Buy Local

The hub of cheap finds : Divisoria

Choose Philippines
Choose Philippines | May 22, 2013

These are the shouted invitations that you will commonly hear when you walk along the crowded streets of Divisoria--- the heart of commerce and trade in the city of Manila.

People from all walks of life visit this famous market district because it's considered THE hub of cheap finds from ready-to-wear clothes (RTW), fashion accessories, shoes and food. Name it, Divisoria probably has it!

For shoppers wishing to avoid the maze-like set up and frenzy of the tiangge-style bazaars and street stalls there are also plenty of air-conditioned shopping malls. The busiest times are the months preceding December (Christmas) and June (the start of the school year).

Seasoned shoppers find joy in this setting since a day is not complete without haggling or 'tawaran' with the tinderas to bring the price down to a favorable level. The negotiation itself is an art form since a buyer does not want to be too barat (a cheapskate) or quit too early.

Newbies to Divisoria can orient on three main shopping malls:

1 - 168 Mall is located between Santa Elena and Soler streets in Binondo. At least a thousand stalls selling fashion items, footwear, accessories, novelty items, furniture and other items can be found across the three floors of the complex, which also includes a foodcourt. The 25,000 square meter complex caters to the upper A and B classes. Trivia: The Chinese consider "168" a lucky number and roughly translates as "road to success" in Chinese.

2 - Tutuban Center Mall is a former train station transformed into an indoor wholesale market, providing shoppers with a wide selection of cheap items. Various stalls offer clothing, jewelry, furnishings and electronics. The mall's architectural design took into account the building's history, incorporating visible steel frames and railroad tracks into the mall's foundation and interior. The station's brick facade was also maintained, giving the mall a Spanish Colonial-era appearance.

3 - Divisoria Mall is where mostly wholesale buying is done. It is an air-conditioned, three-story building with a basement and a foodcourt. Products such as knick knacks, gift items and giveaways, school and office supplies, accessories, toys, party and household items can be found here. Divisoria Mall is located at the corner of Tabora and Sto. Cristo streets in Binondo.

Walking the various tiangge, be aware of pickpockets and scammers. If you are claustrophobic you are in for a real treat because you have to adapt walking through narrow pasilios (aisles) made even narrower by a crowd of ever moving bargain hunters. As a safety reminder avoid abrupt halting because the person behind you is likely to bump into you. Most of the stall owners in 168 are Filipino-Chinese with their female assistants.

As a rule of thumb, ladies' tops and shirts go for about Php 50-500. Pants, shorts and leggings can be had for Php150 and up; jackets from Php250 up. Undergarments are also available (Php50 up. Accessories range from Php50–500. Shoes go from Php200 to 500. There are clothing stalls on the third floor that sell for ladies' of ample size.

For men, all sorts of clothing are available from sporty to formal wear. Long sleeves/short sleeves shirts go for around Php250 - 500. A pair of leather shoes fetch Php800 & up. Rounding the get-up are accessories (a watch, a bracelet, a ring combo for Php 500) and a tie (Php 50).

Take note not that all products in Divisoria are original, with most merchandise described as 'Class A' (imitations that range from great copies to really poor versions) and about 99% of the items are 'Made in China'. This is true especially when applied to cheap electronic gadgets. You get what you pay for is true in this regard.

Hungry after all that shopping? Each mall has a food court that has fastfood chains to home-grown Pinoy and Chinese dishes. Combo meals with free soup and drinks or ala carte go for Php50 and up. They also serve family-size platters like pancit, lomi and fried rice (Php500 for three persons).


Hoarding is not an issue: just bring an enormous plastic bag and a willing companion to help you lug the goodies that you just bought. For want of a bag don't fret, you can buy shopping bags from vendors roaming the streets (Php50 up, depending on the size).

A comfortable pair of footwear is also a lifesaver! You might be an entrepreneur seeking inexpensive retail items, a casual buyer looking for shop-portunities, a foodie looking for cheap eats or someone who simply has a habit of giving way gifts, we invite you to spend a day (and a few hundred pesos) in Divisoria. You won't be disappointed!

How to get to there:

If you're coming from Cubao in Quezon City take the LRT2 departing for Recto Station and disembark there. Outside the station, take a Divisoria-bound jeepney (Php20 total). If you're coming from the Makati or Ortigas areas take the MRT and get off at the Araneta Center in Cubao and take the walkway to LRT2 station at the Gateway Mall (Php32).

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