Divisoria dreaming: Buy cheap, be happy
We’re back from our yearly pilgrimage to the land of opportunities: Divisoria.
I don’t remember exactly when our family’s Divisoria tradition started, but I recall having only two toddlers in tow—Ulan and Sining—back when it all began (Alon and Laya had yet to be born). Divisoria is really a bargain-hunting paradise, and its prices remain the best for your budget compared to the prices in the malls. But that doesn’t mean inflation has not made its presence felt to the people from all walks of life who descend on Manila’s most famous marketplace at this time of the year. Whether it’s Glorietta or Tutuban that suits your taste and your shopping budget, inflation will always find you.
Overall, it is actually a better year for the average consumer. For a change, fuel prices are down. When has such a thing ever happened during the Christmas season? How I wish it will become a self-repeating phenomenon envisioned to set new record lows. This could be the lowest we’ve seen gas drop in price the whole year. It actually peaked to nearly P60 per liter during the problematic early months when Middle East countries were threatening again to blow up the entire planet over ancient territorial spats. Gas prices going down to just a little over the P40-per-liter range during the holiday season would have to make an impact on the purchasing power of the peso.
I am pleasantly surprised that good-quality T-shirts for P100 and below have not become obsolete. That’s if you try really hard to find one among Divisoria’s thrift shops that sell all sorts of export overruns and those very good Bangkok-made imitations. The beauty of bargain-hunting is in experiencing the test of endurance and sanity that goes with the search. I guess it’s the same thrill that consumes treasure-hunters who spend lifetimes and move mountains to find what’s hidden underneath. But because not all of us have that kind of hunger for thrill and adventure, not to mention the energy to take the challenge, we live out a similar fantasy, only on a more realistic scale. It’s just as exciting an experience even if it plays out only in your favorite shopping places. So if you are a true friend, don’t despair over getting a T-shirt from me. Just imagine the epic struggle that I faced to get that gift. And as they say, it’s the thought that counts, right?
Every year that we shop in Divisoria is a good chance at family bonding—a fine exercise and a therapeutic experience that I feel my mind and body sorely need. It allows me to step back and actually savor the depth of friendship that continues to grow with every shopping adventure among my wife, our kids and myself. It’s a chance to see for myself how fast the children have grown, now that they have stopped badgering me for a doll or a robot toy and instead carry their own shopping lists, which unfortunately means it is going to cost me more. Many years ago, we would stop for a brief rest because the children could not cope with the seemingly endless walking. Now, it’s me who often lags behind as I try to catch my breath from all the walking and because my arthritic leg is acting up again. Times have changed, indeed.
Another reason I got the children hooked on the habit of bargain-hunting is this: I want to teach them the value of money, to make them learn to be patient in dealing with all sorts of discomfort and, most important, to be very careful with the choices they make. After all, life takes a little bit of shopping wisdom to figure out. We apply the same lessons when we choose where to go for college, what course to take up, or which person to marry.
My wife used to say—and as a compliment, I hope—that I am different from other men because I actually appear to thrive in this physically draining (and what other men would regard as time-wasting) exercise: Braving the pickpockets and the suffocating human and vehicular traffic to go shopping in Divisoria during its most crowded time. To be honest, she actually introduced me to it because I wasn’t nearly as excited as she was about the idea the first time it came up. But I am a man, and manly instincts drive me.
The caveman who lived to please his mate left a very strong and enduring imprint on me, I guess. My feeling is, if the wife and now the kids have grown to love this experience, why spoil the fun when it should be my business and my pleasure as man of the house to keep them company every step of the way? It is a lesson as relevant as it was during the primitive days: that if you wish to be one happy family, spend time doing things together.
With us, it is no problem at all. Sometimes the hard part is going separate ways. All I need to do is ask: What time is it? And the whole gang would say: “It’s Divisoria time!” And off we’d go.
And so perhaps that’s how it came to be a family tradition, this annual pre-Christmas pilgrimage that never fails to add to the fun of the holidays. Divisoria will always be there waiting to bring the simplest kind of joy to the pragmatic among us, people like me who have accepted the economic realities that while the best things in life are not really free, at least one can always happily haggle to bring down the price.
Besides, remember that all the money in the world can’t buy you happiness. If anything, it takes the fun away from bargain-hunting and robs you of the chance to know how it feels to buy cheap and be happy.
Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.” He obtained his law and prelaw degrees from Manuel L. Quezon University and the University of Santo Tomas, respectively.
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