Be warned: the capital of the Philippines wants to part you from your money. But that’s no bad thing when the shopping is this vibrant and fun. In Manila you will find malls, stores and markets of vintage and bric-a-brac finds. So whether you want retro gear for your new-season look, a bunch of blooms for a date or a stack of second-hand furniture for your new home, you’ll find what you’re looking for at the best markets in Manila.
Also known as the Flower Market of Manila, this aromatic sprawl of stalls is the biggest purveyor of freshly cut blooms in the Metro Manila area. Here, in the downtown Sampaloc area, you’ll find more than 50 stalls, some under cover, selling masses of roses, gerberas, lilies and more in neon-pink, red and purple tones. There are Filipino offerings from areas such as Baguio, Davao and Tagaytay. You’ll also find imports from international destinations including China, Ecuador and the Netherlands. If time is tight, the principal streets for shoppers are Dimasalang and Dos Castillas. Expect prices 50 percent lower than in malls and other markets.
The Quinta Market, as this public space was originally known, has origins in the Spanish-colonial 19th-century period. During that time, it was considered the main commercial space in Manila, catering primarily to the local wealthy families. People were drawn here to dine as well as shop, and halo-halo – the lurid Filipino dessert of sweetened beans, crushed ice and evaporated milk – is said to have been created here. Its success was impacted by the 20th-century rise of mall culture, and in 2017 it was rebuilt as a two-storey structure and renamed. It’s popular for its wet and dry sections, snack outlets and bustling food court.
The buzzing city district of Quiapo is home to the hulking Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, which holds the revered statue of Christ kneeling. The area also teems with market trade: spilling behind the church and along Carriedo Street, it is a magnet for shoppers out to buy pirated CDs and DVDs, potions, candles and herbal concoctions touted by stooping elderly vendors as cures for all kinds of afflictions. If you want to know what the future has in store, consult one of the fortune tellers who command the scene, adding colour and life.
If unearthing rare collectibles and vintage knick-knacks is your thing, visit the pop-up Saturday flea market run by the arts collective 98B COLLABoratory, which takes place monthly in the First United Building garage and along Escolta Street – one of the most prominent old thoroughfares in Manila. The whole area becomes a giant thrift shop, art gallery and garage sale rolled into one. The kind of stuff on sale might include artisanal journals, wall art and vintage garments, plus you can mingle with the artists, collectors and entrepreneurs.
The big pull here is the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, known more simply as Baclaran Church. But flea markets also draw the crowds to this barangay (neighbourhood) in Parañaque, Metro Manila. Much more fun than the identikit modern shopping malls are the pavement concerns selling all manner of stuff, often for peanuts: designer-brand replicas, merchandise made in China, that kind of thing. Established in the 1980s, it’s known as the “shopper’s paradise in the south”, and is never less than crowded. In fact at the weekend, it’s jam-packed.
In between high-rise buildings and small establishments, the Pasay district is home to Cartimar: your typical marketplace and a whole lot more. It’s been in operation since the mid to late 1950s and has long been the go-to place for designer jeans, perfumes, chocolates, pets (expect plenty of foreign breeds), surplus stocks of big-brand stuff, trainers and more. Like other bargain places, everything’s being sold at dirt-cheap prices. Bookworms also love the area, as you can find art tomes, college volumes and stacks of novels at reasonable prices.
Alex Robinson contributed additional reporting to this article.
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