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Sale Prices in Manila

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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.

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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!

 

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JohnM

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.

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BillB
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BillB

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… Read more »

Don
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Don

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
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John Miele

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… Read more »

jonathan
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jonathan

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… Read more »

John Miele
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John Miele

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
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John Miele

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
Guest
Don

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.

chasdv
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chasdv

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
Guest
John Miele

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”

jonathan
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jonathan

Cheap hardware, household items mostly are imported from China.

John Miele
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John Miele

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

RandyL
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RandyL

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.

Steve
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Steve

Randy, What part SAMAR you live?

RandyL
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RandyL

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
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John Miele

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
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RandyL

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
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chasdv

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.

Lenny
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Lenny

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..… Read more »

John Miele
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John Miele

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

chasdv
Guest
chasdv

I think prices have shot up Globally, they have certainly shot up in the UK.

Carlton Blues
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Carlton Blues

Wow that’s a large interesting mix of products u can buy in comparison to other countries

John Miele
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John Miele

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
Guest
John Miele

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
Guest
RandyL

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.

Mitch Madden
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Mitch Madden

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… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

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.

Dave Starr
Guest

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… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

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… Read more »

chasdv
Guest
chasdv

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.

Mitch Madden
Guest

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… Read more »

Ricardo Sumilang
Guest
Ricardo Sumilang

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… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

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.

RandyL
Guest
RandyL

John, isn’t Abulug way up on the northern Luzon coast?

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

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

Mark G.
Guest
Mark G.

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… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

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.
Guest
Mark G.

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.

RandyL
Guest
RandyL

Your not long winded Mark, you’re just missing the RP too much! 😉

Mark G.
Guest
Mark G.

Randy you know that’s right!

Paul Thompson
Guest
Paul Thompson

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… Read more »

John Miele
Guest
John Miele

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

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