Filipinos love to shop and Manila is home to some of the biggest and best shopping centres of anywhere in the world. Shopping in Manila is great fun for all the family as the city’s many malls possess a wide range of entertainment facilities, restaurants and bars as well as hundreds of retail outlets.
But it’s not all high-end international fashion labels, and those who are seeking out hand-crafted souvenirs or art will have a great time shopping in Manila.
There are plenty of markets and curios shops that stock unique artefacts perfect for splendid gifts, plus one of the largest Chinatown neighbourhoods in the world awaits in Binondo with all manner of Oriental delights.
Shopping for antiques
Manila is truly a treasure trove and known as an Asian shopping emporium, going back to the times when coastal towns used to sell authentic pearls, shells and other wares to trading vessels from Europe and the Middle East. One thing that Manila is especially known for are its antiques. You’ll find real antiques in some shops, but the reproductions are just as fantastic, when made from the best materials and craftsmanship.
Tucked within Manila are a great selection of antique shops that sell authentic woodwork, furniture and other handmade antiques that portray the great artistry and craftsmanship of the city. Aside from furniture, great décor and sculptures can also be found in most Manila antique shops. The best antiques shops in Manila can be found in the streets of Ermita, as well as in Makati.
Shopping for handicrafts
Filipinos are among the most creative people in the world. Crafts and handmade products hail from the different parts of the archipelago, testify to the diversity of skills in each region. Handicrafts from all over the country can be found in almost every department store in Manila. ‘Filipiniana’ sections of these stores showcase the great assortment and variety of handicrafts in the country, from brassware and beautifully weaved malongs from Mindanao, to hand-embroidered barongs and piña cloth from the province of Batangas, and carved wood from Paete.
Handcrafted mats are truly world class, and come in different playful designs inspired by folk art. The best producers of Philippine mats are the provinces of Samar, Leyte, Basilan, Sulu, Davao, Zamboanga and Cebu.
Bags and shoes made out of native materials are also common, as well as embroidered fabrics and clothing. Piña cloth is among the most expensive types of woven cloths in the world, and is usually used to make classic and traditional barongs, which are later accented with embroidery. Hand-embroidered fabrics are also made into handkerchiefs, scarves and bags, as well as dresses for women. Jewellery is also popular, from beadworks to shells, silver and gold.
Woodcarvings, much like antiques, are also popular products from the Philippines. Great craftsmanship and high quality of wood are married together to create such impressive masterpieces, either for decorative or functional pieces. Brassware on the other hand, comes mostly from Mindanao, and serves as an interesting piece of décor to match other native pieces.
Shopping for pearls and jewellery
Pearls are abundant in the Philippines. Natural pearls in the country are of the highest quality in the world and are very valuable, especially if you get truly authentic Philippine pearls. These pearls come from the many islands of the country, harvested by divers and then turned into beautiful pieces of jewellery by expert craftsman. Authentic pearls can be relatively expensive, and some cultured and alternatively made pearls can be a cheaper alternative.
Other natural minerals and materials for jewellery can also be found around the country, including gold. The country’s rich gold ore deposits are made into beautiful jewellery by the best goldsmiths mostly from Meycauayan in Bulacan, which is located just to the north of Manila.
Jewellery and pearl shops are very abundant in Manila, especially in most major shopping centres. You will find probably the most authentic shops in these locations. An easy way to spot a pearl shop is to look for the “culture” sections of department stores, where pearl sellers are usually located. Everything from white to black pearls can be found in these stores. Jewellery shops, on the other hand, also thrive in most shopping centres and in Manila’s famous Chinatown, right by Ongpin Street.
Filipinos really have a knack for shopping and this is evident in the countless shopping precincts and shopping centres that don’t just serve as retail venues but also as entertainment and leisure centres. But despite the advent of big, bustling, low-end to high-end shopping centres in almost every corner of Manila, nothing beats the rush of the street and central market scenes, as well as the stir of flea markets and bargain centres that thrive in the city.
Everything from handicrafts, jewellery, furniture, clothing, footwear, fabrics, home décor, house ware and even electronics can be found in the shopping markets of Manila.
There are two main market destinations in the city, one being the Baclaran Market, which is located at the southern end of EDSA (main road bisecting Metro Manila), and the other the Divisoria Market, located in the far side of Manila, in C.M. Recto, near the renowned Quiapo Church. Those who have time to spare may even take a side trip to the streets of Quiapo and around the stunning church, where there are shops and stalls everywhere.