Shoppers go to Divisoria malls mostly to look for big bargains in tiangge-like stalls. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – While Divisoria is still best known for the largest wet market in the country, it is also gaining popularity for malls that offer substantial discounts, unique dining options and recreational activities for shoppers.
As Filipinos descend on the Binondo neighborhood for Friday's Chinese New Year celebrations, here's a guide to the the area's four most popular malls.
Lucky Chinatown Mall
The high-end Lucky Chinatown is the most modern mall in the area. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
The biggest and newest mall in Divisoria, Lucky Chinatown is a posh shopping mall where one can find local and foreign fashion boutiques and restaurants.
Four buildings make up the Lucky Chinatown compound. The main building, which is also the most “high-end,” houses popular clothing and electronic stores such as Beyond the Box, Gap and Cotton On, among others.
Foodies will also not be disappointed as Lucky Chinatown offers a wide array of food options for hungry shoppers. Scattered around the main mall’s five floors are several restaurants that offer various cuisines like Italianni’s (Italian), King Chef (Cantonese), Kogi Bulgogi (Korean) and The Red Crab Alimango House (Filipino fusion).
But if you are on a tight budget, you can visit the mall’s food court where you can find popular and more affordable fast-food chains like Mang Inasal, Chicken Charlie, Pepper Lunch and many others.
Although the classy clothing stores and restaurants are enough to keep the shoppers coming, the main attraction in Lucky Chinatown are its cinemas which gained immediate popularity among moviegoers. The mall’s cinemas feature spacious and well-maintained seating and modern interiors which make movie-watching in Lucky Chinatown worth the ticket price.
Lucky Chinatown is developing three other buildings, called "annexes," which will have tiangge-like stalls offering merchandise that are less expensive than those sold in the main mall. Going from one annex to another will not be difficult as the four buildings will be connected to each other via bridges.
Each annex will also have its own restaurants and food courts which will give more dining options to shoppers visiting the compound.
Unlike other malls in Divisoria, cleanliness is definitely not an issue with Lucky Chinatown, which boasts elegantly designed toilets that are religiously maintained by mall personnel.
Other standout amenities of the mall include the two-floor Metro Gaisano supermarket, spacious parking spaces and occasional art exhibits.
168 Shopping Mall
168 is popular among those who buy in bulk. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
Not far from Lucky Chinatown is the wholesale capital of Divisoria, the 168 shopping mall.
At 168, shoppers can avail of up to 50% discount on bulk purchases of various products, particularly bathroom supplies, toys, home decor and apparel. Shoppers who know how to haggle effectively and who have befriended the store owners reportedly can enjoy even bigger discounts.
The mall, however, is almost always crowded. Aside from rows upon rows of stalls, bargain-hunters and bulk-buyers regularly flock to 168 , making its corridors appear narrower than they already are.
Even though shoppers will not see branded clothes in 168, they can buy gowns and dresses from boutiques owned by local fashion designers all over the mall. These boutiques can provide ready-to-wear as well as custom-made clothes at much lower prices than those sold in malls elsewhere.
As for food, 168 has two food courts occupying both ends of the mall's third floor. Various food stalls selling popular Chinese dim sum and Pinoy street food are located at the upper levels of the shopping mall.
Other features of 168 are an avarage-sized Robinsons Supermarket at the basement, decent comfort rooms and a three-level parking lot.
999 Shopping Mall
School and office supplies are among the popular buys in 999. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
A few steps from 168 is another numerically named shopping mall: 999, which is composed of two connected buildings.
Unlike the 168 shopping mall, 999 is notably less crowded because of its wider halls and more spacious facilities.
But like 168, shoppers can also avail of large discounts for wholesale purchases.
The 999 offers an extensive variety of school and office supplies, making the shopping mall the perfect place for students and office employees. For example, P20 can buy a whole box of pens or a couple of bond paper reams or two to three pencil cases, among others.
Also sold in 999 are footwear both from local and foreign manufacturers. According to several store owners, the most popular buys at 999 are sandals and rubber shoes, which are known for their durability and are within the budget of most shoppers.
999 is also known for selling budget-friendly shoes. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
The Chinese culture is also strongly felt in 999 because of stores that sell Asian food products, as well as casual dining restaurants and food stands offering Chinese food. Grocery stores selling Asian delicacies can also be found in the mall.
But the dining experience in 999 isn't limited to Chinese food as the mall has two food courts, which feature Filipino establishments selling “lutong bahay” fare as well as branches of local fast food chains.
The 999 shopping mall also has a Puregold supermarket at the basement level and a parking lot.
11/88 Shopping Mall
11/88 is the smallest of Divisoria's main malls. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
The smallest mall in Divisoria is another numerically named shopping center: 11/88, which is popular for a store selling overruns of popular foreign apparel brands.
But aside from this store, there is nothing much else to see in 11/88. Although some stores also offer large discounts like those in neighboring malls, there are only limited options at 11/88.
Moreover, not all the food stalls in 11/88 are open when ABS-CBNnews.com visited. A portion of the mall’s food court was being used at the time for ballroom practices by some visitors.
The 11/88 also does not have its own parking lot and supermarket.