For someone who grew up in a highly protective environment, like myself, getting to Divisoria would really be an exciting adventure to look forward to. I heard so much about Divisoria and I couldn’t wait being actually there to experience and witness everything all first hand.
The sun was barely up when I left home early in the morning as I have decided to get to Divisoria before rush hour to avoid traffic jams along the way. This is the reason why it was still early when I got there. The stores are just starting to open, the vendors are just calling in customers , while some of them are having their breakfast in the confines of their stores. A number of customers are also building up. The parking areas are starting to get fully occupied by vehicles from various points of origin.
Our car was parked near Jollibee where we decided to have breakfast before wandering around the place. It is the area where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold. A picture of a busy yet productive place is what I witnessed as I was quietly observing while having breakfast with my family.
“ Tabi, tabi, dadaan lang!”,“Manong, wala bang tawad?”, “ O, bili na! Bili na! Bili na! Tatlo isang daan!” These are just some of the remarks that welcomed me as soon I set foot outside Jollibee after breakfast. As I explored, I have observed people from all walks of life, haggling for the best deal, filled the place. There was a cacophony of overwhelming voices of vendors and customers, loud honks of vehicles and of every imaginable street sound. Incessant mumblings, coming from all over were begging for my attention. The distinct smell of food, clothing and stench of a nearby sewer filled the place, inspite the unbearable heat and humid air. But as I walked further, I realized something else. Yes, it may seem like a very unpleasant place but I discovered a whole new exciting world.
At the surface, we may be very inundated by it’s seemingly chaotic environment but walking further, I was really surprised to find out that Divisoria is not just a market district in the heart of the City of Manila, very well known for its wide variety of low-priced merchandise and wholesale and bargain shopping, it is in fact a shopping capital for practical shoppers.
Walking further, I found myself surrounded by items of every kind, displayed here and there. Products of every sort cost inexpensively without sacrificing quality. Tiangge-style bazaars, street shops and shopping malls are the main components of the place, because of this, Divisoria is considered one of the National Capital Region’s premiere economic centres.
As I spent more time wandering within the vicinity, besides the affordable prices and the assortment of merchandise, what struck me the most is the common behaviour of people. The way they deal with things, the way they act, the way they see things, the way they make decisions, the way they talk, the way they work actually left me in awe. Their attitude, their actions, their abilities, their perspectives, their moods, their voices, their words, their emotions… There’s just something about them. The people are the life of Divisoria. Without them, Divisoria’s dead.
Observing further, I’ve also witnessed practical marketing, having observed how vendors and customers deal with each other and how they end up closing a deal after few minutes of actual negotiation. How they act and interact with each other caught my attention, this is why I decided to observe more and dig deeper.
Vendors remain buzzing with excitement whatever happens. They work so hard and try to be very enthusiastic, presenting their best selves just to attract more customers and to gain more income, despite feeling sweaty and exhausted. It’s truly remarkable how vendors could stay pleasant, patient and polite despite all the challenges of what they do. It was a truly enticing sight.
On the other hand, the customers are equally amazing, considering that they came from all parts of the Philippines. Some are elite, some belong to the middle class, some are really from the lower class, but they all have the same objective; to be able to get good merchandise at very low prices, to practically be in tune with the trend without having to spend so much. They would really make an effort to go through everything just to get to Divisoria. They have all gone out of their way just to enjoy everything that Divisoria offers risking everything just to find the best trades. Regardless of social status, they were there pushing their way deep into the ocean of people, unfolding every good deal, one after the other. They have invested time and effort, determined to get the best out of Divisoria.
At Divisoria, I was able to see various pictures that depicted the Filipino culture: industry, hospitality and determination are some of the qualities that are apparent as I looked around the place. Both vendors and customers exhibit these qualities.
Talking to the vendors, I learned that most of the store owners are foreigners, but the stores are manned by Filipinos who work hard to earn for their living. The foreigners are the investors who provide sources of livelihood for the Filipinos from the lower bracket of the society. This picture exhibits the relevance of underground businesses in our present economy. In addition to that, I found out that most of them are just paid on commission basis depending on the number of transactions they successfully accomplish in a day. Being informed about these made me respect these vendors more. They try their best to be nice in accommodating all of their walk-in customers with the determination to get their merchandises sold. It is a picture of how industrious and practical Filipinos are.
Customers go all the way to Divisoria from all walks of life to have unlimited shopping for less as their common goal. They go all the way there, looking at the possibility of getting the best value for their hard earned money, yearning for the opportunity to acquire nice items at practically lower cost compared to the ones available at the air conditioned malls in the metropolis. At Divisoria, everything is available including replica of items with signature brands at the lowest possible cost. They would find imported goods such as candies, fruits and vegetables tax-free that is why the buyers coming from the upper class normally buy goods in bulk. They also buy clothes, shoes and bags because they find it more practical than going to the malls. This is a picture of practicality and equality. Regardless of social status, people from all walks of life get to Divisoria with one common objective, to get the best value for their hard earned money.
Distance never became an issue for the customers who made their way to Divisoria, because their main objective is to go shopping for less.
It was truly amazing that I was able to see so much and learn so much after spending a whole day in the place. It actually opened my eyes to the reality that shopping doesn’t really have to be very expensive. The price of five blouses at the Divisoria stalls is equivalent to the price of one blouse that I got from the mall in Makati.
Divisoria is not just a place where cheap merchandise is found, it is in fact a place where everyone gets equal opportunity. The store owners take the opportunity to sell and earn profit out of every successful transaction. Vendors give their best to get their items sold to earn their day’s wage to support themselves and their families. And customers get the best possible deals and get items with the best value for their money.