Divisoria: For only the Street Smart
For the ultimate in bargain shopping, you have to go to the Divisoria district located in Manila City. There are two main shopping malls, 168 and Tutuban Center, wherein you can find clothes and shoes (mainly for women) at the lowest prices. Of course, these are mostly made in China and the quality is not assured or consistent but some would say it is even cheaper here than in China itself. For foreigners, it is best that you be accompanied by a local and I suggest you bring a car with a driver who will just wait for you while you go shopping.
"Tiangge" is a Filipino term for market stalls. Greenhills shopping center is popular for this kind of shopping atmosphere. Actually, there are a number of small malls and a supermarket within the complex but it is the numerous tiangges that draw the people in. Here you can find all kinds of clothes and shoes, mostly knock-offs or imitation brands and cellphones and related services (the technicians can do anything with your phone, ringtones, etc.). In addition, there is a large congregation of stalls which mainly sells pearls and other kind of jewelry. Remember to look around first and BARGAIN!
Shoemart, Ayala Center, Robinson's etc.: Malls & more Malls
When a nephew of mine visited us several years ago (grew up in Australia), he was amazed by the number and the sheer size of the malls located in Metro Manila, that he commented, "I thought the Philippines was poor!" Well, majority of Filipinos are poor, but that even makes the mall advantageous. During their free time, Filipino families go to the mall to avail of the air conditioning and wide space; which they may not have at home. So weekends or holidays are normally full of people.
Shoemart is the most popular mall. In fact, one of the first letters a baby gets to learn is "SM", which refers to Shoemart. It has at least one mall located in all the major cities, not only in Metro Manila, but in the Philippines. Everything you need is available here and the prices, at least at the department store section, are very affordable. The best SM store, I believe, is the one located in Makati while the best SM mall is the Mall of Asia, located in Pasay City.
Ayala Center is another mall; but mainly located in the business district of Makati City and the upscale residential area of Alabang and the Fort. Unlike the boxy structure of Shoemart, Ayala Center is proud of it's architecture. They also include a park to lend some greenery to the environment. I highly recommend Glorietta (my personal favorite) in Makati City.
Robinson's is a direct competitor of Shoemart as it is always located next to it and offers almost the same merchandise. Unfortunately, it cannot match SM's wide range and the most successful one is not located next to a Shoemart (Robinson's Ermita in Manila City).
There are higher end malls like Greenbelt (Ayala owned) and Power Plant both in Makati, the Podium (SM owned) in Mandaluyong City, and Gateway in Quezon City. So if you prefer luxury and quality brands, these malls are your best bet.
SM Mall of Asia (Part 1)
The SM Mall of Asia is a shopping mall that opened in the Pasay area of Manila on May 2006 and is the Philippines’ largest mall, surpassing its cousin, SM Megamall, and the third biggest mall in the world in terms of gross floor size. I have been there a few times and it is really huge with lots of retail shops, restaurants and there is even an indoor skating rink and a very big Shoe Mart (SM) department store there. This is worth checking out when you are in Manila.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Women's Travel
- Family Travel
There is a big handicraft and souvenir shop near to the entrance of Fort Santiago known as the Mananzan Hadicrafts shop. There are lots of local handicrafts and souvenirs here which are at a reasonable price, and the best thing is you can take your own time to walk around and choose your items. The service staff are very friendly as well.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Family Travel
Mall of Asia: A Shopper’s Paradise
The newly constructed Mall of Asia is Manila’s biggest department store with over a hundred stores and several restaurants under one gigantic roof. What’s interesting is that it’s also the biggest mall in Asia, hence, the name. Local brands can be found in this shopping haven as well as international brands like Mango and Zara, which debuted in Manila through the Mall of Asia.
One side of the Mall of Asia is dedicated to restaurants that give a breathtaking view of the sunset. This actually gives shoppers a feeling of relaxation after a tiring (yet enjoyable) day of retail exercise. Actually, one day is not enough to comb the place from end to end so I suggest you get there when it opens before 10am.
What to buy: You can shop for clothing, appliances, grocery items, hardware, gadgets, jewelry and what-have-yous in the Mall of Asia. Even souvenirs can be bought from here as there are small shops that sell Manila or Philippine souvenirs. ShoeMart also has one section that is dedicated to native items.
