Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

Getting lucky in Divisoria

By VICKY VELOSO-BARRERA, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 23, 2023 5:00 am

Divisoria—a messy and crowded place for some, but a mecca for true fashionistas and dedicated bargain hunters.

When I was still actively designing we would make the occasional foray because it was so different to see what was actually available against pages of samples brought home by your designated buyer.

In the ’80s Divisoria was so much easier to maneuver. A drive straight down Roxas Boulevard would eventually bring you to CM Recto, the road that divided Divisoria into two halves.

Both sides had buildings and sidewalks brimming with fabrics, but the southern side also had specialty streets—Tabora was where you bought your notions (threads, zippers, buttons and the like), materials for DIY giveaways and gift-giving ideas.

Eye candy at Michelle’s

Sto. Cristo is where you go for cooking paraphernalia. Continue southwards and that used to be where the market was, a place I loved, especially for its woven baskets.

But today many people flock to Divisoria and focus on the air-conditioned malls. My sister Letlet and I still enjoy trawling the old, un-air-conditioned buildings with their confusing maze of corridors and stalls.

Now is a great time to visit Divisoria. The holiday crowds are gone and it’s not too hot yet.

I can no longer do these labyrinths without my sister, who knows them by heart. And when we are there, it’s best that I buy whatever I like because I’m not sure if I can ever find my way back to that particular stall again.

A prosperous rabbit stands guard inside Lucky Chinatown.

On a recent trip, with Letlet as our guide, we started off as usual with an early lunch at Shi Lin in Lucky Chinatown. Fortified for hours of walking, my sister first took my daughter Hannah and I to an area where assorted fabrics, mainly organza and tulle, were selling for ₱10 a yard. I bought seven yards of frosted gray organza for ₱70!

Just a bit further down the street was the handicraft and Filipiniana section, where various materials made of abaca could be found. While Hannah focused on local materials for her school projects, I snapped up woven placemats at ₱180 for 12 pieces! Hannah said they looked as if I had picked them up at ArteFino.

Assorted bottles on Tabora

While Hannah and Letlet completed their fashion needs, I bought strawberries and oranges, a wooden easel my son Joshua can use to display his smaller works, and noted the variety of bottles that could be found on Tabora—perfect for sellers of homemade goods.

Ready-to-grill treats outside Lucky Chinatown

When our bags were loaded we headed back to Lucky Chinatown for a welcome break at Black Scoop on the second floor. Other shoppers also stashed voluminous bags on the spacious seats while enjoying their teas and charcoal-infused ice cream.

Next to Black Scoop was a kiosk called Elait, which carries cookies, breads and ice cream that’s made before you and scraped into rolls. But I was drawn to a photo of strawberry milk, which the staff (who are hearing-impaired) assembled by combining a puree of strawberries and fresh milk. Yummy!

I forgot to go back for this: Cotton candy for two of my kids.

Too bad we had no more space in our tummies or our bags for the food offerings right in that lovely, lantern-decked passageway beside Lucky Chinatown. There were assorted meats and veggies on barbecue sticks waiting to be grilled, cotton candy to be fashioned into Pikachu and other beloved characters, Taiwanese dumplings, and Dotonbori-inspired snacks.

Strawberry milk from Elait is freshly made.

Now is a great time to visit Divisoria. The holiday crowds are gone and it’s not too hot yet.

But for regulars like my sister, a weekly visit or two is nonnegotiable, crowds and weather notwithstanding.