Luckily, that rush doesn't have to get you caught up in it. If you or your child is a student in Metro Manila, and you're wondering where to purchase new pens, paper and the sort, here's a list of shops you can visit before classes kick off.
If you visit any mall in the Philippines, chances are it has at least one National Bookstore branch. With over 160 outlets around the country, it's a go-to place for Filipinos to purchase school and office supplies. Whether your kid needs a brand-new box of crayons, or you need a new stack of Post-It notes, you can find it here.
Since it has a virtual monopoly over the Metro Manila bookstore industry, however, some of their products can get a little pricey. To get around that, you can purchase a "Laking National" card, which you can get by either paying a Php100 membership fee at any counter, or accumulating Php5,000 worth of receipts within the last 12 months. You can get more info about the card here.
A subsidiary of National Bookstore, Powerbooks is the best place to visit for the latest book releases. You can also buy school and office supplies here, though the selection is arguably more limited compared to its mother company. In case you can't find a book, you can ask them to order and reserve it under your name (for a fee, of course).
Sometimes, Powerbooks hosts book launching events, especially in the larger branches like Greenbelt 4. If you'd like to see one of those, we'll keep you posted through our "Events" posts, no problem!
Bridges Bookstore (formerly Goodwill Bookstore)
Similar to National Bookstore, Bridges has a countrywide reach. Even though it has a few thousand branches all over the Philippines, it doesn't have the same "high-end" feel as National and Powerbooks. Regardless, it's a good alternative to those two, and is a nice place to start looking for hard-to-find textbooks that college professors seem to like assigning their students for some reason.
Morayta Bookstore (formerly Merriam and Webster Bookstore)
This store is limited in a lot of ways. It has a limited number of branches, a limited book selection and a limited number of school supplies. Like Bridges, however, it's a viable alternative to the Big 3 Bookstores in Metro Manila — the last of which we'll talk about in the next section.
If you're looking for newly released books that aren't in Powerbooks, check out this one. In Makati, this has branches in all the major malls (Glorietta, Greenbelt, Power Plant Mall and Century City Mall). Fully Booked outlets are always designed to make you stick around, sip a cup of coffee and read a book plucked off their shelves all at the same time.
Like Powerbooks, Fully Booked sells specialty supplies, so keep an eye out for those while you're inside. Also, if you want to make the most of your patronage, you can get a discount card. It grants up to 10 percent off on cash purchases, and comes with a handful of perks from partner establishments.
Of course, a list about vendors of school supplies in Metro Manila won't be complete without the big D. No matter the season, this not-so-tiny spot in Recto is a great source of ridiculously cheap products, which is why it's almost always crowded. It's so crowded, in fact, that getting anywhere feels like swimming through a literal sea of people!
There are a couple of downsides to this place, though. First, you have to be careful with your belongings, because unscrupulous individuals tend to target inattentive shoppers. Second, you have to double-check — or maybe even triple-check! — anything you buy from here. You never know if what you have on hand is legit, or if it hasn't passed the necessary safety standards.
Other Book Stores
If you look hard enough, you can find sellers of school supplies in the most unexpected places. For example, there's 7-11 and Ministop, two of the largest convenience stores in the Philippines. There's also sari-sari stores, Internet cafés and specialty stores like Tickles. No matter where you go in Metro Manila, you're bound to find at least one seller of supplies in the next block.
School Season doesn't have to be Stress Season. When you plan for it beforehand, you can head out to the store closest to you and prepare before everyone else does. As always, any thoughts on any of our posts — including this one — are appreciated!