What to pay: Prices are reasonable in Manila. A nice shirt can only cost you USD 9.00. A decent meal is around the same price. If you intend to shop ‘til you drop, you may have to prepare a little more than that.Related to:
- Family Travel
PowerBooks: Read to Lead
Powerbooks is the sister company of The National Bookstore. This shop offers a wide variety of books and is haven for book fanatics like me. They provide sitting areas for those who wants to read & linger and a cafe for those who fancies coffee and pastries to go with their reading.
What to buy: - all types of books
- greeting cards
- some office supplies
- some braches have a small cafe
What to pay: books come as cheap as P70 to as expensive as P2800+++Related to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
National Bookstore: One-Stop- Bookshop
No filipino haven't been to the very reliable National Bookstore. Every kid who's about to enter school would end up shopping at National Bookstore for their school supplies.
I used to be here as a student for my back-to-school shopping, then later for books.
Prices are affordable and reasonable. Recently, they implemented the Laking National Bookstore cards where frequent customers can avail of bonus points for every P100 purchase. How cool!
For someone like me who has a passion for reaing, this place is simply 'heaven'.
What to buy: books - all kinds
What to pay: Items can be as cheap as P12 for a ballpen and as expensive as P4000+ for a hardbound book.Related to:
- Family Travel
Glorietta to Greenhills: Shopping in Manila
Manila isn't really a shopping destination but offers fairly decent shopping nonetheless. Visitors will notice armed security guards keeping homeless out of aircon malls, banks and even burger bars.
Up-market malls like Glorietta 4, Greenbelt, Town Centre, Powerplant, and Podium carry a multitude of designer boutiques. Other notable shopping malls are the SM and Robinson's Malls dotted around the capital.
There are literally tons of shops in Greenhills Shopping Centre, a popular mall-cum-flea market complex just a short drive from the Ortigas Centre business district. Shops here offer a plethora of computers, jewellery, and clothes. Araneta Centre in Cubao though not as fashionable gives a glimpse of how shopping destinations looked like in Manila before gigantic malls took over the scene. The shops there, though, might be of more interest to locals.
The wholesale/retail market of Divisoria is without doubt THE place for bargains. Divisoria is crowded with shops selling clothes, fabrics, toys, kitchen ware, home décor and almost everything else. Tutuban Centre Mall in the heart of Divisoria is definitely not run-of-the-mill as it was converted from a turn-of-the-century train station. Wrought-iron columns and lattice work, and red brick masonry give it a unique air, at least on the outside. Inside, the mall carries just the usual shops. The neighbouring multi-storey 'cluster' malls are a dizzying maze of small shops where one can haggle.
What to buy: Nearby Ilaya and Tabora streets are what locals call the 'real' Divisoria. The markets and stalls here are for the more adventurous shoppers. Most stalls have illegally encroached on the sidewalks and streets and duty inspections by patrols are an amusing highlight of the day, with vendors packing up in less than a minute, leaving the formerly jam-packed street almost deserted. The place is littered, crowded and frequently foul-smelling, but if you're a shopper who enjoys dirt-cheap bargains, this is for you. However, it's best to shop in Divisoria with a local who knows the place, otherwise you'd end up lost and almost surely gypped.
Quiapo is another local bargain centre with relatively cleaner and more organised street markets, particularly along Carriedo, Villalobos and Hidalgo streets. Wares are similar to those in Divisoria, but you can take in a little whiff of the old Manila atmosphere while you're there as it's in one of the city's oldest shopping districts. The place is also known for its bargain electronic parts and systems, and for local handicrafts which are sold in shops under the nearby bridge. Again, best shop here with a local.
Note: security is an issue. On the streets travellers will need to keep their wits about them, Metro Manila is notorious for crime - particularly pick pocketing.Related to:
- School Holidays
Robinson's place: Robinson's place
If you are staying in the area of Malate. This is the place perfect for you because everything you need is already here. Restaurants, coffee shops, shopping etc. It's not far as well.
Glorietta Center: shopping
What I learned in my short time in Manila is that if nothing else Filipinos enjoy a good mall. This is actually the combination of several malls all connected by walkways.Related to:
- Luxury Travel
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