Covering the districts along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue and the boroughs of Middle Manila.
With basic support for outlying streets in the North and South, as well as the green hillocks of Tagaytay and Baguio
Arianne and Bea are lowly knowledge-seekers with no income to speak of, barring the periodical hand-outs from the parental units. So cruelly set about by Dame Fortune, they have learned to be that most dismal word: economical. This is a vade mecum for all aspiring thrifters willing to bear the scorching heat of a Filipino sun and the crowdy junctions in search for clothing gold.
But first, some definitions.
Ukay-Ukay. The Filipino word "to dig" because that's what early pioneers had to do: dig through boxes and boxes of secondhand clothes shipped from all ports in Asia and America. Now, it's easier to sift through offerings, which are hung on clotheslines and racks. See also wagwagan, segunda mano, and thrift.Arianne's favourite analogy to the ukay-ukay experience is war. There are trenches to be dug, battles to be won, and a lot of haggling from clerks to get what one needs on a private's meagre budget. Thus, one must be kitted out properly before venturing into the fray of a "New Arrivals" Friday.
Vintage. Not mutually exclusive to ukay-ukay. Secondhand garments from a previous era, generally 1920s to 1980s. Everything after the Berlin Wall falls is simply a euphemism for charity store used clothes. Not that it's a bad thing. It's just that people shouldn't price a premium just by calling something "vintage" or "antique".
AccoutrementsMinimal. That is not to say you ought to go out in knickers. Dress down. If you don't look rich, the stall owners won't give you "rich-person" prices.
- Comfortable clothes. Arianne prefers going in a cheap dress (one of those baby doll sundresses you can get in Greenhills Market or Divisoria for PHP 100 or USD 2) with a white tank top and biker shorts underneath. The dress should be easier to get in and out of compared to jeans and a button-down. In places where there are no dressing rooms, you won't ever have to show more skin that a gently-raised Catholic Maria Clara would like. Bea prefers flip-flops, basic shorts and t-shirts. These are practical for crouching down, digging around and reaching high up without feeling to conscious. B's motto is that ukay is for looking for pretty clothes NOT wearing pretty clothes.
- Water bottle. Everyone knows that true beauty lies in the amount of water consumed daily. You will sweat, even in the stores with A/C, so it's best to keep the H20 levels topped up.
- Hand sanitizer and facial wipes. Self-explanatory. The fancier secondhand stores do offer rubbing alcohol, but it's better not to risk it. The facial wipes are Bea's personal 'maarte' measure. Chances are you will be walking from shop to shop in the smoggy Manila pollution - it definitely helps to feel instantly refreshed after rubbing one on your face.
- Backpack or tote bag. This allows you to wander about with your hands free from unwanted baggage. You really don't need a sling bag that keeps sliding off your shoulders or a purse that you might leave on a rack. Also, it's practical post-ukay because you can put all your shopping in and you won't have plastic cutting into your palms on the commute home. Most importantly, bringing your own canvas or foldable bag means you are protecting the environment from non-biodegradable polyethylene. We ALWAYS ask them to avoid using plastic shopping bags. We hope you do too.
BehaviourUkay-ukay store owners are street-wise. They can spot a flat from a sharp a mile away and they WILL price accordingly. So don't flash a fancy mobile phone or wear Cartier and Tiffany's on your ears (not that the average student even owns anything blue-boxed). Doing so will give you leverage when you start the haggling wars.
Speak Filipino. Okay, so this is something Arianne and Bea have a minor problem with. We can speak and understand Filipino perfectly, but we've got accents that you can cut with cleavers. We only have to open our mouths to get labeled konyo. This is extremely unfortunate because (a) we aren't (b) discounts are very difficult to get after that.
You know the saying 'barya lang po sa umaga'? The same applies to ukay. One thing that will definitely ensure you won't get a bigger bargain is opening your wallet to reveal crisp PHP 1000 and 500-peso bills. Let your coins jingle and bring out your crinkled twenties and fifties. Another tip to easier haggling is to chat up the clerk - if you find out you're from the same province that may be something you can use to your advantage. Bea has seen her Ilocano dad do so numerous times.
Ukay is cheap. That can be both the greatest and worst thing about it. It is too easy to blow wads of money on things you may not even really need. Some things to think about before stepping into a shop:
Make a mental list of what you need (white blouse? brown boots?) and enter the store with those goals in mind. Not only does it allow you to be more thrifty but it makes the experience less overwhelming. You can simply head to the dress rack or coat rack- if those are what you are looking for. No temptation to buy other things.
