IN PHOTOS: Divisoria and Dapitan Arcade, Metro Manila's joyful Christmas corners
MANILA, Philippines – Where is Christmas in Metro Manila? With people shuffling from one end of the city to another to attend an endless stream of holiday gatherings, or flocking to the malls to accomplish their gift list, often the brightest lights we see are the brake lights on cars stuck in a traffic jam, and instead of Christmas cheer, it’s mostly stress we feel.
But there is holiday joy to be found in Metro Manila – if you know where to look. There are, of course, the lights and sounds shows that have become an annual tradition for places like Ayala Triangle Gardens, or the Meralco Liwanag Park.
There is also Divisoria, an area known for its cheap prices. There, the streets are pockmarked, the crowds are thick, but the smiles and laughter are plentiful.
“Pasok mga suki, presyong Divisoria,” blares in singsong from a jangling speaker on one of the stalls in Divisoria’s Tutuban Center market – an attempt to stand out in a sea of vendors selling a similar range of curios and giftables.
In this market, shoppers can find everything from clothing, to toys, to watches and clocks, to Christmas decor. One stall is only just setting up at 6 pm, but they say they stay there until midnight.
They have been selling LED Christmas lights in Tutuban for 5 years. They’ve been there for so long, that they’ve seen one of their regular customers go from being a single woman shopping for Christmas lights for her condo, to a wife and soon-to-be-mother buying more lights for a bigger house. One can imagine that for both sellers and vendors, every season feels like an annual homecoming of sorts.
About 6 kilometers from Divisoria there’s the Dapitan Arcade. As an area that sells mostly Christmas decor, Dapitan is the progenitor of all well-decorated homes and offices, the literal source of holiday sparkle and shine.
The vendors here are covered in glitter from all the decor they unbox and move and pack. Some of them open shop in the morning, and stay until 11 pm.
One stall selling parols has been in Dapitan for 12 years. Their capiz lanterns, which range from P1,500 to P2,500 in cost, are made in faraway places like Zambales and Pampanga, but it’s in Manila that they find homes. Aside from the parols, they also sell Christmas trees – P4,500 for a 7-foot tall tree. The holidays for them is the biggest season for business. The rest of the year, they sell flowers, mostly to caterers and events organizers who use it for decor.
Another stall sells an assortment of Christmas lights – from LED white strings, to colored bulbs, to flashy ones that take different shapes.
“Wala na kaming tulugan pag malapit na ang pasko,” one young vendor says, but she doesn’t seem to mind – the other vendors are her friends, and they all have a good laugh as they work. They playfully negotiate prices with potential buyers. When a camera is pointed at them, they stirke their fiercest poses, and then break down into laughter, joyful as Christmas.
Here’s what the holidays look like in Divisoria and Dapitan Arcade: