Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Philippines Day 9: Tiangge

December 30, 2014 - Tiangge in Green Hills
Our second to the last full day in the Philippines had been earmarked from the beginning as our shopping day, whether for souvenirs and gifts to bring back home or just to buy things for ourselves, we had a shopping plan. And that was mainly the "tiangge" at Green Hills shopping center in Makati. Think of a tiangge as like a flea market but housed inside part of the mall, jammed with vendor stalls selling new items, not used. Haggling is expected and many of the vendors sell the same merchandise so the buyer has some negotiating power if a vendor wants to make a sale badly enough,
We arrived at Green Hills a bit early; the tiangge didn't open until 10 am so we killed some time by hanging out at one of two Starbucks at the mall. As with any Starbucks around the world, it had similar branding and merchandising, a display case of mouthwatering treats (too bad I was still full from the pandesal that morning) and, to my nieces' pleased surprise, the same drinks they could get in the States but at cheaper prices.
I had a cup of hot chocolate (fortunately Starbucks was airconditioned and it wasn't that hot outside so I could down a hot cuppa) while the others had some version of frothy coffee drinks. We didn't get anything to eat but naturally I had to take pictures of all the baked goods. Many were seasonal flavors and were cheaper than their US counterparts but of course, it's only cheap if you earn dollars, not if you're paid in pesos.

After dawdling an adequate amount of time, we finally headed inside. I'll spare you the gory shopping details and my inadequacy at haggling but fortunately my cousin Abby accompanied us and is an expert negotiator so we simply pointed at what we wanted, whispered to her then stepped aside to let her work her magic. Everything you could think of was for sale at the tiangge, not just t-shirts and clothes but also shoes, purses, suitcases, trinkets, jewelry, mugs, glasses, toys, belts, scarves, packaged touristy foodstuffs like dried pineapple, dried mangoes, and nuts.
My nieces were on the hunt for gifts for family and friends back home while my sister wanted a traditional Filipiniana dress for her wedding. I didn't have anything in particular to buy as I had made most of my purchases back at Kultura the previous day but I tagged along, picking up a couple of things here and there (Christmas ornaments made of capiz shells, native to the Philippines plus some costume jewelry).

Abby doing her bargaining on our behalf
I unexpectedly ended up buying my own Filipiniana dress when my sister was buying hers. I hadn't planned on it but one of them caught my eye, I tried it on and bought it on impulse. It turned out to be an expensive impulse. Fully traditional Filipiniana dresses are made of "pina" or pineapple fiber and really, really expensive. My sister was looking at a variety of them and said, "It's 28,000 pesos. How much is that in dollars?" Me: "About $700." My niece Shyla said, "I'll buy that for you, Mom." Then she turned to me: "Tita, can I borrow $700?" Such a kidder, that one.
But no, I didn't spend $700 on a dress and neither did my sister. Fortunately, we could get a cheaper version of the same dresses in "pineapple organza". She was able to purchase hers off the rack as they had what she wanted in her size. I wasn't as lucky as I'm not as, ahem, flat-chested as the average Filipina. The long, full-length skirt fit me just fine (ha, they would normally have to take up the hemline for their typical customers but at 5'5", I'm "tall" compared to my countrywomen) but the halter bodice was too tight and would have to be altered. Since they were tailoring the top anyway, I was able to choose the type of embroidery I wanted and they took the necessary measurements, promising me the dress would be ready for pickup the next morning. That was critical since we would be leaving the day after but I was used to the speed of tailoring there and trusted their word, forking over half of the balance as a deposit.
After my dress purchase, which necessitated me converting more of my US dollars into pesos so I could pay for it (I didn't want to use my credit card overseas), I became more of a window shopper and amused myself with people watching while the others continued their shopping. I'd been to the tiangge before during my previous visits to the Philippines and it looked much the same. Perhaps the only difference is there were more non-Filipinos than I remember ever seeing in the past. Not just Americans but also Europeans. Didn't see a lot of non-Filipino Asians but definitely the North American and European tourists were well represented. I don't think they got the same good deals that my cousin Abby got for us but in general, prices at the tiangge are cheaper than a regular store in the mall so they still did pretty well for what they bought.

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