Mention the word Divisoria to any Filipino and the concept of cheap shopping comes up. It's where you could find toys, clothes, accessories, household items, fruits and anything else you could think of at to die for cheap prices. That's why it's so popular to people of different walks of life. You thought department stores have it all and they're very affordable, but wait till you get to Divisoria. This is where department stores and high class stores get their stuff.
I'm sure lots of people and websites would advise that the best way to get there is via public transportation. Well, I agree. If you're saving on gas and you're admittedly not a very skilled driver, driving your own car in crowded and cramped streets would prove to be highly inconvenient. It would take you long minutes to find a parking spot and even long minutes to get to it because the streets in Divisoria area just disappear over a sea of busy people. And seriously, would you even leave your car on some side street just like that?
Public transportation is via FX found in Pasay Rotonda (Chowking restaurant), LRT Train station and Jeep (Divisoria). It just depends on the taste and accessibility. If you desperately need to bring a car, leave it someplace else accessible to transportation hubs going to Divisoria. For example, you could opt to park your car in Makati and just take the LRT and MRT.
You would instantly know that you're in Divisoria. It showcases busy people out in the streets buying and selling their wares. You smell the rotting river. You see countless people pushing carts and calling off low prices of their goods. If you can barely see the road because of the vendors and the number of general public. Take note of these factors and chances are you're in Divi.
As it is not a 1st class establishment, expect it to resemble like a wet market. The raw smell, the poor ventilation, the type of crowd and the dirt-laden streets all contribute to Divisoria's character so don't expect to feel ultra comfortable while shopping because you'll be bumping into dozens of people.
Although Divisoria has airconditioned malls, it would still test one's patience because the aisles are very limited in space and one has to squish himself to reach a specific stall. There are also markings on each aisle so shoppers won't get lost. As far as Divisoria Mall is concerned, they have an extensive food court at the third floor, housing the usual food court stalls we see in more sophisticated malls in the metro. However, other buildings that serve as an impromptu mall or warehouse, may not be well ventilated and marked. So as a shopper, one should observe the specific landmarks especially if you're hopping from one mall and stall to another.
In Divisoria, expect the worst. Since the space is cramped, close proximity with people is unavoidable. Common sense dictates what kind of bag you should bring and how much money you're willing to carry. Be vigilant with your belongings and surroundings, but don't act paranoid. Being paranoid attracts more unnecessary attention. It's good to try to blend in the crowd. Also, expect direct heat, soot and smoke to accompany you while you walk and shop in the area. Suck it in and don't whine.
Another minor thing, most people would wish to wear flip flops, but I strongly suggest in wearing a comfortable pair of closed shoes like sneakers. You could never go wrong with this. There are parts in Divisoria that the streets are wet and there's a great possibility that someone would step on your foot since you'll be walking non-stop on cramped spaces. It's better to wear rubber shoes and any comfortable clothing like cotton shirts and jogging pants.
Ask a friend. Research through blogs. Asking friends who have been there is helpful. They could recommend stalls that sell good quality goods, and you may never know, one of your friends may be an expert Divisoria shopper. Also, read blogs. There are bloggers out there who write about their experiences in Divisoria. It is a lot of help. They could post pictures, mention the specific location of the stores, give a brief rundown of prices and give tips. A blogger who writes for a kiddie party site mentioned a recommendable toy store in Divisoria. She wrote of the extensive selections of the store and most importantly, its location. The blog inspired me to do my shopping there, and true enough, that post saved me hours of searching. I went there organized and went home happy.
Of course, haggle. Haggle gently and haggle reasonably. The goods may already be cheap, but give an effort to ask for the discounted price...with a smile. It's not also bad to go from one stall to the next. Three stalls of canvassing the same product should do the trick. It also depends on the stocked energy one has to be able to go through different floors and wing. While haggling is always welcome in Divisoria, assess if the haggled price is still reasonable. For example, I wouldn't haggle for the 12 pesos/set worth of good sized, glossy, well designed lootbags that come in 10. I think I've already struck a good deal with that.
Also, watch out for those who are selling big bags. If you're a window shopper like my sister who buys unplanned things at random, it's always cool to buy those big striped plastic bags to stuff it all in. It's hard to keep track of the number of bags especially if you have to put it down sometimes to test other goods.
Most importantly, don't be trigger happy. I know that once you're there it's a wonderland of products. It's a wonderland of cheap toys that you'd never see in department stores or if ever you'd see one, it would be expensive. It's a haven for clothes, shoes and bags that are cheaper than what you'd find in Greenhills. There are lots of trinkets, fruits, accessories and even animals sold on the streets to entice you. Just because the budget in Divisoria tends to be more flexible, it doesn't mean that one has to be spend it all. Find the need for the things you'll buy. Also, the more stuff you'll buy, the heavier your load will be to move around.
If you have to withdraw, discreetly find an ATM. There might be lots of banks, but their ATMS are mostly blocked by vendors or aren't working at all. Don't randomly ask strangers, just ask guards of malls to direct you to the ATM machine.
Lastly, don't bring kids, family members or friends who would most likely destroy the shopping experience. Gauge your companions if they're the type who could withstand walking long distances, be submerged in heat and can talk and relate with different kinds of people. But if they want to experience Divisoria, or you'd just have to bring them along, do the extra effort and research to make the visit swift. Or there's always the river to lose them. (Joke!)
It depends on the scope of your shopping, but it's always advisable to start early at around 9 am. Most of the stores are already open by this time. Going home just a little before rush hour at around 3 and 4 pm leaves room for a nap at home and a good snack reward for a job well done.
Being in Divisoria is one heck of an experience. Exclusive schools even promote this place through organizing field trips as a form of societal awakening. Divisoria is part of the basic culture in commerce. It mirrors what the old Manila is like to the tee. Walking the streets of Divisoria is like low-end New York when you feel that it never sleeps. Divisoria makes you more alive, and it's adventure to the finest. Those who haven't been here should plan at least one trip in their lifetime.