I was thinking of making some sort of shopping guide, but not the one listing the usual places like Robinson's place (yawn) or Gaisano Malls, but the actual places where Taclobanons get the best bargains. Why waste good money by spending them on overpriced generic items in department stores when you can go shops where you can get them for half the price? Bargain shopping takes a lot of patience, haggling skills, and a sharp eye for quality- but when you do find one-of-a-kind items at practically giveaway prices, its worth all the effort!
Sala sets and dining sets with a price tag of 30,000-40,000 in malls can be purchased or custom made for you at furniture shops along Real St. in Sagkahan (very near the Astrodome). Good quality dining sets start at around 20,000- and you can even ask for discounts. Most of these shops make everything from Bamboo to driftwood to hardwood, so you can find suitable designs for your interiors. Hardwood can be expensive so if you really want steals (and you own a truck) there are shops along the highway in Samar that sells them at even lower prices, that is if you can stand the extra cost and effort of travel.
When I was looking for a chandelier I came upon this private residence near Coca Cola which sells them for about 4,000- but when I looked at them closely they looked like the ones in Imelda's residence in Olot, Tolosa. If you're not into what suspiciously were Marcos loot sold at bargain prices, you may opt for garage sales from old homes. This is a little bit tricky because these sales are not published on paper, so you really have to ask around or look around the next time you take the jeep around Tacloban.
Save: 5,000 from brand new chandeliers at stores or interior design shops.
Taiwanese stores have become such a hit in Tacloban that you see them everywhere! Fun fact: these people who understands neither English nor Waray-waray manage the stores may give generous discounts if you beg their staff who communicates to them with non-verbal signs- if they nod then you get a discount! From cooking utensils to home decor, china to place mats, mugs to wine glasses, they are available at bargain prices. At the downtown area (Zamora St.), these stores line the street.
Save: 50-75% from what you can buy in regular department stores. For example, a 200 peso large mug in Gaisano can be purchased at 70 pesos in a Taiwanese store and it has a free teaspoon that came with the box. Just keep an eye on quality and you'll be surprised at how many good buys there are.
When I make notes I want to write on a nice notebook with clean, white pages, with a sign pen or gel pen. I use highlighters of different colors when I study my books. You'd think I'd spend a fortune on these but no! I'll give you a comparison at what you can buy at regular bookstores or school supply stores versus Taiwanese department stores:
National bookstore vs. Taiwanese store
Good quality notebooos: Php 85 vs. One-of-a-kind harbound notebook: Php 50
Pilot sign pen: Php 45 vs. Good quality sign pen: Php 10
Tricolor pen: Php 75 vs. Tricolor pen (for duty): Php 10
Double-sided tape: Php 30 vs. Double-sided tape: Php 5
Highlighter 1 color: Php 40 vs. Highlighter 2 colors: Php 15
See what I mean? And there are more items which you just have to see for yourself.
Save: A lot of money, especially if you can't live with a planner, or is obsessive compulsive like me hahaha!
The danger in buying china phones is that even the most expert technicians may not be able to fix it once it gets broken. Some of these phones also may not function like it is supposed to, which means you need technical know-how or perhaps bring someone who does when you go shopping for a phone.
When I was at Robinsons Ermita, I checked how much a Blackberry 8900 Curve was and it was something like 24,000 or so. My phone that time was an original Nokia express music phone which was a bit pricey when I bought it- but like all our experiences (my friends included) with Nokia phones, it was prone to viruses and it kept malfunctioning. I thought, if an original phone is as incompetent as this I saw no point in buying another expensive unit.
I searched a lot of phone stores in Tacloban when I returned, picked the same model china phone and tried eight phones before finally selecting one that worked. The most important feature for me was the wifi access, so I really made sure my phone had it. A month later, thank goodness its still working in great condition and there was even a feature that is not in authentic Blackberry phones- my china phone is also a TV!
Save: 20,000 lang naman. This is the first time I bought a china phone and I hope it lasts long.
From TVs to karaoke machines, they are all available again at bargain prices and work as good as expensive ones. Believe it or not, in a single year four of those Taiwanese department stores opened in Tacloban- and by the looks of it they are here to stay.
CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES
Bensan and Dynasty square are few of the trendy boutiques in Tacloban, but fashionistas can be found expertly sorting through mountains of clothes at Ukay-ukay. Imagine this- my friend bought an authentic Vivienne Westwood t-shirt in good condition at Php50. I bought my favorite pants for Php40 and it certainly went a long way.
Save: A couple of hundred bucks for clotheshorses.
If you are a fan of wicker duyans or abaca products or local banig or shell decor, the best place to get them would be at the shopping center and a stone's throw away- the port area grand hotel ground floor. Great place for finding great souvenirs.
Save: Php 100-200 or more if you compare the prices at the airport gift shop.
Look for Cherry Refreshment also along Zamora, and stalls outside also sell the freshest Binagol, Moron, and Pastillas.
Save: A few hundred bucks compared to hotel or airport prices.
Of course not everything you own or use should be bargain items, I mean you don't want to scrimp on running shoes or timepieces. It takes great sensibility and style to mix and match- I guess that's part of the challenge. Have fun shopping in Tacloban!!!