Tracing its origins back to the Spanish era, Divisoria (or "Divi" in local parlance) is a go-to destination for decent goods at awesome prices. Despite not being as glamorous as the larger mall chains around the Metro, Divisoria still attracts a large number of Pinoys who want to get the most bang for their buck. In fact, it's not unusual to have to wade through a sea of people just to get anywhere around Divisoria!
That said, if you're the type who'll do anything for a bargain, and you don't mind thick crowds and sweltering weather, here's how to prepare for a Divisoria shopping trip this holiday season.
Get there ASAP.
If you want to beat the crowds (or, at least, deal with a smaller crowd than usual), head to Divi before 7:00 A.M. Luckily, there are many ways to get there, as follows.
- Take any jeepney marked "Divisoria" along Taft Avenue, and get off the mall of your choice.
- Ride the LRT1 and get off the Doroteo Jose station. Walk southwards along Rizal Avenue until you reach Recto Avenue (marked by the Odeon Terminal Mall), ride a jeepney marked "Divisoria," and get off the mall of your choice.
- If you're near an MRT3 rather than an LRT, take a train towards the Taft station. Get off here, walk towards the LRT1 Doroteo Jose station, and repeat the steps above.
Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to ply through Divisoria via private vehicle, especially this Christmas season when the crowds are at their thickest. But you can park your car near 168 Mall or Binondo, and walk from there.
Bring only as much cash as you need.
Otherwise, you'll be tempted to spend more than you need, what with the loads of choices around Divisoria. If possible, try to budget how much you want to spend per Christmas giftee (or overall, depending on what's more convenient for you), and base your maximum shopping money on that. Don't forget to account for transportation expenses (which can fall between Php60-70 per trip) as well!
Leave your valuables at home.
Or, at least, keep them out of sight. Remember that all sorts of people hang around Divisoria, and if the unscrupulous ones take an interest in your expensive watch or smartphone, you can be sure they'll want to take those valuables away from you. If you have to fish out your iPhone (because you need to take a call or something like that), make sure you do it in a place where your phone can't easily be snatched.
Prepare to haggle.
Unlike in commercial shopping malls, the prices of goods in Divisoria aren't fixed. In fact, you can haggle as much as you want, even in places where tawad ("haggle") is explicitly prohibited. Start with a price that's at least half of what's on display, since most goods have a 50 percent markup, and negotiate from there.
Know a little bit of Fookien Chinese.
Since many vendors in Divisoria are Chinese, and many Filipino-Chinese speak Fookien, it helps to communicate with them in their native dialect. If you want to ask "How much?," for example, say "Kui eh? (pronounced quee yeh)." And if you want to name a number, keep this list handy.
- One – "it"
- Two – "ng" ("nung")
- Three – "sa" ("sah")
- Four – "si" ("see")
- Five – "go" ("goh")
- Six – "lak" ("lahk")
- Seven – "chit"
- Eight – "pueh"
- Nine – "kao"
- Ten – "chap"
- Eleven – "chap it"
- Twelve – "chap dee"
- Twenty – "dee chap"
- Twenty-one – "dee chap it"
- One hundred – "chi pa"
- One thousand – "chi ching"
- Ten thousand – "chi ban"
Familiarize yourself with the local malls.
The most famous shopping malls in Divisoria are Tutuban Mall, 168 Shopping Mall, and 99 Shopping Mall. But if these three aren't an option, you can also take a look at Divisoria Mall, Lucky Chinatown Mall, and Benisons. There are also the tiny shops lining the streets of Divisoria, though you'll have to put in more effort to find great goods in these places.
Be careful about what you buy.
Not everything in Divisoria is worth your money, though. If it's something you have to eat or put on your skin, or if it's a product that's supposed to carry a DTI or NTC seal but doesn't, it's better to look for similar goods elsewhere. There's no point in saving a few pesos now if you end up spending thousands in hospital fees later.
For all its faults, Divisoria is still a great place to shop. After all, what's more exciting than finding a product that's not only good, but also easy on the wallet? Besides, at the rate Divisoria is growing, there's sure to be dozens of other hole-in-the-wall Divi shops, waiting for customers to give them a chance. If you know of any of these, or if you have anything to add to the post above, sound them off in the comments!