The Ultimate Guide To Divisoria
The first time I ventured to Divisoria was ironically on New Years Day. A holiday naman, grabe, what was I thinking? Surprisingly, the traffic wasn't too bad and the crowds weren't horrible for that matter either. It was still more crowds than I was used to coming from my bubble in BGC. I was frozen. I had never been marketing in Manila beyond the amateur leagues of Market Market and Greenhills. I was such a newbie that when I arrived at Divi I was overwhelmed and couldn't even shop. I told my husband I wanted to go home- ha! Begrudgingly he replied, "Not until we come see the fabric we trekked all the way out here to see." He wasn't having any of my antics after the taxi ride out there. So, we scurried through Tutuban and I was done after thirty minutes and we headed home. OMG. If I could see myself now, my how things have changed. Don't make the same mistake I did- sink into life here and sink into Divi. Flash forward a few years and my fellow foreign friend Marie who lives in Pasay told me about her love affair with Divi and her frequent trips, she was my ticket to doing Divi right. I spent a morning with the Divisoria Diva and begged her to share her knowledge with my community. After months of research she gifted A Momma Abroad the ultimate guide to Divisoria. I am talking suki hits, best days and times to visit, parking, where to eat and vendor locations (including stall numbers!) Marie, AMA sends you the biggest maraming salamat po!
Divisoria is an enchanting land of cheap everything. Need fabric? An entire labyrinth of vendors awaits you. Looking for party supplies? There are so many that the supplies will practically plan the party for you. Want kitchen and catering ware? Stickers? Blank canvas bags? Notebooks? Cell phone accessories? Chinese charms? Embroidery floss? Rain gear? Papier Mache letters, numbers, and symbols? Orange safety cones? Divisoria has it all.
And if you’re in the market for adventure, Divisoria has that too.
What exactly is Divisoria? Think of a sprawling neighborhood with shops and street vendors lining every sidewalk, street, and alley – all punctuated with seven downscale malls. Many goods around Manila are sourced from Divisoria. In fact, once you visit you’ll realize you’ve been paying other people to shop there for you all along.
Ever since I started exploring Divisoria, I’ve introduced it to lots of friends and visitors – and wondered why some expats whisper in horror about the place. I think I’ve figured it out. It’s because there are “right” and “wrong” ways to do Divisoria. It’s an overwhelming, sweaty, and disorienting place if you do it “wrong,” so here are some tips for doing it “right.” Okay let’s be honest, you’ll probably still get sweaty and disoriented, but at least you (probably) won’t swear to never return!
Tips for doing Divi the "right way":
- Be prepared for a cultural experience as much as a shopping one. Much of the reason I enjoy Divisoria is because of the humanity of it all.
- Go in the morning. Vendors open between 7-9 a.m. The later it gets, the more hot and crowded it is.
- Go on a weekday if possible. Sundays are the busiest.
- The closer it is to Christmas, the more likely you will hate Divisoria. Since this is where many locals do their Christmas shopping, and since December is when many receive their 13th month bonuses, the crowds and pickpockets are simply out of control. Please promise me you won’t go in December. I avoid November, too.
- Dress down. Don’t wear jewelry, and keep your money in a safe place. I take a backpack – it’s harder to pickpocket (especially if I wear it in front) and it’s easier to carry my loot.
- Parking is a challenge. I love parking at Lucky Chinatown Mall, but they recently raised their rate to PH100. If you’re up for driving through a little more chaos, there is also parking at 168, 999, and Tutuban.
- Bargain. I’m often impressed with the prices I’m offered from the start, but not always. Some places will say “fixed price,” but others are fair game for hagglers.
- Divisoria is full of cheap stuff, but some of it is very low-quality or fake. Be smart.
- Don’t take kids. Last time we went as a family, my husband and kids played at Kidzoona (3rd floor of Lucky Chinatown Annex A) while I did the shopping. Everyone was happy!
