What to Buy in Philippines

Philippines Shopping

The Philippines is an excellent destination for anyone interested in picking up elaborate handicrafts, home-furnishings, jewelry, embroidery and baskets. In buying traditional crafts such as silks and carvings, tourists are invariably helping to support a still-growing and fragile economy. There is no doubt that Manila is the place to go for serious shopping. This is a shopping capital, with many air-conditioned, brand-heavy, ultra-modern malls. If you’re looking to buy something a bit more indigenous then the various markets around Manila and on the other islands are laden with handmade, high-quality goods.

Away from Luzon Island and Cebu there is more of a market culture. Although shopping malls can be found across the country, markets tend to draw bigger rural crowds. With any travel experience a trip to the local market should always be a priority if you hope to get better acquainted with the culture and pick up some bargains. You will also find that most traders have a good command of English so negotiating a cheaper price is always a possibility.

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Since the Philippines were on the Chinese trading routes, it is hardly surprising that quite an amount of porcelain can be found in shops around Manila. However, if you're planning to purchase any antiques, do be careful with what you're buying and make sure items are certified. Interesting santos (statues of saints) are also available in the antique shops at Ermita and Makati as well as other smaller shops in the older towns such as Vigan in Ilocos.


These baskets are made from a range of natural fibers like bamboo, rattan, nipa and various palms. Demonstrating unique craftsmanship represented through their varying regional designs, the basket industry does well here and goods are widely exported. Appreciated for both their aesthetic and functional appeal, these baskets also come in a whole range of sizes, making for great gifts and can be found around tourist sites and most markets.


Brassware is a specialty in Mindanao (Lanao Del Sur) as the first smiths of the Philippines were recorded here.  Today, they continue to manufacture jewellery boxes, gongs, bed frames, betel nut boxes and canon replicas. Like antiques, tourists are advised to be careful when purchasing brassware. The shops selling these articles also sell ceremonial canopies embroidered and sequined for royal Muslim weddings and feasts.


The barong tagalog comes in many different versions, from the formal expensive type to the short-sleeved version often worn by tourists. You can pick the translucent pineapple fibre called piqa as material with the finest hand-embroidery or the cheaper ramie with machine embroidery. There is a wide selection of embroidered clothes for women such as the barong dress, shaped like the barong tagalog but  longer, the embroidered kaftans and jelabas with scarves, bags, and handkerchiefs to match.


The two most common types of jewelry found in the Philippines are shell and silver, which it has traded for centuries. Mother-of-pearl is probably the most popular, followed by coral and tortoise shells that are increasing in popularity as well. <> In spite of that, tourists are discouraged from buying items made from coral and tortoise shells as this industry is slowly destroying the coral reefs and subsequently the surrounding habitats.  The best silver jewelry is found in Baguio, where training the from St. Louis University has produced skilled students to preserve the fine craftsmanship of creating jewelry.


Usually a colourful combination of woven pandan leaves, often used as adornment in hotels and Filipino homes. The mats found in Luzon are mostly natural-colored pandan mats, while those from Leyte and Samar in the Visayas sport more elaborate designs. The mats from Basilan and Sulu are geometrically designed, which make for an interesting finished product. Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga are the places to visit for these inexpensive pieces of folk art.


Woodcarving is another must-buy item when visiting the Philippines. High-quality woodcarving produced by the Ifugao people can be found in North Luzon's Ifugao Province. Religious carvings and the animal totems from Palawan are some of the woodcarving items that are available in Ermita's tourist area.

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