The Beauty and the Beast of Ukay-Ukay

I saw tempting offers on the streets as I passed by the cheaply priced pairs of shoes on my way to a mall. I needed a new pair so that I won’t be overusing the few ones I’m using. I saw it as a good deal since it takes me over a year to buy another one, unless necessary. Branded shoes are expensive for me. But I was disappointed. I cannot find my size among my favorite picks, and those that fit my feet well do not go along with my taste of style and quality. After almost going through every display, I was tired.  I then proceeded to the shopping mall!

In Davao City, where I grew up, I remember that the bulk of our Ukay–Ukay  vendors are located mainly  in the downtown area, among the public markets, the China town area, and at Roxas Street where Night Market happens. I have gone to some of those, and have spotted deals for as low as five pesos, usually among the underwear, garments with defect, and mixed stuff.  Yet you may have to sweat it out, no gain without pain as they say. One has to patiently rummage over various items in the hope of picking out a treasure!

The beauty of Ukay-Ukay is charming—a chance to street shop as a form of group bonding, a variety of imported signature or quality clothes that one may not afford when at the malls, an enjoyable time to constantly haggle on prices, an item you are almost 100% sure no one else in the city has exactly, clothing styles from abroad which are unique, a sense of accomplishment out of spending wisely, and an opportunity to help out microbusinesses.

Yet, Ukay-Ukay is not a thing for everyone in every season. Many have thought of it as a bet on chances to stumble on what you want. There are discouraging beasts to face and conquer. These commonly include exerting numerous arm stretches; standing for hours; spending a good dose of patience on shopping (the act of Ukay-Ukay), on bargain hunting, on bearing with the distinct “Ukay smell,” on having skin irritations for those with allergies, and on cleaning or disinfecting what you bought; and bringing a great deal of meticulousness to make sure your treasure has no defects, as there is no guarantee for a replacement.

However, there are also people who are not really particular with the details. Thus, fighting the beasts is a piece of cake for them! Shopping at Ukay-Ukay can still be done in a quick and effortless way. I have observed people who can decide what to buy in a few scrambles, consuming so little time.

Bottom line, Ukay is an adventure for those with the extra time, a great tolerance, a good eye, and a passion for clothing and bargains. It can also be a good choice for people who just want to stick with their tight budget, distress, or take advantage of the economical price at the moment.

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