- Wind down with lunch. If I have time, I like to decompress by grabbing lunch at Lucky Chinatown (ground floor and 3rd floor have good options, and food court is on the 4th floor.) There is, of course, the actual Chinatown nearby if you know where to find the good eats there. *Editors note here, the best, I am talking THE BEST, fried chicken I have ever had is just outside lucky Chinatown located to the right of the mall. There are outside vendors, find the one with the frying vat. I always like to bring home a whole chicken with me.
And now, my map and directions for finding specific items. Keep in mind that this list is really only scratching the surface – I still have so much to discover about Divisoria! Locations in bold have a wide selection.
If you’re visiting Divisoria for the first time and just want to get an idea of what’s available, here is the route I’d recommend. Park at Lucky Chinatown Mall. Go to the ground floor and browse Annex A, on the other side of the complex. Don’t be afraid to go upstairs. Next, find your way to Sta. Elena St. Take a right when you get to Tabora St. Take another right when you reach CM Recto Ave. If you’re not overwhelmed at this point, wander through 168 or 999. If you’re still not overwhelmed, then you really don’t need my advice – get lost in the madness! When you’re ready, make your way back to Lucky Chinatown.
Where to Find:
- Stationery – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A045); 999 Bldg. 1 (1S-5); NDM (1A-12, 1D-20, 1E-25)
- Boxes and paper (including wrapping paper, tissue paper, crepe paper, felt paper, chipboard, laminating sheets, cellophane sheets, colored metallic foil, Styrofoam balls, brown paper bags) – 692 Sta. Elena St.; 702 Juan Luna St.; 736 Tabora St.
- Styrofoam balls (in varying sizes) – Commercio St.
- Organza pouches – 999 Bldg. 2 (3I-5, 3I-6)
- Woven baskets and gift bags - corner of M. De Santos St. and Tabora St. (across from New Divisoria Mall); 801 Tabora St.
- Custom printing on just about anything (including paper products, clothing, picture frames, pen holders, lanyards, tumblers) – 168 (1M-07); New Divisoria Mall (2M-09); Juan Luna St.
- Masks, headbands, hats, costumes – 999 Bldg. 2 (1M-17); 18 Tabora St.
- Party supplies – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (B023, B185); NDM (2C-22, 2I-3, 2I-14, 2L-26, 2M-8, 2M-36, 2M-42); Tutuban Prime Block (Anding’s, 3rd floor); M. De Santos St.; Tabora St. (stalls adjacent to New Divisoria Mall). For balloons in all shapes and sizes (even ones that are 36” wide), visit 801 Party on M. De Santos St. just off the intersection with Tabora St (behind the street vendors).
- Toys of all kinds, board games, costumes – 999 Bldg. 1 (Basement and 2I-4); 999 Bldg. 2 (1M-18&20, 3D-2); 168 (1N-02 and 4th floor), NDM (1C-8, 2K-2, 2K-20, 2K-24, 2L-28); Bodega Sales; Tutuban Prime Block (Anding’s, 3rd floor)
- Lego-compatible blocks – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A083, A133); 999 Bldg. 1 (1I-8, 1P-1, 1S-8); NDM (1C-10, 2H-3, 2K-20); Bodega Sales (second floor of New Divisoria Centre on the corner of Tabora St. and Sta. Elena St., stalls 240-243)
- Planters – Commercio St.
- Clocks, frames – 688 Sta. Elena St.
- Curtains, blinds, sheets, mosquito nets, door mats – 168 (2T-2&3); 999 Bldg. 2 (1O-16&18); NDM (2K-8); Ylaya St.
- Upholstery fabric – 975 & 977 Soler St. (for furniture); Ylaya St. (for curtains)
- Fabric – 999 Bldg. 2 (basement, opposite side from Pure Gold); Ylaya St.; Yangco Market (labyrinth of shops between Ylaya St. and Tabora St.); Tutuban Prime Block (Rubeni, ground floor)
- Sewing supplies (including thread, embroidery floss, snaps, hooks, zippers, ribbons) – Tabora St. (just go into one of many shops behind the street stalls); 999 Bldg. 1 (basement)
- Tailors – Yangco Market has tailors that will custom-make anything from barongs, to wedding dresses, to international costumes (great for your kids’ UN Day).
