Sale Prices in Manila

There are two types of inquiries that are perhaps the most common here on LiP: Requests for job assistance or questions about cost of living. With cost of living, it is a difficult, if not impossible, question to answer. Everyone has their own concept of whether a price is good or not. Everyone has a different level that they deem “affordable” or “reasonable”. We all have different income and budgets. For instance, Rebecca and I live fairly modestly. Money is not a major concern of ours, yet we generally don’t waste it or buy “frivolous” things too often. Overall, my cost of living is around 35% cheaper than in Los Angeles and around 15% cheaper than in Abu Dhabi… with most of the savings coming from cheaper rent. Though it is understandable to try and make a budget before moving, it really is an exercise in futility trying to nail down anything other than in basic, general terms until you live here a while and your lifestyle and spending patterns adjust.

A couple of years ago, I scanned some sale pages from a local supermarket, Shopwise, in order to give those thinking of moving here a very rough idea about moving costs. This is, perhaps, the best way to convey some cost of living information… You see the actual prices and make up your own mind. ThThe Shopwise store where we shop reminds me of the “Super Kmart” stores in the States (Not sure if they still exist): A general merchandise area with an equivalent-sized grocery area. We like shopping there. There is a decent selection of imported brands (They recently started carrying the “Casino” brand from France. Casino (Also owns Geant) is a French supermarket chain, and their store brands are very high quality), and the stores are large, sanitary, and often have very good prices. Shopwise is known for having very good sales, and the brochure below is from their current “Back to School” sale. During sales, Shopwise is extremely crowded.


So, take a look at the brochures. Though they are sale prices, they should give you a very general idea about how much things cost here. Many of the items are off brands or non-branded, but rest assured that higher quality or different brands are available in Manila. When you start talking provinces, the picture becomes far less cut-and-dry. Typically, in the provinces, consumer goods availability is much less, and costs are higher, depending on how rural the area may be. For instance, in Tuguegarao, there are no SM, Shopwise, or Rustans stores…. Your selection of imported goods will approach nil, and they will be very expensive should you manage to find them. In areas like Davao, Cebu, or Subic, your selection will be much on par with Manila, but the prices are likely to be higher. Perhaps those readers living elsewhere can give an idea about how similar prices are in their areas.

Be sure to click on the photo so the size is large enough so you can see the prices!

 

Post Author: JohnM (207 Posts)

John Miele is a Citizen of the World, having spent time in many locations around the globe. Currently, he finds himself in Manila, but travels throughout the Philippines. John joined the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine in mid-2008.


Comments

  1. BillB says

    Hey John, I think that is a great way to let people know what the cost of live here can be. Just like you said it is different for everyone as you all live different and what style, level, ect, ect we want to live with. The Shopewise is like you said a department store and you will pay a difference just because of that. If you want to save more you can go to some other stores and get a price that is just a little lower or to the markets. The thing to remember is that as you go to these smaller and smaller places and the prices go down so does the quality, something to think about.

    One thing that I do not like to buy for the markets is meat. It is not kept cold and you have no idea how long it has been dead. The thing that gets me with the markets is that you see people walking throught the market holding their nose because of the smell, well that smell is of rotting meat. Just my thought on the markets and getting meat there. Everything else is good to get there.

    Oh, great article!

    • Don says

      Have to agree on the wet markets. Most people think its the freshest meat but places like Cubao in Manila stink to high heaven and they have been known to sell double dead meat. In Manila, I asked the knowledgeable shoppers and they will tell you to stick to Garcia for pork and Magnolia for chicken. I will go to Terrys or Santees for Aussie beef, local just is too tough. Its actually better to get your chicken that has been immediately frozen unless you can see it clucking before its head is chopped off..

      • John Miele says

        Don: that is why so many Filipinos only eat well-done meat. It surprised me how the meat counters were “branded” here when we first arrived… I had never seen that before in other countries.

        For meat, Rebecca has favorite vendors who she knows. For chicken, we tend to stick with magnolia. One interesting thing I noticed is that there is very little difference in price between brands… So we go on quality.

