Upon opening the television, news channels are once again sending reporters to check out what’s happening in the busy complex of Divisoria. There’s a certain charm that Divisoria unravels during the holidays; shoppers are seen multiplying faster the sooner Christmas day comes as there is a compelling need that people get especially at this time of the year.
Divisoria is a hodgepodge of things. For one, it’s a destination for dirt-cheap bargains sold in bulk. Comprised of malls and stalls that sell practically any thing conceivable, it is the go-to when one is in need of clothes, accessories, gadgets, toys, food, and all sorts of wares and baubles one can think of. Most popular and busy during the Christmas time, people flock to the shopping mecca not just for their needs, but also as an adventure to tick off their bucket list.
What about Divisoria?
Located at the heart of Manila, the roots of the commercial Divisoria can be traced back to the Spanish period. The non-Christian Chinese were said to be once-forbidden to administer trade, and were deprived of living within the vicinity of Intramuros, which used to be the Spanish seat of power. These Asian merchants eventually converged to forge their own community and set up shop in Binondo, the present-day Chinatown, which came to include the very district of Divisoria.
An onrush of development transpired and the area flourished into a shopper’s mecca, bolstered by its proximity to the Tutuban Central Station, the nexus of the national train railway system, which amasses a variety of goods coming from all over the country and abroad. From being a mere suburb of vapidity to a glowing spot for many of Manila’s street sellers and buyers bulging with anything and everything, Divisoria is indeed the hub of diverse finds that knows no boundaries.
The unruly influx of a variety of people hovering all over the ever-vibrant bazaar is inevitable with a common misconception that Divisoria is home to thieves who steal watches and bracelets and dive their hands in your bag when you’re not looking.
Although this may or may not be true, falling victim to robbery anywhere if one’s not careful enough, especially when you look lost and new to the area. Going there prepared is a must; one tip is to leave anything that magnets temptation to these notorieties such as jewelries and high-grade gadgets. You wouldn’t want to be shoving your way in the crowd in search of your expensive wristwatch, would you?
How to get there?
Finally girded with your street-smart stance and, of course, cash, it is time to finally tread the sultry streets of the knockoff central, every bargain hunter’s heaven, the one and only, Divisoria.
Taking the MRT, get off at Taft Station and take the LRT-1 heading to Doroteo Jose and from there, a quick walk towards Recto. Another option would be to step off from Cubao Station then ride LRT-2 which also leads to the same route. At Recto, wave for jeepneys that have ‘Divisoria’ written on them and, alas, you’re set. Since Divisoria is one big and voluminous place, it is easy to get lost in the puzzle of routes. A quick guide as to what streets to visit with easy finds is also something wise to take note of.
Where to go?
The Claro M. Recto Avenue is the best place to start because it cuts through all the other streets in Divisoria. Along its bustling streets jut small shops of ready-to-wear clothes, equipment, tent and flooring material, traditional Chinese medicines, and carts of dried fish. Through here, you are already able to track the well-famed Tutuban Shopping Complex.
The complex holds a variety of cheap and wholesale finds of almost everything you can ever think of. Looking for some graphic t-shirts? There is also the Juan Luna Street, which is just a little far off the Binondo Church, lined with t-shirt shops where you can get wholesale orders. Commercial printers where you can buy customized prints in bulk is also something to count on. The street of Santa Elena brims with another pride of Divisoria, the 168 Shopping Mall, with manifold finds and food stores awaiting you on its third floor.
A wide range of plastic and packaging materials are also found in Yllaya Street, which is one of the busiest areas. Meanwhile, avid seamstresses can flock to Tabora street which houses textile and sewing accessories, costumes, and gowns. Taking the Planas and Asuncion routes, you become bombarded with fresh raw ingredients and fruits both local and imported.
One would think that Divisoria is merely the face of Tutuban Center and the 168 Shopping Mall, but that’s just the tip of the ever-expanding iceberg as the Divisoria complex is home to many more establishments. Tutuban Center and 168 Shopping mall are indeed the famous classics of the vicinity, but shopping locations don’t stop there. As more and more people began to flock Divisoria for their Christmas and everyday needs, businessmen saw the area as a prime location for shoppers, thus the need for an expansion.
Exiting Tutuban Center (the exit facing a statue of Andres Bonifacio with a pen and paper), you’ll see the high-rise, oddly numbered buildings and the busy streets full of people at its feet. The green and yellow Puregold supermarket exterior vibes belong to 999, a mall similar to 168, located behind it. Beside 999, across the street is the newly opened Dragon8 mall that offers already sewn dresses and gowns at every floor.
Finally, a two-minute walk from one of 168’s exits is the Lucky Chinatown mall, which has a big building next to it, with stores that look just like the ones you’d find at 168 and 999.
What to do and buy?
In any building you go to, clothes, gadget accessories, makeup, and stationery are Divisoria’s staples. More often than not, whatever one kiosk is selling, there’s bound to be another store selling the exact same thing—which is why it’s best to go around and ask for the prices of the things you want to buy and return to the store that offered the items at lower prices. Another is to buy in bulk; doing so will make you eligible for availing a wholesale price.
Aside from the cute stationery, the bags and wallets that replicate exactly Chanel and Louis Vuitton but cost five times lower, and the cheap clothes you’d see in every aisle no matter which corner you have fled to, Divisoria is also home to your gift wrapping needs. This Christmas season, the demands for gift wrappers, cards, and ribbons are high, which is why Michelle’s Ribbon and Lace Center has been the one stop shop all year round. Located in Tutuban Center, the high rise shelves and drawers are brimming with all kinds of ribbons, buttons, beads, and sparkly sequins for whatever occasion you may need.
Overwhelmed with so many stores and sights your restless feet have taken you to, you are almost deafened by the obnoxious grumble of your belly. Worry not, as the malls and streets are filled with almost every street food you can possibly think of.
There are so many options to choose from; street corners are streaked with everyone’s favorite food on sticks, balut, siomai, and even steamed corn on the cob. If you want to be in a more secluded and comfortable area, the malls have food courts on the upper floors that surely have your favorite fast food joints.
Why not hit two birds with one stone during your Divisoria visit? If you still have the energy to walk, Binondo is just a stone’s throw away. Exiting Lucky Chinatown Mall, looking to your right, you’ll see a bridge that ends at Binondo. There, you can find dozens of restaurants that can serve you up some authentic Chinese dishes such as delicious dimsum.
To your heart’s content
Saying that Divisoria offers a complete assortment of things is a colossal understatement because it probably and maybe even already, holds every thing you can possibly want to buy—and most likely at a cheaper price, too.
The boxes on your to-buy list have all been ticked and little did you know that you’re already carrying more than what you have intended to purchase. Heading home, you rummage in your pocket for excess change and find yourself left with coins that fit exactly your ride’s fare. Nevertheless, the delightful experience and all the impulsive shopping was worthwhile. Divisoria has indeed satisfied that compelling need to your heart’s content.