In several of my overseas trips I’ve seen how travelers would flock to that country’s night and/or weekend market to shop and/or have their meals at hawker stalls. In fact it has become so common that locals are already used to the presence of foreigners.
During our recent trip to Singapore, I asked my companions why they came back empty-handed to which they simply replied “Meron din ng mga yan sa Divisoria…mas mura pa.” (“We can find those items in Divisoria…at a cheaper price.”) The remark didn’t come as a surprise to me because I’ve (over)heard it more than a couple of times from kababayans when I went to Hong Kong’s night market.
But if that’s the case, how come we don’t see the same scenario in Manila? I gathered maybe it’s for the same reasons I have. Even though I lived in Manila during my college years, I’ve never been to Divisoria. I know, right? Sue me! I can just imagine a lot of eyebrows raised by now.
Well one, I have no business there plus I don’t feel safe in that area. Two, most tourists skip Manila in favor of our islands and beaches because they think there’s not much to see in the capital. And so I feel that because of the negative image and lack of promotion why tourists, and even Filipinos like me, still ignore the Philippines’ shopping mecca. That’s just my two cents, okay?
Good thing our stay at Orion Hotel included activities like sampling the dishes in their Food Street as well as shopping in their night market which helped us discover (at least on my part)/rediscover what this side of Manila has to offer.
First, we were treated to a small feast of Filipino food. If I remember correctly, the food served was good for 20 people (we were only 10 by the way) and everything was only worth Php1,500.00!
After dinner, Jhaycee Olaira – Tutuban Properties’ Marketing Officer, toured us around. I then learned that the area is the old PNR Train Station built in 1892 and that the Tutuban Station served as a vital bloodline of communication and transportation for the Filipino guerillas during World War II. Today, the main building’s facade serve as a reminder of its past glory. It’s good to know that despite developments being done in the area, there is a conscious effort to preserve this significant structure.
Additionally, a plaza with a seven-foot monument of Gat Andres Bonifacio was built in front of Centermall I to pay respect to our national hero since it is believed that he was born here. His family’s house was just across Tutuban Train Station.
It’s one thing to hear that items are cheap or affordable, and it’s another to see and experience it firsthand, and Orion did just that. They gave us a challenge – to shop and do a ‘fashion show.’ We had to come up with a fashionable yet affordable outfit with a budget of Php1,000.00 (courtesy of Orion Hotel, of course) in under an hour AND we had to model the stuff we bought.
I roamed the area more than a couple of times first to check the merchandise before I came up with an outfit. Surprisingly, I felt safe even at times when I was ‘on my own’. And while it’s no Chatuchak, at least it’s open every day and not just on weekends.
So what did I get for a thousand bucks? Well, I bought this pastel-colored dress with sheer sleeves originally priced at Php280.00 but I was able to haggle it to Php250.00. Amazing! Just slap on some brand and it would probably sell around Php800.00 to Php1,200.00 in boutiques. I got jelly wedges for only Php300.00 (originally sold for Php330.00). I saw lots of these in KL and I think they were being sold at around Php600.00 – Php800.00. Lastly, I got emerald green accessories; earrings for only Php20.00 and the necklace for only Php80.00. Again, if you were to buy these from boutiques or even from a department store, it might be priced at around Php200.00 – Php400.00. Imagine, for only Php650.00, I was able to produce a whole outfit which is decent enough for gatherings. So yes, now I can say that the claims are true. Items are really affordable but not cheap-looking. While yours truly did not win the challenge, it was a fun experience for me. 🙂
The following day, since we still had hours before the check out time, Dom toured us to a nearby Buddhist temple in Narra St. – Seng Guan Temple. It has a modest entrance with typical Buddhist architecture and atop the temple’s east wing are stupas. It may look small from the outside, but it actually has several floors of prayer halls.
As soon as we reached the second floor, I was transported back to Penang. I remembered my visit to Kek Lok Si Temple.
While it is open to public and picture-taking is allowed, bear in mind that this is a place of worship so proper decorum is expected.
When we got back to the hotel, Jhaycee encouraged us to check out their Virtual Zoo. It was just a few minutes walk anyway — not to mention we don’t need to go out again because the hotel is linked to Tutuban Center Mall — so we agreed.
No animals were harmed in this photo session 😉
With about a dozen of these 3D-like murals by PUP’s Guhit Visual Arts Group, you can pose away to your heart’s content. And the best part? This attraction is absolutely free!
Special thanks to Ms. Rica Claveria – Hotel Operations Manager, Orion Hotel; Ms. Anna Ting – Hotel Sales & Marketing Manager, Orion Hotel; and Mr. Jhaycee Ron Olaira – Marketing Officer, Tutuban Properties, Inc. for this Tutuban Tour.