Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Divisoria shopping

Flew back here to Dubai early this morning, been in the Philippines for the last 10 days. What a trip! Tiring is a kind word to describe it. From the first day of arrival, I was already on local time which is four hours earlier than Dubai. So I was awake at 4am Dubai time, almost every day. Totally not me but it was well worth it.

One of my first stops was Divisoria, a Pinoy haven for shopping dirt cheap. It's the place to be if you're into fashion (we found a pretty cocktail dress with an overlay of lace at PHP250, a similar one in MegaMall was PHP600), toy collections, or shopping for special occasions. You will find a lot of fake items there specially in the bags area, true, but search hard and you will also get really good finds. My reason for being there is to shop for unbranded props and costumes for the Say Cheese UAE photobooth, a product of The Kitsch Company, that is launching this month.

Divisoria Mall
Though the whole area is filled with shops and street vendors, our main destination was Divisoria Mall.  Coming from Mandaluyong, we took the jeepney to Gabbys, then another jeepney to Taft and another to Divisoria (if you want to go to Divisoria and don't know how, check this page out). With all of the best intentions to arrive early, we got there around 10 in the morning and pleasantly found it manageable. If you really want to avoid the crowd, come earlier.

Screenshot from

It was fortunate that we got there before the rest of Manila, so we were able to enjoy browsing relaxedly during the first two hours. But with lunch time came more people and it became a mad jostling scene just to get through some alleys. Didn't help that as the hours zoomed by, the bags we were carrying were also multiplying or in the case of our big bags, ballooning like the Marshallow man on more marshmallows. We had to do a lot of calisthenics, swerving, moving our arms up and down, bending, just to avoid hitting other people with our haul.

Plenty of knick knacks!
Since we did not have sukis (vendors that you go to regularly and give you a good price without haggling for it), we decided to scour the entire building. Our strategy was to start from one side and snake through each alley to see each and every shop. At some point, we got disoriented, and saw several alleys twice.

We found wonderful props for both kiddie parties and adult parties on the second floor - butterfly wings, cowboy hats, pirate gear, wigs and a lot more. My sis was on the lookout for gifts, and she found unbranded waterproof backpacks and cute night lights to give away for Christmas.

On the third floor near the food court, we found toy stores with a wide selection. I picked up a couple of props while my sis picked several lovely gifts for the little ones - toy electric guitar, toy synthesizer, race cars and more.

This is by no means my first time shopping in Divisoria, but admittedly, it has been a long time. After a late lunch and a last minute check that we got everything we needed, we faced the crowd again with our extra large bags and started jostling back. My arms were stiff and involuntarily shaking with the effort the next day. But yes, I will gladly do it again.

In case you're in Manila and thinking of Divi shopping, consider my little words of wisdom:

  1. Keep your belongings close. Expect a crowd, jostling and restless fingers will probably be in the mix too, so keep your wallet/money close to your body. Use body bags instead of regular handbags. Don't wear jewelry or expensive watches. Bring smaller bills, harder to haggle if all you have are huge bills.
  2. Bring your own collapsible bag or tote. It's difficult to handle several plastic bags from different vendors. Also, it's nice to be enviro-friendly, right? If you think you'll be buying heavy items, consider bringing a collapsible bag with a stroller but remember, managing this might be challenging once the place fills up specially during Christmas season. 
  3. List down what you need. It's easy to get distracted with so many eye candies. So be sure you have a list. 
  4. Be decisive. Haggling? Buying? Decide and move on. The first store you see with the product you like will not be the only one who has that item in stock. So, if you think the price is higher than what you have budgeted for, move on. If the sellers are also not friendly, same case, they're not the only ones selling those items. I particularly don't like dealing with unfriendly vendors, so I tend to move on and I do find those items in other stores. More often than not, with a cheaper price tag too. It also helps if you have a price guide - before I went, I asked another friend about the price ranges of the items I need, so I had them pegged at a price and never went beyond it.
  5. Toy stores at the third floor
  6. If you're all set to haggle, try to identify the owner of the shop and haggle directly with him/her. For example, I got some really nice leather cowboy hats down to PHP90 wholesale price when I asked the owner directly, as opposed to PHP120 (last price) his lady seller was giving me. If you buy a lot of items from them, ask for a further discount by rounding off the total price lower. 

In case you're more into fashion, then you should check out the nearby mall 168.

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