        I will also say that Rebecca will virtually never buy fish in Manila…. Polluted local water and not fresh if imported. She has mama buy it in the province for her and ship it down on the bus

        • jonathan says

          John,

          Most fish that you see in the wet markets in Manila came from the provinces. The catch are dropped at Navotas Fishport mostly coming from Mindanao like in GenSan, Palawan etc. It is sold at dawn then transported to various wet markets by the buyers/vendors themselves. That’s why in Manila, never buy fish in the afternoon coz it might be spoiled or not fresh already. The freshwater fish like bangus, tilapia etc usually comes from Dagupan and in surrounding provinces of Laguna De Bay (although I do agree that it has become polluted with overcrowded fish pens that abound resulting to numerous fish kills in recent years)

          • John Miele says

            Jonathan: I would agree, but what we see in the market here is rarely fresh… I think much spoils due to the heat

    • John Miele says

      Bill: actually, Rebecca tends to buy most vegetables and fruits from the wet markets…. She may pick up the occasional lettuce or carrots while at the supermarket, but my guess is that at least 80% of what we buy there is dry goods and so on. Again, everybody has different preferences

      • Don says

        Good point on produce. I buy mine at the local shop in Market Market. It says its organic, but take that with a grain of salt. One of my riding buddies is a hot house farmer in Tagatay (tomato’s, peppers, leafy veg) and although he lists as organic, will admit he uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides as there is no ordinance on what you claim as organic.

  2. chasdv says

    Hi John,
    Much of the hardware goods are extremely cheap, but i suspect also the quality as well. I’ve experienced P99 can openers that either don’t work, or fall to bits within 48hrs, and P99 forks and spoons that bend when in use lol.
    Personally i would prefer to pay more for quality that lasts, doubt i would be shopping there, but hey, each to their own.

    • John Miele says

      Chas: well, better quality hardware is certainly here…. I generally go to Ace for that stuff myself. Much like a Kmart in the US, hardware at these types of stores tend to be impulse buys…”oh, I need to get a crescent wrench”

      • John Miele says

        However, quality is always available here at a price… You just need to look. In the provinces though, some things are unavailable at any price

  3. RandyL says

    One thing that surprises me there is the price of Bananas. Doing the conversion, bananas shown in the flyer are about .68 cents p/lb. I just bought some today for .49 cents p/lb and they not even grown here! Thank goodness I have producing banana trees in my yard in Samar.

      • RandyL says

        Steve, we are building a house just outside Calbayog City. Hope to move in the next 6-9 mos. I have guards on my bananas!

    • John Miele says

      randy: interesting…. I’m not a banana eater myself. I’m certain that they
      Isn’t be cheaper at the wet market, but by how much I don’t know.

      • RandyL says

        John, now that I think about it, most grocery goods will be more expensive in the “supermarkets”. Should be able to save something at the local wet market.

    • chasdv says

      I’m paying as little as P100 a kilo in some UK supermarkets but quality is poor, some rotten inside, so mostly i go to an independant Greengrocer and pay @P150 to P175 a kilo for best quality. Most bananas sold in UK come from various S.American countries.

  4. Lenny says

    You took alot of time and effort to write this article…well done……..for people in the U S you can use 40P to equal a dollar,, it will be quite close to evaluate… Prices seem to be the same as Manila and here in Dumaquete, I do quite a bit of shopping so I know…Prices have gone up in the last year, however, most noticeable is the vegetables in my opinion..Your right most of the savings can come from the lower rent, if your comfortable with your living conditions, (the affordibility)… then you got it made the rest of the way.. Also,lately it seems a lot of new food places have been springing up and the food and menu’s along with some good steak dinners have come along….I had a great steak dinner just the other night for $6.00 usd or 260P…( maybe John another article such as this showing menu prices??)) If you read this site, you can tell most of the ex-pats are certainly happy here….

    • John Miele says

      Lenny: thank you. Sometimes you do see bargains. I’ve also noticed the cheap steak places recently (new trend?)

    • John Miele says

      Carlton: That’s why I posted this circular… Since there was a pretty large variety of products. Everything is available in Manila, but always at a price.

      • John Miele says

        Gee, aren’t you clever. I intend to keep writing if for no other reason than to tick you off. You really have nothing better to do with your life than troll. What a useful member of society you are!

      • RandyL says

        To the troll, whoever you are, I have two points to make:
        1. The information John provided in this post makes for a great budgeting tool for those of us that aren’t living in the RP yet, and can help determine potential living costs.
        2. You’re about as annoying as stepping in dog poo and about as useless as a football bat! Go away.

