The first thing a tourist has in his list of things-to-do is almost always shopping. Millions of local and international tourists come to Manila every year, and shopping in Manila does not disappoint. It is quite an experience for three reasons: the people, the places and the prices. Filipinos have natural characteristics that make them the perfect mall rats or, at least, shopping companions. They are friendly, fun-loving and very hospitable.
Shopping with a Filipino friend could take hours and hours because they will never say “No” to a friendly request. Foreign tourists testify that their Filipino friends or hosts will make sure to take them to each of the shops they have requested to see and look for each item in their shopping list. Filipinos love to have fun and so the mundane chore of shopping becomes an event.
In fact in the Philippines, mall hopping is a favorite pastime, almost a hobby. Filipinos call it “malling” and it has become so big a part of local culture that, on weekends, the typical conversation among friends starts with the sentence, “Let’s go malling.”
Filipino salespersons are also very friendly. They are sure to be patient in waiting for you and will always serve with a smile. Given that most Filipinos can speak English fairly well, communication shall not be a problem. Talk to anyone in English in Manila and you’re sure to get a response. Some may be shy or uncomfortable using English, but about 90% or more of the Filipino population understand the language.
The second reason for shopping in Manila being so great is the sheer number and variety in the places to shop. One might think that, since the Philippines is a third-world country, it doesn’t have amazing shopping centers. Well, think again.
Three of the 10 biggest malls in the world are in the Philippines, specifically in Metro Manila.
The 10th biggest shopping center in the world is SM North EDSA in Quezon City, the 6th biggest in the world is SM Mega Mall in Pasig City, and the 3rd biggest is SM Mall of Asia. Yes, they are all SM or Shoe Mart Malls. (The owner of SM Malls is Henry Sy, a humble Chinese-Filipino businessman, the richest Filipino alive, and one of Fortune Magazine’s richest man in the world.)
Malling between malls is easy since almost always one or two major malls are near each other. For instance, SM North EDSA is beside Ayala’s Trinoma Mall, and SM Mega Mall is between Robinson’s Galleria and Shangri-La Plaza. There are about ten major shopping centers along the stretch of EDSA highway alone. There are also centers that have a row of shopping centers such as the Ortigas Center, Makati Center and Fort Bonifacio Global City. Other top-of-the-line malls are the Podium (near SM Megamall), Greenbelt, Landmark, Power Plant Mall and Glorietta.
The third reason for shopping in Manila being such a blast? Price is usually negotiable. For tourists wanting to get the best bargains, stay away from the huge malls as the SM’s and Ayala’s.
Go for the smaller and more crowded “people’s malls” such as Greenhills Shopping Center in Pasig City and Tutuban Mall in Manila. Prices are negotiable in these malls. The more you are used to haggling, the more money you can save.
Shopping in Manila becomes very cheap but exciting in places like the Divisoria Mall, 168 Shopping Center and Hidalgo Street in Quaipo.