Thrift Shopping in the Philippines

As promised, here is my first official blog entry! I’ve decided to write something about what I’m currently addicted to: THRIFT SHOPPING or commonly known as Ukay-Ukay here in the Philippines. For those who are not familiar with the term, i was able to search the internet for its meaning. I got this from

“It was derived from the Visayan term “halukay” which means the act of digging. Ukay-Ukay shopping is like treasure hunting, but instead of looking for treasure, you are literally digging from the piles of clothes which are mostly vintage and of high value. The ukay shopping phenomena all started in Baguio. Ukay stores sprouted like mushrooms which later became one of the must-visit places in Baguio.

According to hearsay, it’s origin started way back in the 80s. Due to the frequency of calamities happening in our country, a certain humanitarian group called the Salvation Army used to ship second-hand garments and other goods as forms of help to the Filipino victims. As the goods piled up, business-minded people decided to buy them at a very low-cost and sell them to the public. Thus, ukay-ukay business was born.”

Well, some thrift shops are more presentable now than before because you won’t need to dig in piles of clothing anymore. Most of the thrift shops that I’ve visited have their clothes hanged and neatly arranged according to the type of clothing as you can see in the picture below.

Ukay-Ukay shops have a wide variety of products from bags, shoes and clothes. Some would also sell collectibles, jewelry and furniture but I’m not interested in buying those as of the moment. I’m more focused in buying clothes at very affordable prices. If you’re lucky enough, some Ukay-Ukay shops price their garments for as low as Php 20 (US$ 0.50) up to Php250 (US$5-6). But when you see a sign that says “NEW ARRIVAL” posted on their window, this means that the store has just opened newly arrived boxes filled with clothes, shoes and bags. They tend to price them higher than the usual because most of the items would have better quality than the ones on sale. The cheapest would be Php 120 (US$ 2.80) and the price can go as high as Php 380 (US$ 8-9). And don’t get me started with the authentic (?) branded bags such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Guess and alike. They cost thousands even if its inside a Thrift Shop.

So here’s a tip that I’d like to share with you guys, whenever you decide to visit an Ukay-Ukay store (here in the Philippines, coz’ i don’t know how things work in other countries) and you see the “NEW ARRIVAL” sign on their window, don’t turn your back and leave. You might as well look around and see if you find something that you like. If you do find something and you find the price too steep for something that has already been used, leave it and visit the store again after 2 weeks. If you’re lucky, it might still be there and chances are, it’s already discounted. Hooray! 🙂 But if not, maybe it wasn’t meant for you anyway.

Another thing to keep in mind when visiting a Thrift Shop is that it doesn’t smell as decent as shopping malls.  They have a distinct smell which is, to be frank, unpleasant. Maybe it’s because of the dust or the smell of newly opened boxes filled with second-hand shoes and clothes. Well, that’s what i think. But this doesn’t stop me from searching the numerous racks of clothes in search for vintage treasures. 🙂

So to make things easier for all of us, I found a website which has enumerated some tips and guidelines for you guys who plan to go treasure hunting soon! I got this from

12 Step Battle Plan

1. Research. Master the trends before embarking on your battle, so you can keep an eye out for certain colors, prints, cuts and fabrics and ignore what’s blah. But also keep in mind that classics never go out of style.

2. Dress down and dress tight. No dressing room? No problem. Wear something you can slip on and off without exposing yourself. Layer an oversized tank over a tight one, and wear leggings and sneakers so you can try on the clothes on the spot.

3. Look poor. Seeing that the customer is well-dressed, salespeople can hike up the price pronto. Look casual and discreet—“most ukays are in dodgy locations so it’s best to blend with the crowd. (don’t wear jewelry)

4. Bring barya (loose change). You can’t exactly haggle if you’re carrying money in Php500 and Php1000 denominations.

5. Haggle-frock. Haggle for half the price and meet halfway with the seller. Accumulate purchases and ask for additional items for free. (I personally need to work on this!)

6. Ditch the handbag. Go hands-free—“an oversized sling bag is perfect. Not only can you put your other purchases inside but it also lets you scour the racks with ease.

7. Be greedy. Never put an item down unless you’re sure you aren’t going to get it. Remember that these pieces are one of a kind and that another customer may be eyeing your choices and is just waiting for you to put it back. (I’ve experienced this, good thing it wasn’t my size anyway)

8. Caveat emptor: It’s understood that once you purchase something, you take everything that comes with it: stains, smells and snags. So, check the underarm areas. If it’s overly stained, dump it. Underarms are very sensitive parts and stains only mean that the previous owner did sweat on it profusely and the bacteria from it will never go away.

9. Discriminate: Stay away from bathing suits, (and undergarments! PLEASE!) always wear socks for shoes and always check for holes and stains.

10. Before you buy: Ask: Am I just caught up in the thrill of the low price? Do really I love it? Will I actually wear it? If the answer is no, then it’s just a waste of money.

11. Before you say bye: Tell the store you’ll be back soon and that particular branch is your favorite bargain depot. Befriend that staff and get the number so they’ll alert you for the next batch of new arrivals or even better, you get first dibs on the biggest sales.

12. After you buy: Rinse clothing in vinegar (known to eliminate germs) and wash it off. Another option is to slightly boil it to kill bacteria. Research on fabric care and handling so you don’t ruin your most-coveted bargain discovery! (I don’t rinse mine with vinegar, just slightly boil them and wash them twice. Last is to iron the sensitive parts.)

Found this cool pic while searching for tips (very concise and direct to the point)

Some additional tips:

Always eat before you embark on your journey or at least bring something to munch on. It’s hard to shop if you don’t have the energy! Bring water so you won’t have to buy when you get thirsty and alcohol to sanitize your hands after shopping. 🙂

I guess that’s about it! I’ve been really inspired to share as much info as i can. Watch out for my next post about my 1st Ukay-Ukay escapade and my great finds. 🙂 Til’ my next post! God Bless!