  5. Mitch Madden says

    Just an example. In 1998 & 1999 while on 2 visits to many areas in the Philippines,I noticed a huge difference in price,depending on where you were. At the time the Peso/Dollar exchange rate was about the same as it is now at 41-43 pesos to the dollar. Anyway,In Mandaluyong City in a low end neighborhood,Filipinos’ were paying 60 and as much as 80 pesos per kilo for,low quality farmed fish (Tilapia). At the same time,while visiting a poor area not far from Oroquieta City in Misamis Occidental,Mindanao, I bought 5 kilos of extremely fresh ocean fish,delivered to our nipa huts (practically still alive).The price was 19 pesos per kilo.That is not a typo. 19 pesos per kilo for fresh ocean fish vs. 80 pesos for low quality tilapia. The fish that were 19 pesos per kilo were not big fish (only 6-8″. I don’t know exactly what species they were,but I have caught sardines,anchovies & smelt that looked very similar. Anyway, to verify John’s point,RE: Cost of Living in the Philippines,a person can live incredibly on the cheap,if they are willing to live with few if any modern conveniences & live away from the big city & in general away from where people with money congregate. It helps to live with a good Filipino family & live away from areas where foreigners & well off Filipinos with money live (because logic indicates money drives up prices. Supply & demand also drive up prices.The Philippines is increasing its population upwards of 6 thousand people each & every day. That puts pressure on everything & food is perhaps a the top of the list.

    • John Miele says

      Mitch: Could not agree more… Food (fresh food) is generally cheaper out in the sticks. However, I also find consumer goods much more expensive, very much along the lines of Dave’s note below.

  6. says

    First of all Mitch’s comment summed it up better than anything else. You _can_ live extremely cheaply, the actual cost of living in the Philippines depends ever so much more on the individual than on where they live and other such questions.

    Can I live on $770 a month in the Philippines? Absolutely. Millions and millions of Filipinos live on half that much or less.
    Will you be happy living on $770 a month? Ah, that’s the operative question, isn’t it?

    The reason I was prompted to start a reply though, was the vast differences I see here from living inside Metro Manila, as you do, John, with living in “the provinces”.

    And I don’t necessarily mean remote provinces. We live less than 10 miles from the Shopwise where you and Rebecca shop, yet there is nothing, and I mean nothing remotely resembling that store for any price around us.

    We can’t even see the same movies in the cinema or watch the same shows on TV as you do, all because we live “outside the Metro”.

    People making their cost of living decision on those “It’s cheaper in the provinces” statements which are so common should carefully consider what’s available in the provinces. If I were to move across the line to Quezon City, I could save a fortune … although I’d probably spend it all n stuff you can buy now and I can’t buy without a trip to “Manila Proper”.

    Commerce and government all operate on one principle. There is Metro Manila and then there is “the rest of the Philippines”, and the line is very distinct.

    Just becuase things are cheaper doesn’t always make being a “proviciana” better … in my view anyway.

    • John Miele says

      Dave: I agree 100%. Every trip to the province for us, we are carrying at least 50-100 kg of stuff up with us. Things like shampoo, toothpaste, soap, laundry detergent, etc. The selection available in Abulug for those things is generally very poor, with only a single brand sometimes or in small sizes. Additionally, the price difference for something like toothpaste up there is, perhaps, 50% to 100% higher in price.

      Funny you mention it, but on my business trips, Rebecca asks me to pick up things in HKG, etc… because it is cheaper. This trip, vaseline and vicks vapor rub. It IS a savings as long as I’m under my baggage limit. Funny thing, I oftem pick up dried fish in Japan or HKG and we ship to Abulug as a treat. Dried fish? Yep. Because they like the easy single serve packets and varieties that are totally unavailable there.

      • chasdv says

        From my limited experience i think its a myth that the rural provinces there are cheaper, most stuff is more expensive unless your going to live on rice/dried fish/vegies, or grow/rear your own.

        Funnily enough there was an article in a UK paper today stating that the cost of living is around £2000 (@ US$3200) per year more to live in a UK rural province than in a UK City.

