If Bangkok has Chaktuchak and Kuala Lumpur has Jalan Petaling, Manila has Divisoria, the city’s bargain district dubbed as the “mother of all markets” in Manila for its wide array of marked-down and wholesale items, mainly pirated or smuggled goods from China.
(Photo by Frisno)
Divisoria is actually a Pandora’s Box full of garbage, crowds, chaos, pickpockets and thieves, yet it attracts many shoppers from all walks of life because of its open-air bazaars and malls that offer everything under the sun at rock-bottom prices.
Divisoria’s roots as a commercial hub traces back to the Spanish times. It started to propel to national stardom in the ‘90s, when the Tutuban Central Station of the Philippine National Railways became a major drop-off site for trade goods pouring in from different provinces across the country. Divisoria, too, is the birthplace of the first Filipino saint Lorenzo Ruiz and the revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio.
(Photo by AI)
Divisoria has no marked boundaries, but it has many side streets that contain small markets, shops and stalls that branch out from the main boulevard of Claro M. Recto Avenue. Among these side streets are Ylaya, Juan Luna, Santo Cristo, Soler, and Tabora. The area bordered by the streets Recto, Santo Cristo, Juan Luna and Comercio is regarded by some as the heart of Divisoria.
For those who want to avoid the frenzied atmosphere, crowds, and maze-like arrangement of Divisoria’s outdoor markets, there are four malls located in the area. These are Tutuban Center Mall, 168 Mall, Meisic Mall, and Divisoria Mall. All four have air-conditioned food courts and shopping areas. In addition, Meisic Mall has an entertainment section, while Divisoria Mall is largely devoted to wholesale buying.
(Photo by Rico Quimbo)
A multi-billion mall and residential structure, The Top at the Benisons, is also on the rise along Recto Avenue. It will cater to Chinese entrepreneurs who want to stay near their businesses in Divisoria.
How to get there
Divisoria is most accessible via taxi from any point in Manila. If commuting, the area is accessible through the Recto station of the MRT or LRT Line-2. You may also ride the FX minivans or jeepneys that traverse through España Street, Taft Avenue, and Cubao. Divisoria is just next door to Binondo.
As much as possible, do not bring valuables to Divisoria. Petty crimes like theft, cellphone snatching and robbery are higher in Divisoria than in other parts of Manila city. Hence, do not flash your gadgets, wallet and jewelry when in public. Bring just enough money in Philippine peso and leave your credit cards at home because almost all shops here accept only cash. Haggle hard because vendors might overprice their items to take advantage of tourists.
Extra precaution is also advised when buying food. It is not safe to eat street food or to drink anything in Divisoria. Therefore, it is better to bring your own food and bottled water.