endless variety, haggling allowed, close to Chinatown
Cons: Not airconditioned everywhere, heavy crowd on the daily, traffic, pickpockets, not for the faint of heart, limited to Asian sizing
Watch Out For: PICKPOCKETS at any time of the year and at any time of the day, impossible amount of crowd during holidays
Tip: Same bargaining rules apply. See Greenhills tips.
MALLS AND DEPARTMENT STORES
While the Philippines have plenty of them, they don’t always have the best stuff. International brands are much pricier than its regular price so I wouldn’t really suggest shopping here if you’re looking to get more branded and high end products. But if that is what you’re looking for, Manila has pretty attractive malls such as Greenbelt and Serendra at The Fort. You’ll probably see a lot of SM or Robinson’s Department Store all over the metro and they actually do have some pretty cool stuff for affordable prices there.
Pros: Airconditioned, clean, organized, good quality
Cons: Pricey to expensive, less variety
Watch Out For: Sales employee following you around the store– it’s annoying but they do that here
Tip: No tips, it’s a basic mall, you know how to shop there.
UKAY UKAY (Thrift Stores)
If you fancy digging for rare vintage finds, make a beeline to the ukay ukay stores! Manila has plenty of them and although it takes some dedicated work to find the good stuff, your variety is endless that going home empty handed is unlikely. Compared to what you’re probably used to, Filipino thrift stores is a little less organized. You will literally have to dig and search to find the goods. It helps a lot if you’ve got a good eye for things, since none of the stuff are laid out attractively like they usually are at the malls. Absolutely not for the picky shoppers, you need patience and time here. But if you do, you will be rewarded with some pretty awesome finds. Best part? They’re dirt cheap! Starting as low as 20php, you’ve got a great variety here!
Pros: Extremely cheap, great variety, unique finds, vintage galore
Cons: It takes work and a good eye, must be ok with second hand stuff, possibly might have a funny smell, not always airconditioned
Watch Out For: Items in bad condition– remember this a thrift shop, so it’s usually a hit or miss!
Tip: I usually have to be in the mood to shop at ukay-ukay. I find it quite an adventure. You may also try ukay-ukay outside the city, I’ve been told they have better finds. I love the stores here in Tagaytay where I’m currently based at. Amazing finds, I tell you.
Just like the stalls in Greenhills in Divisoria, you may find tiangge (chung-geh) in the streets. It’s easy to spot them in the markets too. A good time to find a big tiangge line up is during the holidays and during a town fiesta. It’s very common to have night markets with lots of tiangee during those times.
Pros: Night markets are fun!
Cons: They don’t always have the best stuff.
Watch Out For: Pickpockets
Tip: You may find street food vendors around, have some fishballs with the sweet and spicy sauce for a break!
Essential Sentences For Shopping In Manila:
Magkano po? – How much; Tawad po – Lower the price, please; Salamat – Thank you