I don’t care what any guidebook or man on the street would tell you, Mall of Asia (MOA) is probably the worst place you can shop in Metro Manila whether you live here or are an itinerant backpacker. Reputedly the biggest mall (or at least used to be) in the country, this place is a mess. It’s like all the worst things you want in a mall jampacked together.
So what suggestions would I have for shopping:
The best mall, bar none, for shopping in the big city would be the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Makati. Kind of hard to get to right now it has no Metrorail stops. The easiest way to get there would be to flag down a cab. Here you have a grocery store, trendy Manila t-shirts, a movie theater, two bookstores, and a great vibe.
Other malls of almost as good calibre would be Greenbelt and Glorietta, Makati; High Street and Serendra in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig; Shangri-la Mall, Mandaluyong; Gateway Mall, Cubao, Quezon City; Trinoma, Quezon City and Alabang Town Center, Alabang.
Now for shopping of the budget kind, Greenhills in San Juan would be king. I’d also suggest Market, Market in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig as maybe an even better alternative.
For shopping of the “artsy” kind, there is Cubao X in Cubao, Quezon City and The Collective on Malugay St., Makati. Both give you the alternative shopping experience with the matching drinking/rocking scene.
For souvenirs, there is Balikbayan Handicrafts on A. Arnaiz St. (formerly Pasay Road) and beside it is Tesoro’s. In Tesoro’s you won’t only get kitschy stuff but you can purchase yourself a totally awesome Barong Tagalog, the official formal wear of our hot, sweltering country (suits just don’t cut it, unless there’s aircon). Both these stores are located just across the street from the Glorietta Mall in Makati.
As you may have noticed, I have never mentioned SM positively, the owner of Mall of Asia, SM City, Megamall, and other mall sprawls in our city. These places are affordable, the deparment stores have good selection, and I even like Kultura, a store found in every SM deparment store that sells Filipino souvenirs. But invariably these SM malls are overflowing with people, don’t have enough parking, and gives you that malled-out feeling. Great commercial successes for their owner, but not the best place to be a tourist (unless you like hordes of people).
And I forgot to mention Robinsons Place in Manila. Probably the most obvious mall to visit if you are staying in the Malate backpacking area. I haven’t been there in awhile, but it’s probably the most convenient place to stock up on groceries, but I would always recommend Power Plant, Rockwell in the end.
So that’s it, that’s the lowdown of shopping in our big city. But probably some of you would say that you didn’t come to Metro Manila to see the malls. But maybe some of you do. It’s where you’re going to see the Metro Manilenyo in his natural habitat. 🙂