In a place where “Christmas Lanes” exist – that is, the opening of alternate routes in an attempt to ease traffic congestion during the holidays – you know it gets busy around this time of year. So spare yourself the soaring gas bills, hours in traffic, and the vicious hunt for a parking slot, and get a head start on the Christmas shopping this year. Here are the best places in the Metro to scout for presents and festive decor.
The streets of Quiapo are already quite chaotic day in and day out, so you can only imagine the pandemonium when the holidays roll around. Beat the crowds and drop in to do your shopping before the final quarter of the year. On your first visit it will feel like a melange of the most random of stalls — from fresh fruits and vegetables to fortune tellers. But once you know where to look you’ll end up purchasing finds you didn’t even know you wanted.
For the DIY jeweller with a long list of sisters or girlfriends to gift, drop by Wellmanson, a spacious beads and accessories shop that also carries random knickknacks for the girls in your life. Any friends who love shopping local and adore anything homegrown? Pass beneath Quiapo bridge where stalls sell local products and handicrafts at a bargain price. Any loved ones into photography? Walk down and around Hidalgo Street, which has long been the go-to for local photographers for cameras and accessories that go for cheaper than mall prices. For small, yet personalized presents, check out Buckingham Embroidery who can personalize bag tags for all your wanderlust-inspired friends.
Just a jeepney ride from Quiapo is a frugal shopper’s candy store, Divisoria. Though too hectic for some, Divisoria is one big playground for bargaining pros. Things here are the cheapest in the Metro (you’ll get them at an even lower price the more you get and the better you haggle). Exploring the many streets of Divisoria will lead you to anything and everything, from affordable fabric to houseware and decor. Walk aimlessly around the streets of Soler, Tabora, Juan Luna, and Ilaya, keeping an eye out for suitable gifts perfect for the people on your Christmas list.
For a more organized shopping experience, venture into the 168 Mall, 999 Mall, and Tutuban Shopping Center for trendy RTW finds and toys for the nieces and nephews. If you plan on cooking up and bottling your Christmas presents (your special homemade marmalade or liver pâté, perhaps?), this also the perfect place to bulk buy glass bottles, mason jars, and other packaging supplies for cheap.
For those who don’t think they can brave the crowded streets of Quiapo or Divisoria, Greenhills Shopping Center would be a more comfortable bet — it will, however, come with a small price to pay. Though still short of shopping mall prices, the stalls in Greenhills sell their products undoubtedly higher than those in the two more bustling market places above. Bargaining is still expected here but the tiangge (bazaar) stalls are neatly organized and not too difficult to maneuver around. Shoppers will be able to find pretty much a little bit of everything, amongst stall after stall of bag, shoe, and watch imitations.
While known for being saturated by designer replicas, what Greenhills does have of good, authentic quality are pearls. Fresh water pearls are widely cultured in the country and can therefore be sold at ridiculously affordable prices. Saltwater pearls, though more expensive due to rarity and difficulty of gathering, are still more affordable in the Philippines than abroad. This would make for great presents for titas and lolas and friends who enjoy donning a bit of luxury. In addition to its tiangge areas, the Greenhills complex also includes a more upscale building called Promenade. So those in need of a break from all the shopping and haggling can simply go across the street and into the cooler, more roomy Promenade to take their pick from the variety of restaurants and coffee shops available.
For shoppers who want to steer clear of bargaining and busy bazaars, or shoppers who already have specific stores and brands in mind, the malls of Manila (and the sheer number of them) will not disappoint. Housing among the biggest malls in the world, Manila constantly brings in international brands that have a following among local consumers. So today, most famous foreign brands can already be found within the Metro.
SM Supermalls has spread like wildfire across the country. They have several malls in Manila, with the most famous ones being the SM Mall of Asia and the ever-expanding SM Megamall. Their enormity makes them perfect for Christmas gift scouting. The city of Makati is home to several upscale malls, such as Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall and Ayala’sGreenbelt complex, which both contain various luxury stores for those who wish to go big on a Christmas present spree. For less-overwhelming shopping trips, smaller malls that are quick and easy to get around also exist, like The Podium and Robinsons Magnolia.
Nowadays, almost anything can be found in Manila’s bargain bazaars and its many malls. But on the quest for gifts for family and friends who are all but cookie-cutter, who have a thing for vintage finds and quirky knickknacks, veer off the beaten path and towards Cubao Expo. The modest area is home to, not only the Metro’s laid-back, underground scene, but also interesting little shops that are a nice break from the predictability of the regular shopping mall. Take your sweet time rummaging through antique shelves and classic vinyl records and you might just score that perfect present.
It takes more than ticking everyone off your Christmas shopping list to complete preparations for the big day. While the gifts are done, there’s still the decor — and Filipinos take their holiday decor seriously. Shopping malls, streets, and homes, all scream Christmas at this time of year. It’s part of what keeps the holiday spirits up throughout its four-month stretch in the country. So for a head start on this other Yuletide prep as well, drop by Dapitan Arcade in Quezon City and amass a collection of Santa statues, tree ornaments, and hanging decor. Bargain smartly (and always pleasantly) and prices here will turn out to be a fraction of those at the mall.
For those who really want their homes dressed in their holiday’s best, head to Christmas Factory in Sampaloc, Manila, and take your pick. This family business, which started out as a hobby, has grown so much since its opening in the late 90’s, that it now also caters to customers abroad. They’re most famous for their variety of Santa Claus designs, which range in size from miniature tabletop ornaments to six-foot-tall stand-alones. Bring home a Santa or two and consider a bulk of your holiday prep done!