Last week, we touched on the best souvenirs to buy in the Philippines. You can usually find them in stores of all shapes and sizes around the country, whether you're in a bustling city or a quiet probinsiya.
However, some stores offer better and more consistent quality goods than others. If you want to bring home souvenirs that'll wow your friends and family at home, and get good value for your money at the same time, these are the shops you don't want to miss.
Address: Selected SM mall/department stores
This is probably "the" go-to place for Filipino souvenirs. Located in SM stores around the Metro, Kultura Filipino offers a wide array of handicrafts, clothes, travel must-haves (tumblers, travel pillows, thermal jugs) and other paraphernalia.
The stores have a classy, sophisticated ambience, and the employees are helpful and knowledgeable about their wares. Plus, there's a money changer booth near the entrance, so it's easier for tourists to convert their native currencies into Philippine pesos. The only downside is that some goods — such as the food — can be pricier compared to their counterparts in other stores.
Address: Selected malls around the Metro, online
Once you see the logo of Jose Rizal in hipster shades, you know you're in the right place. Team Manila isn't as "traditionally" Filipino as Kultura Filipino, since you won't find things like barong Tagalog here.
However, it does carry shirts printed with funny, creative images related to Filipino culture, plus lomo cameras and other Filipino-themed accessories. Some of the malls that host their outlets include Power Plant Mall in Makati, SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, TriNoma in Quezon City and Market! Market! in Taguig.
Mangyan Village Products
Address: Greenbelt 5, Glorietta 1 and The Ayala Museum
In Mindoro, there's an indigenous group of people known as the Mangyan. Being the sole inhabitants of the island until the Spanish came, the Mangyan developed their own unique culture that's unlike any other within the Philippines.
Take their nito baskets, for example. Crafted from nito grass by their women, these baskets take around three months to make, and are woven with intricate patterns that are distinctly Mangyan. Luckily for those in the Metro, they can purchase these baskets and support the Mangyan community by heading to the Ayala Malls in Makati City.
Tesoro's Philippine Handicraft
Address: 1325 A. Mabini St., (Ermita, Manila), 1016 A. Arnaiz Ave., (Makati City), The Landmark (Makati City), NAIA Terminal 1 and 3, DMIA-Clark, Boracay Airport
Like Kultura Filipino, Tesoro's stores carry traditional Filipino wares with a modern twist, including embroidered shawls, shell crafts and other Philippine handicrafts. It only has 12 outlets in the country to date, but it makes up for the lack of quantity with quality offerings at reasonable prices. Also, the store's employees can be relied on to tell you everything you need to know about each product, so you'll get the best value for your money.
Balikbayan Handicrafts Corporation
Address: 1010 A. Arnaiz Ave., (Makati City), 4/F The Landmark (Makati City), HK Sunplaza, Macapagal Blvd. (Pasay City)
In the Philippines, the term "balikbayan" refers to someone who's come home to their native land after a long time spent abroad. True enough, Balikbayan Handicrafts offers goods that anyone — Filipino or otherwise — can bring back to their country to remind them of the beauty of the Philippines.
For example, there are the beds made of kamagong, the sculptures made of acacia and the jewelries made of pearls and corals. In case you're too busy to visit the store personally, or you're based outside the Philippines, you can also order online from them.
Triple J's Souvenir Shop
Address: Stall 1-A Plaza San Luis Complex, General Luna St., Intramuros, Manila
If you're visiting the historical walled city of Intramuros, don't forget to drop by this hole-in-the-wall joint. Like the other shops on this list, Triple J offers T-Shirts, handicrafts, sculptures, postcards and other stuff at reasonable prices. It's located about a couple of blocks away from the Cathedral of Manila, and about three blocks away from three universities (Mapua, Lyceum and Letran), so if you're anywhere near those places, you're on the right track.
Aside from the ones listed here, there are other places where you can buy souvenirs from the Philippines. For example, there's the descriptively-but-not-creatively named "Duty Free," which carries a load of imported goods for Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. You have to be careful about the stuff you buy there, however, since some goods seem to cost more than they're worth.
At any rate, awesome souvenirs are easy to find if you know where to look. If you know of other hole-in-the-wall souvenir shops where people can get great goods at reasonable prices, hit us up in the comments section below.