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Shopping in the Philippines can be a Headache Sometimes


March 26, 2017

Shopping in the Philippines wouldn’t give me a headache if the stores called things by what they are. Most things are named correctly, but not everything. I’ll give you a couple of examples in a minute.

To be fair, it doesn’t give me as much as a headache as it used to. That’s because two malls were opened nearby in 2012. One in Olongapo and one at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Unfortunately, they don’t carry everything I end up looking for.

I’m spoiled by American stores and I still can’t get over it, even after more than a decade of living in the Philippines.

Shopping at American Stores

I’m spoiled mostly by Walmart. It seems like those stores are everywhere in the United States. My family lived in Phoenix, Arizona for 14 years (I’m counting the two years I had to commute monthly from a base in California). There were at least four Walmart stores in a five-mile radius of my house.

Some Walmart stores have grocery sections – they call those Super Walmarts. We didn’t grocery shop at any Walmart store unless the convenience outweighed the cost. There were plenty of places to get groceries at a cheaper cost. Sam’s Club (also owned by Walmart) and Fry’s Food Stores come to mind.

Still, we did most of our grocery shopping at the Air Force base commissary about 11 miles west of our house. The name-brands were generally cheaper there – they didn’t sell generic products.

Anyway… Walmart carries everything most department stores carry and then some, including auto parts and auto supplies. Home Depot, not as ubiquitous as Walmart, carries building supplies and some other stuff as well.

Basically, if I couldn’t find something at Walmart or at Home Depot, it had to be something I would have to go to a specialty store for.


Shopping in the Philippines

Before the two malls opened, I did all my grocery shopping at the Royal Subic store at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Most Filipinos did their shopping at the Olongapo Public market and the surrounding neighborhood.

Finding electronics and computer parts (and peripherals) was a hit or miss kind of thing. There was only one good computer store and what I was looking for was always out of stock. I learned that “sorry, out of stock, sir” meant it either really was out of stock or they didn’t know what I was talking about.

There are computer stores in both malls. There are grocery stores in both malls. Some things will probably never show up in any of them, like grits (made from hominy).

Sometimes I have to adjust my terminology. Jumper cables are called alligator clips. Cables can be called wires and vice-versa. That’s why I usually ignore the many assistants following me around and look for things myself. I only ask when I can’t find what I’m looking for.

If I know how to name something in Tagalog, I will. It makes things a lot easier in the long run. Most of the Filipinos working in the stores speak good English, but not all of them.

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