Divisoria is the mother of all markets in Manila. Attempting to do it justice in one post is sheer lunacy but I thought I would do a quick rundown of my most recent visit to give you all a feel of pre-Christmas Divisoria. I go to Divisoria when I need to buy in bulk. This year, I am seriously behind on our two-page, double-column, single-spaced, 9-font Christmas list that is heavily weighted by gifts to service personnel, market sukis, etc. For the most part, I get very modest token gifts that are really just there to say â€œthanksâ€ for providing me with food the rest of the yearâ€¦ I may have 100-150 wrapped presents for folks ranging from the rice guy, water delivery person, security guards, etc. At any rate, itâ€™s not the value but the thought that countsâ€¦
First stop is a store called Commonersâ€™ Commercial. A tiny storefront on 725 Ilaya Street, just off Juan Luna, this is the motherload of food packaging material. In this tiny space are dozens of different cellophane bags, styrofoam containers, plastic food containers, garbage bags, food service gloves, string, straw, etc. This is where everyone gets their packaging material for their home cooked baked goods, bazaar specials, take away items. I go there for the clear cellophane that isnâ€™t cellophane. It is water resistant and perfect for wrapping food gifts or flowers. At PHP250 or so for a hefty roll, it is 1/3 or 1/4th the prices they charge at large malls or wrap shops. I also get my ensaimada containers there, pre-made cello bags for giveaways, garbage bags in bulk, etc. Across the street from Commonersâ€™is my favorite paper supplier (canâ€™t remember the name, but I know the storefront); it is on a street corner and you canâ€™t miss the thousands of sheets of wrapping paper they have on offer. At this store I buy 200+ cardboard boxes, several hundred sheets of wrapping paper (ever wonder why Filipino sheets are SO BLOODY SMALL you can barely wrap a t-shirt box?), papel de japon, gift cards, etc. If you buy in bulk, the wrapping paper comes out to PHP4 a sheet compared to say PHP10-15 in the malls!
Go down this side street and over a bridge that keeps you above one of the filthiest esteros you have seen lately, and voila, this amazing new mall called simply â€œ168â€. What is the big deal, you say? How can one spanking new mall be so great and the talk of Makati, Alabang, Greenhills and QC housewives? Well, it is simply packed to the gills with very reasonably priced stuff. A friend of mine hypothesizes that Manila is getting flooded with cheap imported goods because nefarious characters must smuggle in contraband materials in the vans stuffed with fake Gucci handbags or cheap vinyl slippersâ€¦ who knows if that is the reason but 168 is incredibly cheap. For a certain segment of your Christmas list, this is in fact the motherload of modestly priced finds. I got fairly good-looking leatherette handbags, menâ€™s rain jackets, dozens of t-shirts, wallets, messenger bags, caps, toys, shoes, etc. for incredibly low prices. There wasnâ€™t much stuff for men, however, so youâ€™ll have to look elsewhere for that. Thank goodness most of my sukiâ€™s at the market are female.
After another trip to the car to store stuffâ€¦ I decided to double back to the heart of Divisoria, passing the building that has several floors of toys. I bought dozens of Christmas gifts and stuff for pabitins at our annual staff Christmas partyâ€¦ again the selection was amazing and the prices superb. Of course there are no high-end Play Stations here, but for volume, this is the place to go. Radio-controlled cars for as little as PHP200 and manner of other toys and games are on offer. This building is across from my suki paper storeâ€¦ I donâ€™t know what it is called. You have to go with eyes open, there is a lot of crap, but some decent finds as well.
From there I ventured to Tabora Street, where the ribbon shops, fabric alleys, etc. are located. I have enough ribbon for another 10 years so I didnâ€™t buy any. I was looking for boxes, baskets and trays to put my Christmas food presents on. After striking a deal with a lady who had been selling on the street for over 40 years, I got 48 bilaos and I moved on to the Christmas dÃ©cor guys where I got 3 dozen sets of white Christmas lights for just PHP25 a set. I would never use these indoors or anywhere they might start a fire but for outdoors, these were an incredible bargain when compared to the lousy sets of lights I got at a big mall for PHP59 a set just a month ago! I am also gearing up for Christmas so I purchased 3 dozen leche flan pans and 3 dozen ensaimada pans right from a streetside vendor. Ensaimada pans were PHP6 each compared to nearly PHP10 at Shoemart Makati. I also got miniature vegetables and wine bottles for my annual Gingerbread Houseâ€¦this yearâ€™s themeâ€¦ a produce stall and wine shop!
Also in Divisoria are a tremendous volume of fruits and vegetables for sale and there is a street that houses at least 20 fruit importers and distributors in case you need to buy fruit such as apples, oranges or grapes by the box. I am a little put out by the quality of fruit in Manila at the moment so I didnâ€™t even bother to get any fruit on this trip to Divisoria. The streets, alleyways and malls were bursting at the seams with all the pre-Christmas frenzy! I have never seen so many people packed into so little a shopping space. Anyone with claustrophobia would be panicking! That was my last visit until after the Holiday season, but I did cross a lot from our Christmas list with just 6 hours of shopping!