Do not be in a rush to buy. This is especially true if you are in a street with rows of ukays. It's good to check things out then visit other stores before buying. There is always a chance you will find something better. If you're worried that someone else will snap up your item of choice then leave it with the clerk or bury it in the back.
Ukay has a lot of junk. Now you may be tempted to buy a certain piece because, when compared to the faded t-shirts and matronly dresses hanging around, it looks like treasure! But stop and think first. It always helps to ask 'if I saw this in the mall would I buy it'? Envision it in your favorite high end shop (Topshop!). If you can't imagine yourself grabbing it off the rack then put it down.
Just because it is 'branded' does not mean it really is. A younger and more foolish Bea once excitedly purchased a 'Chanel' bag for what she thought was a steal. Rookie mistake.
Ukay-ukay LocationsArianne and Bea are in the process of visiting and reviewing segunda mano stores all over the Metropolis. Check the blog for more details, under the tag: Thrift Manila.
Directions: Exit Gateway Mall from Bread Talk then turn right. Go past National Bookstore and a Christian Worship to reach "Fashion Delite". After you're done scouting "Fashion Delite" (spelling disaster!) cross the street and walk down towards EDSA. You will eventually reach a row of more ukay shops.
Plus: Good for bags, shoes and neckties. Big selection of dresses, tops and outerwear at Fashion Delite. Plenty of shops all close to each other
Minus: Prices can be quite steep for a week or two after new stock comes in (PHP 185-285 for clothes and PHP 380-480 for shoes and bags). Tends to be picked over since it is one of the more popular ukay locations.
Rating: Excellent—transportation hub, diverse selection, restaurants and bookstores are a minute's walk away.
Cubao-Marikina Shoe Expo.
Plus: Good for taking mothers though because they will treat to Italian lunches at nearby Bellini's or shell out cash for a pair of animal salt and pepper shakers. Cubao X has Janilyn and other shoe shop outlets that are worth a gander as well as art installations and knick-knackery.
Minus: They have one or two stalls, but we have never found anything worth buying in terms of clothes. There are antique shops with blue Samsonite suitcases and silver filigree mirrors, but nothing in them can be placed in the same sentence as "thrift" and "inexpensive".
Rating: Not worth it—poor selection and high prices, but go if you like the arts scene especially at night. After Vintage Pop closed shop, Cubao X has become too mainstream to find true bargains.
Directions: Take LRT and get off at Anonas station, exiting from the South entrance (the one with St Joseph's Church). Immediately below you will find one or two stalls but the Big One is to the right of a supermarket.
Plus: FOUR FLOORS of ukay-ukay, we tell you. Most are air-conditioned and several have sections allotted from selected items i.e. branded goods from MaxMara, U2, and Giordano. Note that these "special" items needs must have "special" prices. Bea loves the toy store at the top floor. Best buy has to be a ten peso blouse!
Minus: The area is hard to park in.
Rating: Very good—acceptable pricing, huge selection, transportation hub, but no good eats for shopping breaks.
EDSA-Kamias Intersection(Mabunga U.K).
Plus: One store has a Chowking on top, the other has a Jollibee beside it. It is also air-conditioned and is quite big. There are about 3 ukays along that street.
Minus: The annoying stereo blasting extra loud music outside is bound to give you a headache. The dress selection is quite small. Just a small selection in the corner.
Rating: Good— Cheap food nearby and 3 ukays clustered in the area.
Tagaytay Rotunda. (near Mcdonalds)
Plus: There are five or six ukays in the general area. One of them sells only coats (but it's seasonal.) They are near food stalls and a supermarket. Three ukay stalls are just a few steps away from each other. Since it is in Tagaytay, it is much cooler than Manila ukay.
Minus: A bit difficult to find parking and slightly overwhelming.
Rating: Very good- prices are decent and the proximity of shops to each other is very convenient!
Directions: From Edsa turn right at Buendia. Around 3rd building before Jaguar Showroom.
You can also enter this ukay at the back via Jupiter Street.
Plus: Bea visited with her father and brother and all were pleased at how clean, neat and organized this ukay was. It was well air-conditioned and everything was nicely lined up and organized. No need to shove clothes to the end of the pole just to be able to see a certain piece of clothing.
Minus: It seems especially great for guys since girls selection was not so impressive. A bit difficult to find.
[Disclaimer: In no way are A and B claiming to be the reigning 'ukay queens' of Metro Manila. They are pretty sure that there are stylish and thrifty Filipinas out there with more extensive knowledge on the subject. However they have noticed not much of this knowledge is being published on the internet. Hopefully, this humble piece will serve as a guide to those who were like us once-interested in thrifting but clueless as to where and how to begin]