Some years ago, only the well-off people had the spending power to buy classy and imported branded apparel such as Ralph Lauren, Nike, Prada, Gucci, Levi’s, Dolce and Gabana, and DKNY. Then the recent arrival of the ukay-ukay and wagwagan shops in Manila let the common Pinoys finally have a taste of high fashion. These things may be segunda mano, but the clothes, bags, and shoes for sale in ukay-ukay shops are definitely worth seeing and perhaps buying. Times are hard and we need an alternative place to buy decent clothes without breaking our bank accounts. And mind you, not all the items for sale in ukay-ukay shops are segunda mano, as some are brand new and even have their original tags attached. The best thing is, you can buy them a lot cheaper than those you can find at Rustan’s.
As a bargain hunter myself, I conduct my own forays at our local ukay-ukay shops in [[Cubao]] where I usually hunt for camera bags and toys for my collecting hobby. One of my recent finds is a very slightly used Lowepro professional camera bag (worth P7,500) which I bought, after a few minutes’ haggling, for a measly P600. The story did not stop there, as stuck in one of the pockets of the bag was a folded USD20 bill. I was about to return the money to the ukay-ukay shop when a friend told me that the money did not belong to the ukay-ukay owner, but to the former owner of my bag!
Indeed, bargain hunting can lead you to so many exciting and rewarding discoveries. It may take time and talent digging through all those thousands of items. But if you are patient and persevering, you will be rewarded with a great piece of expensive apparel, as hidden among those thousands of hangers and piles of clothes may just be the one treasure waiting for you to discover. To tell you the truth, my first buy in the ukay-ukay was my beloved slightly used Bally shoes which I bought three years ago. The price was tagged at P1,200 but after some bargaining, I was able to buy it for P700. Of course, you know how much a pair of Bally is worth in [[Greenbelt]]. No wonder many people are now attracted to the ukay-ukay, and they are not all poor. Some rich people regularly shop in ukay-ukay, too, including many of my well-off friends.
Anyway, this segunda mano bargain hunting made me look back at the 1970s. When as a kid, I would accompany our housemate (household help) to shop at the popular Eloy’s in Sta. Cruz, Manila, possibly the very first segunda mano clothing store in the country. Back then, I thought it was weird buying second hand clothes because I thought they were the belongings of dead people. It was only later that I found that Eloy’s actually got their supply of second hand clothes simply by buying them from garage sales, or from people directly selling to their store. Eloy’s ran such a brisk business buying and selling used clothes that soon the entire neighborhood of Bambang, Sta. Cruz mushroomed with competing used clothing shops. Up to the present, the Bambang area in Sta. Cruz is the mecca of segunda mano clothing shops in Manila, even with the advent of the ukay-ukay and wagwagan shops in Avenida and Quiapo.
To my knowledge, the first ukay-ukay and wagwagan shops as we know them today came from [[Baguio City]], where the Kankanaeys imported used clothing from abroad, especially from Hongkong, the United States, and Europe. It seemed that the rich people in these places have the habit of selling their clothes and things after using them for only a few times. These discarded clothes eventually ended for sale in the ukay-ukay shops.
The locals termed the first shops “wagwagan” because they literally had to “wagwag” (shake off) the dust from the used goods. Later on, the term “ukay-ukay” was used, which means “digging,” as in customers digging into the bundles of clothes to find their hidden gems. While at first the ukay-ukay only carried clothes and apparel, in later times other items began to be included in the inventory: bags and luggage, shoes, toys, books, baby carts, linens, underwear, kitchen utensils, and novelty items.
Just recently, I discovered that some of the most avid fans of ukay-ukay are making
money from their regular shopping. By hunting for such discarded items such as Prada shoes, Louis Vuitton bags, and Gucci scarves, among those piles of segunda mano items, they were able to profit by selling their finds at good prices in online marketplaces like Ebay and Sulit.com. Indeed, the joy of bargain hunting lies in the fact that one can find cheap items that can prove to be profitable investments.
So if you think that the ukay-ukay may be too cheap for you, then you may be missing half of the boat. Explore ukay-ukay. It’s fun and rewarding, and who knows, the imported jacket you may find there may once have been owned by Paris Hilton.
Photos by Dennis Villegas. Some rights reserved.
Click to enlarge.