      • says

        John & all,I’ve been pondering cost differences. I’ve noticed around the Philippines that many Sari_Sari store operators travel to metro areas to buy their stock. My wife is from Laguna Province. She was a buyer for her aunt’s clothing business in Binan. She traveled to metro Manila to buy all clothing stock. The aforementioned indicates processed/packaged goods,textiles,mfg products,,imports, etc.etc. are cheaper,more plentiful with greater variety when buying in bulk or in general,buying where businesses work on volume rather than margin. In the provinces away from metropolitan areas,most if not all businesses are small.They lack the capital to buy in volume & they have transportation costs as well. Sales volume is likely lower in the province & shelf life can be a consideration on many perishable items & others. Having said that,Local,fresh vegetables,fruits & meat in the province can be down right cheap & as fresh as can be. The reason is obvious.You are buying direct from the grower/farmer/fisherman etc. A man in the province who butchers his own animal,grows his own vegetables,picks his own fruit.copra,catches his own fish can sell direct to locals without all of the overhead and other difficulties a business at a market in town has. Hope that explains. I guess is is just common sense. I really like living without modern conveniences truly in the province. Admittedly,I haven’t lived really truly simple (Filipino style) in the province for long. It might get old,but after a week,I was sorry to leave the simple life in a nipa hut up a trail in the jungle. I am pretty lazy by nature & I don’t easily get bored.Perhaps that is why I felt so at peace in the jungle.There are things that must be done,but the pace is nice & easy & there is no traffic or other man made noise. Just smiling faces,fetching water,washing clothes in the river,gathering fruit & jungle debris for cooking outside,taking a bath,burning the trash,feeding the animals,cooking,killing & butchering etc. Nice life!

        • Ricardo Sumilang says

          When you have reached that point in your life when you can say you have finally arrived, and all the trappings of modern conveniences no longer make an iota of difference whether you have them or not, living in a simple nipa hut amid golden fields of grain, with a gurgling brook outside your window to lull you to sleep at night, then be greeted by the first rays of the sun to the sight and sweet smell of ripened rice stalks gently swaying in the soft breeze, while the azure, blue mountains beckon you from a distance, well, this IS paradise found only in the province. Only in the Philippines. Here, it matters not a whit whether the price per pound of steak has gone up or down.

          • John Miele says

            Ricardo: Yet, there are many who do not like to, or are unable to, live happily without conveniences. Believe me, it takes some serious adjustment to live in a place like Abulug, and need to travel for an hour just to replace a light bulb, or buy nails, or any of dozens of other things.

        • John Miele says

          Mitch: There is often only limited demand in small towns… If the demand were strong, someone would be selling there.

  7. Mark G. says

    Hi John,
    From Santo Nino Island we travel by bangka to Calbayog City for shopping as there is no market on the island. We do most of our fruit, vegetable and some meat shopping at the wet market and prices are generally OK. Dry goods we get from a local ‘super market’ (family owned) and the prices are 10 to 15% higher than you’ve listed. Our meat we get from a butcher shop and it’s either very fresh or shipped in frozen. Of course with three brothers-in-law that are fishermen we seldom have to buy fish but we will buy shrimp from the wet market sometimes too. Bob’s article about S+R prompted us to visit Cebu in May where we bought a membership. They had pretty good prices and things not available in the province.
    As you probably know we travel to Manila or Cebu when we want to do any real shopping, lol. I’m stuck back in the US for the time being. Sorry for being so long winded.
    Mark G.

    • John Miele says

      Mark:

      Certainly the prices in the provinces can be higher. Rebecca’s family go to Tuguegarao around twice per year to shop for things unavailable in town (Or Rebecca ships things up from Manila… sometimes unusual things, like light bulbs, that aren’t available in town.)

      • Mark G. says

        John the big inconvenience is having to take the boat just to go shopping. That eats up roughly 5 hours of the day in traveling. With no market on the island you need to travel to Calbayog frequently. Thank God for fish and rice, lol.

  8. Paul Thompson says

    John;
    Here is something I’ve noticed and should be looked at by all shoppers. Expiration dates, Australia, Europe and the United States will strip products from their stores that have a shorter shelf left on their item. They bundle it up and sell to a wholesaler who will ship it to the rest of the world. They purchased it at a bargain price and sold it to the world at a better price. Using the Philippines as an example, it is now an imported brand name and my fetch a high price at their store. There is nothing wrong with these products, as long as the consumer checks the dates.

    • John Miele says

      Paul: I often see the expired dates here on imported food. You are correct in that it won’t hurt you, but the quality could suffer. Be extremely careful with frozen imported food…. I usually won’t buy it because it often has thawed

  9. ScottF says

    John,

    I didn’t even take the time to read all the othe rcomments about this article. I just wanted to tell you that this type of article is EXACTLY what someone like me, who will be moving there next year, wants to see!!! I wanted to see the costs of various common household items for sale in the Philippines. I’ve tried to explain the various things to my in-laws to have them price thigns out for me, but this is perfect, and just what the doctor asked for!!

