MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos are natural bargain hunters, whether we belong to the upper, middle or lower income class.
Let's admit it: we're always on the lookout for what's affordable.
That's why it's impossible to talk about shopping in the Philippines without mentioning Divisoria, the "shopping mecca" at the heart of Manila.
Divisoria makes us brave crowds and endure long walks carrying shopping bags that are close to bursting and still have enough energy to haggle.
For Filipinos, this is retail therapy at its finest [and cheapest].
But in order to enjoy shopping in Divisoria and truly getting your money's worth, we have listed dont's that we think you should take note of — before you step out and head to bargain shopping wonderland:
1) Don't buy processed foods like candies.
Most of the candies sold in Divisoria are imported, but you don't know whether these food items have been cleared by the authorities as safe for consumption.
2) Don't buy toys for small children, especially for babies who are teething.
There have been reports that some toys sold in Divisoria contain lead.
So buying toys, especially for toddlers, are a big no-no because they tend to "eat" their toys.
3) Don't buy appliances.
This is for the simple reason that they don't come with a warranty and, therefore, you are not assured that it will work or that it will work properly.
This is the same argument when buying Christmas lights.
These usually do not carry authentic Import Commodity Clearance Sticker which means a product has been tested and cleared by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
4) Don't buy gadgets.
There are a lot of fake gadgets out there and you risk wasting your hard-earned money. Especially for phones, those sold in Divisoria often do not carry the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) seal.
All phones in the Philippines must carry this seal since the NTC is tasked to approve all communication devices sold in the country.
5) Don't buy perfume and cosmetics.
This is because most of these perfumes and cosmetics are fake and you never know what kind of ingredients are in them.
These ingredients may be harmful to you or cause unwanted skin irritations.
If you can't remember this list, the rule of thumb is:
Never buy anything you ingest or have to put on your skin.
These products sold in Divisoria must immediately become suspect.
Here is the list of what is safe to buy in Divisoria:
1) Gowns and costumes for various ocassions
Since Christmas is coming up, there will be many occasions wherein we would need to dress up.
You don't need to spend through your nose just to look good and expensive. There are many dress shops in Divisoria who sell gowns [even wedding gowns] and they accept made-to-order work.
There are numerous shops in Divisoria. These are great places to check out affordable but quality textiles for school uniforms and everyday office or corporate wear.
3) Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Divisoria has a market of fresh fruits and vegetables that directly buys from farmers or producers. This significantly lowers the cost, particularly for produce grown in the Philippines.
There are also many imported produce that are very affordable and fresh.
4) Knick knacks
With the Christmas season fast approaching, "kris kringle" and "monito monita" will again be a popular way of gift giving among friends, classmates and workmates.
Feel free to explore Divisoria for great unique items that will help spread the love in the coming holidays.
5) School and office supplies
These items are the cheapest you can find anywhere in Manila. Of course, some of them are not of high quality but these things are meant to be used.
Replacing them won't cost you much.
A word of caution
Buying clothing and apparel in Divisoria goes without saying.
All clothes, shoes and bags are fair game in Divisoria. There are different sizes, styles and brands.
But if you are taking these things — especially the bags and the shoes — abroad, please do not buy them. There is no assurance that these articles are genuine.
So unless you don't want to be flagged at the airport or customs and immigration of the country you're going to, stay away from these items.
What to expect
Similar to going to war, roaming the streets of Divisoria in search of great deals and awesome steals needs preparation.
1) Be prepared to leave all your gadgets, jewelry and expensive possessions at home. If you have a rundown phone, bring that instead.
2) Bring only a small bag that can be kept close to your body, preferrably a small body bag or belt bag. You may look "baduy" but you'll fit right in and make you less of a target for snatchers and pickpockets.
3) Be prepared to face a sea of humanity, so don't be sensitive. Expect to be stepped on and shoved many times while shopping. Crowds in Divisoria can get a little rough, especially this time of year.
4) Don't expect the stores to give you receipts. If you ask for receipts, they'll give you makeshift ones made of manila paper or writing pads used in school. They can easily deny that these receipts came from them so why bother, right? So be careful with what you buy, there is a "no return no exchange policy" in Divisoria.
A tip in haggling
Remember that all the prices of goods are doubled, so be sure to ask first for half the price or 50% of the price that is quoted. If they don't want to give it to you, walk away.
If you're "buena mano" [aka the first costumer] they will call you back and give you the item for the price you asked for.
Knowing all these, go and experience Divisoria. It is still one of the best places to shop in the Philippines.
Happy shopping! - Rappler.com
If you have other Divisoria shopping tips, please don't hesitate to share them with us by posting them in the comments box below.