Operation: Thrifting in Manila

Welcome to the wonderful world of thrifting! It's an amazing place where one can get lost in. (Literally) It's not for the faint of heart and it takes a good amount of experience and courage to get the hang of it. The first time I went thrifting was with Jess and it was pretty overwhelming at the beginning. Later on, I went thrifting more often and finally, after a few trips alone, got the hang of it. Although, thrifting alone here is not advisable for beginners. I suggest you bring someone who knows what he/she is doing. It's safer that way. Anyway, as I thrift my way through Manila I have picked up a few things, here and there, that would be useful for amateur thrifters to know. Thrifting is not complicated but not simple either. There is a middle ground between the two ideas in which lies thrifting. I'm going to take the dramatics down a notch and simplify things.


Every time you go thrift shopping is pretty much synonymous to going out on an adventure. Slightly dramatic but true. Every trip is different because everything is so unexpected. You're not sure what lies ahead so it's best to be prepared.

1. Uniform
  • Dress Comfortably - Wear something you can easily move in. Thrift stores can be cramped with racks which can make moving a challenge. It's going to be an even bigger challenge if you're constricted by your clothing. Leave the mini skirt at home and opt for a comfortable pair of shorts (or leggings!). You can also wear pants, just make sure you're comfortable in them. 
  • Comfortable Footwear - This goes hand in hand with the "dress comfortably" tip I mentioned above. Obviously, you'll be walking a lot so it's important that you're in your best, comfortable footwear.
  • Dress Down - Now's not the time to show of your inner fashionista. It's best to wear a simple outfit to avoid being too flashy. Showing off will make it difficult to haggle with the store keeper. These people know what they're doing and can spot the not from a mile away. I recommend a simple tshirt and shorts combo with sneakers or flats. 
  • **Socks - Wear socks when you're planning to buy shoes. Although, many are very iffy about this idea but if you're not one of them then I suggest you wear an old pair of socks that you don't mind getting ruined. 
2. Reinforcements
  • Water Bottle - It's very important to hydrate yourself through out the day. Take note that some of these thrift stores may not have airconditioning. Given the climate of this country, I can reassure you that it's going to be hot all the time, especially during the afternoons. Having a water bottle around comes in handy while thrifting. 
  • Reusable Bag - Quezon City has a "no plastic" policy and, in my experience, some thrift stores follow this rule. It's better to have some sort of reusable bag with you so you wouldn't have to worry about where to place your loot. Also, reducing your carbon footprint does not hurt either. You can save money and save the world at the same time. 
  • Backpack/Tote Bag/Cross Body Bad - You would want a hassle free shopping experience as much as possible. You can lessen the likelihood of encountering unwanted issues by completely making yourself comfortable. Leave the handbag at home and opt for a backback, tote bag or a cross body bag in order to achieve optimum movement. Avoid the possibility of constantly worrying about your bag so make sure you bring an appropriate one. 
  • Small Bills - Avoid bringing big denominations of money. It's easier to convince the store keeper of the price you want when he/she can clearly see that you don't have wads of cash with you. This is more for the idea that you are able to create an image that does not scream bourgeois. Image is also key.
  • Baby Wipes/ Hand Sanitizer - This is important for safety reasons. You're not really aware of where these clothes came from or what they've gone through. Also, thrift stores are not the cleanest compared to mall shops (obviously!). One time, I visited this thrift store that had a "sale" section at the back and the clothes were pretty dusty. Although, I did score a great denim jacket but that's beside the point. It's an extra precaution that won't hurt. 
  • Umbrella - This is self explanatory.

One can't set on to an adventure without the proper preparation for it. Next, I'm going to discuss some Manila thrifting etiquette. Yup, there's proper behavior for everything. Behavior is also pretty crucial with thrifting. Like I said before, image is important. 
  • Speak in Filipino - Yes, as much as possible speak in Filipino. Not english, not taglish, not conyo  just straight Filipino. Store keepers are sharp and can point out those who have never actually done this before. It's best then to keep up this image.
  • Blend in - Don't stand out. Try, as much as possible, to blend in with the other shoppers. It's more likely that they've done this before and know what they're doing. Act like you know what you are doing, like you've done this a million times. Fake it until you make it. Make sure that you don't give away signs that you're a total newbie at this.
  • Ukay-ukay - This is the term used in the Philippines for thrift shops. It came from the term "halukay" which means to dig through. You will have to dig through the numerous amount of clothes before finding something to your liking. It's going to be tedious work.
  • Patience - It's important that you develop your patience because it may take awhile until you find your "holy grail" piece. When you do find it though, all that digging would have been worth it. 
  • Withdrawal - But, there will be times that you won't be able to find something you like. If you can't find something then don't force yourself to like something just so you can buy it. Try another store. Most thrift stores are clumped next to each other and if you can't find anything then move on to the next store. 
  • Be picky - Now's the time to be super picky about your clothes. It's tempting to buy the whole lot when the prices are crazy cheap but you have to be wise about your purchases. Make sure you check the whole article of clothing. Check for runs in the stitches. Check for stains. Is there damage? Can it be fixed? Is there a stain? Can it be removed? As much as possible, avoid pieces with damage or stains. 

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