    Ok, I’m no doctor, but it is what I was hoping to be able to get my hands on!

    Thank you SOOOooooo much for taking the time to scan and post this information. It has helped me dramatically in determining what to buy here in the U.S. and what to buy there. Needless to say, my bags will be MUCH lighter when we come there now!!! :)

    I’ve got a lot of weight on my shoulders from the move, and everything else in my life right now, and I have to tell you, you just took a HUGE load off my back. You’re a great guy, and I don’t really even know you!!

    Scott

  10. Paul Thompson says

    Hi John;
    Here is something I’ve noticed and should be looked at by all shoppers here in the Philippines. Expiration dates, Australia, Europe and the United States/Canada will strip products from their stores that have a shorter shelf left on their item. They bundle it up and sell to a wholesaler who will ship it to the rest of the world. They purchased it at a bargain price and sold it to the world at a better price. Using the Philippines as an example, it is now an imported brand name that will fetch a higher price at their store. There is nothing wrong with these products, as long as the consumer checks the dates.

  11. BB says

    Have to say I really appreciate you posting something that shows the prices in parts of the Philippines. I currently own a large thrift store in Canada and have been clothes there for the past 6 months preparing to open a smaller scale thrift store in tampakan or Cebu. The info has been helpful.

  12. roselyn says

    Hi John: Thanks for a very informative article. Yes, K-Mart Superstores exist throughout the U.S. The last one that I visited was in Dearborn, Michigan (close to the Henry Ford Museum complex where I had to do a research presentation). The largest superstore is Wal-Mart. We have three superstores in our small town. There was only one when we arrived here in 1990. Recent prices (just last night at Wal-Mart, July 4th) for comparison are as follows: New York strip steak $9.98 lb., pork chops $4.98 lb. (boneless chopped thin), russet potatoes $0.75 lb., bananas $0.39 lb. Rent in our university town in a middle class neighborhood is around $850.00 per month for a 1400 square feet home (3 bedrooms, 2 baths). Private insurance is at a whopping $920.00 per month (2 adults without pre-existing condition – quote from our insurance: Allstate). I pay $320.00 per month (for 2 adults) from my employer’s program. My employer pays 60% of my premium. This rate on my part will increase when Obamacare will kick in as there will be an additional 30 million medicaid people that will be added in.

    • John Miele says

      Roselyn: Our health insurance is much lower here, with much lower benefit levels (Though enough to cover 90% of potential risk). There are areas in Manila for 3 BR at similar rates, granted, in the nicer areas.

  13. Larry Saum says

    When my wife and I were in Gamu, Isabela, (Northern Luzon), in 2011, we did a lot of shopping at the SaveMore Mall and supermarket in Ilagan. It is relatively new and more are being built in various areas. I found the selection of foods, both imported and local to be rather amazing. We were also able to charge our purchases on our US Chase Bank VISA credit cards. The currency exchange fees added to our costs, but we didn’t have any problems with the availability of almost anything we wanted. They even had a couple of good hardware shops. My wife even got new mirrors to put up in the bathrooms in our house there since none had ever been put in when the house was built new in about 1999. US Magazines ( like Time and Newsweek) were available, but then I noted that their dates were about two years old, or more.
    There were a lot of stands and shops selling pirated movies and TV video DVD’s.
    I noted that our relatives even had recent movies listed as “Blue-Ray” Videos, which they played fine on their regular DVD player.
    I shopped in a Mercury drug store one day and was noting the shelves full of Head and Shoulders shampoos, with versions that I hadn’t seen in the US, especially the ones that prevent hair loss, as well as prevent dandruff. Interesting.
    I’m probably going to live several more years in Indiana in the US before going to the PI again. Every visit there, since I married my wife in 1972. is a new revalation.

    • John Miele says

      Larry: I’ve been to the new Savemore in Gamu… Lots of people even come down from Tuguegarao to go shopping there. I was surprised when they built it. There are reasons that Tuguegarao does not have a decent mall that I will not write about in a public forum (read between the lines). Unusual, given that it is not only the provincial capitol, but really the economic center for N. Luzon. My guess is that SM or Robinsons will eventually set up there since the city is growing fairly rapidly (We are always asked to buy pizza there since it is the last pizza (Greenwich) going north bound.

  14. donna west says

    I enjoyed the article and all the comments. really liked looking at the sale flyer. thanks for showing me all the merchandise and prices.

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