- Artificial plants, vases – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (S101, outdoor entrance); 168 (1L-27, 1M-25); NDM (1A-06); 715-717 Ylaya St.; Bodega Sales (second floor of New Divisoria Centre building on the corner of Tabora St. and Sta. Elena St.); Tutuban Prime Block (Anding’s, 3rd floor)
- Craft supplies (including feathers, shells, flowers, ropes, wooden dowels, rods, rings) – Tabora St.
- Glass jars and bottles –NDM (2D-19); Tabora St.; M. De Santos St. (adjacent to NDM)
- Plastic bottles, pumper bottles – M. De Santos St. (adjacent to NDM)
- Papier Mache decorations (including words, letters, numbers, and symbols) – Tabora St.
- Candle-making supplies – 1071 Soler St.; 1006 CM Recto Ave.; 740 Juan Luna St.
- Stickers, decals – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A045 and A052&053)
- PVC wall sticker sheets (contact paper/wall paper) – 168 (1J-11), 999 Bldg. 2 (1N-24); NDM (1B-03)
- Cool décor (including lanterns, frames, statuettes) – NDM (2E-02); Tutuban Prime Block (Anding’s, 3rd floor)
- Home and garden tools – 999 Bldg. 1 (1S-18); NDM (1E-23)
- Tools, hardware – NDM (1E-23); 610 Sta. Elena St.
- Organizing racks, hooks, clips – 168 (2T-1); NDM (1D-30)
- Appliances & electronics – 168 (4th floor)
- Kitchen and catering ware – Soler St.; Tabora St.
- Food packaging (for display and storage) – NDM (2D-17); 617 Sta. Elena St.; 725 Tabora St.; Commercio St.; M. De Santos St.
- Fruits & veggies – Sta. Elena St.; CM Recto Ave.
- Candy, snacks – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (B015); NDM (basement); M. De Santos St. (adjacent to NDM); Sto. Cristo St. (behind the street vendors)
- Industrial foods – M. De Santos St.
- Bulk spices – Tabora St. (stall adjacent to New Divisoria Mall)
- Baby gear – 999 Bldg. 2 (3M-11); 168 (1M-1&2 and 2L-8); NDM (2I-5, 2L-32)
- Clothes – 168 (3rd floor); Tutuban Prime Block; Ylaya St.; CM Recto Ave.
- Plain white shirts – 999 Bldg. 2 (3M-11); Soler St.
- Traditional Philippine garb – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (B190); Tutuban Prime Block
- Hats – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A051), 999 Bldg. 1 (1L-7); NDM (1D-9, 2K-15)
- Sunglasses, eye wear – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A127); NDM (1D-26)
- Purses, bags, backpacks, dry bags – 168 (3T-6); 999 Bldg. 1 (1J-5); NDM (1A-11, 1B-02)
- Printable canvas bags, linen bags, eco bags, dry bags – 999 Bldg. 1 (1K-5); 999 Bldg. 2 (1N-1&3 and 1N-5&7); NDM (1E-30)
- Belts, watches – 999 Bldg. 1 (1S-1); 168 (1D-35)
- Hair accessories, jewelry – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A064); NDM (1A-1, 1E-31)
- Rain gear – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A141&143); 999 Bldg. 1 (1J-7); NDM (1A-16, 2I-19, 2K-24)
- Swim wear – 168 (1E-11); NDM (2I-1)
- Bike gear (helmets, seats, lights, spare parts) – 999 Bldg. 1 (2I-14); 999 Bldg. 2 (3D-4, 3D-8, 3D-10)
- Music store – NDM (2C-16)
- Hello Kitty stuff – Lucky Chinatown Annex A (A129); 168 (1D-36, 1M-10&12, 1M-23); 999 Bldg. 1 (1L-4&6); 999 Bldg. 2 (1M16); NDM (1E-29)
- Christmas stuff – everywhere starting in September and October, but there are concentrations of it on CM Recto Ave. (on the street side) and Tutuban Prime Block (Anding’s, 3rd floor)