Let’s take a break from disasters—natural and (wo)manmade—for now and deal with something still somewhat stressful: managing your panic this weekend as you realize you still have a long list of people you need to get gifts for.
It’s tempting to send someone to Divisoria and pick up cheap giveaways, but you’d be surprised at how many good-quality, low-cost, and, most important, local gifts you can get. When you buy imported stuff, you’re adding to your carbon footprint: All that stuff had to be transported to the Philippines, which means fuel consumption and emissions and everything else that contributes to global warming, and risks for more supertyphoons.
I’m saying that tongue in cheek, but only partly. Beyond carbon footprints, though, it helps to begin to think of local gifts, and promote a greater sense of pride in our own stuff as valuable enough to give to the dearest of friends and relatives. Write up something to go with the gift, like “This is artisanal, homemade in Bulacan, really hard to find” or “I ordered this just for you and my closest friends.” Get something from your own hometown as a way of showing off.
Another case for things local is that you’ll find they’re not usually in the malls, where just looking for parking space can send your blood pressure soaring. When you’re under pressure you end up buying the ultimate in kitsch just to get the shopping over with.
Here then are some of the secret and not-so-secret shopping places I’ve found:
The University of the Philippines in Diliman is up on my list this year. I mentioned some columns back that it has a Christmas tiangge going on where you’ll find a lot of local handicrafts. There are food vendors as well, and there’s nearby Raz (I think I have the name right) which serves Indian, Persian, and Indonesian food. You can also visit the UP Shopping Center near the Catholic and Protestant churches. The toilet there is cleaner now, but the atmosphere is still very, well, Divisoria. Go to Maroons, which has UP-theme shirts, caps and backpacks, and Gary Granada CDs. Gary has a CD of Cebuano songs, rendered jazz-style and accompanied by a piano.
You can plan to jog around the oval before or after shopping to get your endorphins going. And as you jog, do drop by the lobby of Palma Hall (AS Building) and sign a Book of Condolences, a tribute to Nelson Mandela, which we will return to the South African embassy in a few days.
Moving away from UP, there are the usual weekend bazaars, my favored ones being the Sunday market at
Centris (corner Quezon Boulevard and Edsa) and at Legaspi Park (Makati). At the park, check out Django’s handcrafted leather goods, including sandals (or what look like sandals), and also waraji, Japanese straw sandals made by a retired couple. Wait, wait, why promote Japanese? Well, the sandals are made locally… Not only that, they come with a lifetime warranty for repairs.
Books are your best bet as local gifts. Unfortunately, the publishing houses themselves are closed during weekends, but you should be able to find a wide selection of Filipino publications in the bookstores—which means you’ll still end up in the malls. I’m glad to see the larger bookstores all offering Filipino children’s books, the number of which seems to be growing each year. (The books are almost always bilingual, English and Filipino, and if I remember right, there are at least two children’s books now with Cebuano and Ilokano texts.)
There are four smaller bookstores featuring a large selection of local publications and which are open on Saturdays. There’s Popular Bookstore (305 Tomas Morato, Quezon City), Solidaridad (531 Padre Faura, Manila) and Rarebook Enterprises (63 San Diego Subdivision, Caloocan). There’s also Tradewinds bookstore, which is on the third floor of Silahis Arts and Crafts (744 General Luna, Intramuros), open Saturdays and Sundays, and you also get to look at Filipino arts and crafts from all over the country.
Or, you can go back to Intramuros on a weekday, to visit San Agustin Church, Bahay Tsinoy (the museum of Chinese-Filipino life), and drop by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (633 General Luna), which has many underappreciated publications with a local focus (for examples, “Tubod: Heart of Bohol,” “Santa Ana Church: A Historical Guide,” and “Ang Inukit na Kaalamang Bayan ng Paete”). Look up Gerard Lico’s many books on Filipino architecture, and more. His “Salumpuwit” is all about chairs in the Philippines!
Also on a weekday, you can go back to Quezon City to the UP Press in Diliman, or to the Ateneo de Manila University Press in Loyola. Both university presses are offering hefty discounts on their books. While you’re at Ateneo you can drop by Jesuit Communications (JesCom) at Sonolux Building (ask the guards for directions), where they have CDs with inspirational music, and some publications.
We’re going now to CDs. Check out upsingingambassadors.com and order CDs of this multiawarded choral group. I called the office (9249378) and was told that stocks of most CDs except the Christmas ones were available, but you can actually get those at the Christmas bazaar in the World Trade Center (oh, no, crowds again, but you’ll find there many products that you can’t find elsewhere, including, again, some of the hard-to-find local crafts).
The last time I checked the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ shop, it had CDs that you can’t find elsewhere—such as those of the Madrigal Singers, UST Singers, Loboc Children’s Choir, and others—but I haven’t been there in the last three or four years. I should mention there is a website, ustsingers.com, where you can order these groups’ CDs. I still wish there were one place where you can get the recordings of the best of Filipino choral groups, as well as individual performers of classical music.
Finally, I’d recommend three museum shops with good selections of locally made publications and crafts. These are the National Museum (P. Burgos drive, Rizal Park, Manila), Museo Pambata (Roxas Boulevard corner South Drive) and Ayala Museum (De la Rosa Street, Makati).
Do check out the possibilities of online shopping for local publications. Adarna.com.ph even offers an app with children’s books for smartphones and tablets, besides regular “old-fashioned” books to flip from one page to another. If you want to venture into e-books, flipside.org has the largest selection.
One last tip: Except for the tiangge, all the places I’ve named have websites. Go to Google for the addresses so you can get exact directions for getting there, or to check if they’re open or not.
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