A popular local summer destination, Baguio city actually has a lot to offer in the shopping department other than scenic greenery and historical landmarks, sweet delicacies, and covetable cold weather. Over the years, the city has grown to become an ukay-ukay mecca with streets and avenues sprawling with thrift stores left and right. I once came back from Baguio with a huge palengke bag full of new clothes worth only about P1500-2000! But if you have no idea where to shop or where to start (we know it can be quite overwhelming), here’s a quick guide to the city’s best thrift spots for the ultimate ukay-ukay experience.
Session Road corner F. Calderon St.
One of the more visible wag-wagans (as the locals like to call it), this complex at the corner of F. Calderon at Session Road is about three floors and has a vast selection of items from designer goods to stuffed toys. The come on though is the cleanliness of the space. If you’re allergic to dust and that stuffy smell, this might be the best location to shop. Be wary though, prices here aren’t as cheap as you’d think and sellers are aware of branded items, too. This means that a thrifted Marc Jacobs dress could range from P600 to about P1000 or more. Still, a designer piece for a thousand pesos or less is still a fraction of its original price.
East Park Commercial Center and M. Padilla Building (T. Claudio St. corner Harrison Road in front of Jollibee)
If you want to sift through a smaller but quality selection with democratic prices, this two-floor building has select shops that offer curated second-hand designer bags and a lot of hole in the wall type stores with a good selection of clothes. Tip: Always be ready to whip out your Google search because there are a number of fakes out there! But the best shop in this complex is the one right in front of Harrison Road that looks a little bit like a hardware store from the outside. This particular ukay always has a sale rack right by the door and another one when you walk further inside, and a fair amount of plus-size overruns. There are also a number of stores that sell children’s toys and collectible figures, if you’re into that.
U-Need Grocery (San Perfect St. cor. Session Road)
We're calling it, this is probably the best ukay-ukay complex in the city. A personal favorite that I keep coming back to since 2003, U-need is actually the name of this local grocery found at San Perfecto St. in front of Malcolm Square. Surrounding this supermarket is a variety of thrift shops, and one of them is an entire floor that sells second-hand shoes. Yes, AN ENTIRE FLOOR OF SHOES. A flight of stairs accompanied by a sign that says “Ukay-ukay upstairs” will lead you to this magical store. The floor is divided into two sides: sale and new arrival items. Sale items range from pairs costing P80-150 while the new arrivals would be from around P250 (for sandals) to over a thousand (for rubber shoes). I’ve bought about two pairs of Miu Miu mary janes from this thrift store and a lot of super cute quirky sneakers. And hope that the shoe fits! Also, make sure you wear a mask because it can get pretty musky in there.
Another great spot in this complex is the store right beside the supermarket. But don’t go through the clothes hanging on the racks on the first floor, instead, make your way up the slightly dangerous flight of stairs by the left side of the entrance. On the second floor, you’ll either see six to eight racks of clothes or a mound of them on top of cardboard on the floor. The price range? P20-P50! Get ready to dig, but there are some really great finds in there that won’t disappoint! And I mean the Uniqlo, Zara, and Jill Stuart type of steals! There are a lot of denim and trousers in this store, too, so be prepared for P35 bottoms!
Zandueta St. and Hilltop St.
If you want the OG ukay-ukay experience, go to Hilltop street at the heart of the Baguio wet market. Located behind the palengke just beside Maharlika Livelihood Center, you can make your way up Zandueta St. until you reach Hilltop where it’s a mix of hardware stores, wet and dry meats and produce, and thrift stores. But don't forget to enter this small alley at the left of Zandueta St. with a Cebuana Lhuillier branch at the corner. This short alley has ukay-ukays on every side! Since it's located right beside the palengke the prices are quite cheap and you can buy shoes at P120 and cool-looking vintage jackets for P100. At night, if the weather is good, a lot of vendors dump clothes on the street on top of banigs or plastic bags and sell stuff for as low as P5! I heard that this area has been renovated and they’ve built a covered shopping space for mini thrift stalls along the main Hilltop road. But nothing beats bending down, browsing, and bargaining. What’s great is that they never curate their selections so you might actually find a designer steal at an insanely affordable price!
Bayanihan Center (Shanum St. cor. Otek St.)
Known as simply Bayanihan, this place used to be a hotel back in the day but is now filled with thrift shops along Shanum St. Start from the establishments in front of Caltex and then traverse the sidewalk leading to Burnham Park. The clothes may be a little bit pricey like the wag-wagan in Session road, but the quality of the selects here are pretty upscale. There are a lot of shops that sell designer bags, shoes, and clothes. I once found a pair of Nicholas Kirkwoods for only P1500. and would have bought them if they were my size. However, don't let the expensive price tags at the storefront turn you off. Make sure to enter each store and make your way towards the back where the sale racks are found. Also, do not disregard clothes inside those cardboard boxes that say P35 or P50 pesos each—I once found a Céline top and DKNY trousers in one of those boxes, so you never know what you'll end up with. The one rule to remember is to never lose patience—and keep a sharp eye out for those special pieces!