16 November 2004

The Divi Challenge

Last Saturday, we went to my wife's friend's birthday party near the University Belt. After a series of wacky charades, videoke, and tong-its (a local popular card game), the conversation was turned to nice finds at Divisoria. Our host proudly showed us various Christmas decors and gift items that were practically a steal. Enticed by the price and the variety of items on sale, we decided to visit Divisoria ourselves with a couple of other friends, which includes the celebrant.

Yesterday was officially declared a special non-working holiday in commemation of the conclusion of Ramadan for our Muslim brothers. It was the perfect day to visit Divisoria!

Fast-forward to yesterday (hmmm). We found ourselves waking up to the 6:00 alarm clock. We were to meet the ex-birthday celebrant at the D. Jose station of the MRT by 7:30, and Tina's other friend, who knows Divisoria like the back of her hand at McDonald's. We had to be early so as not to get caught up in the human taffic jam.

A quick jeepney ride and all four of us were ready for the buying adventures that lay ahead. We made our naughty-and-nice list the night before, and this we trustily referred to from time to time. Turns out that 8:00AM is not so early after all. There was already quite a crowd in the area when we arrived. We hastily made a beeline for a building that was loaded with toys. My kind of place! We stopped by the first store and were amazed at the low prices. Our 'guide' motioned us to visit the other stalls before making our purchases, and that we did. In Divisoria, you get to hone your negotiating skills to shave-off a couple of pesos from the asking price. But being the only thorn amongst the roses, I let them exercise their bargaining power. I wasn't really able to do much shopping on my part because an auditor was on board :-).

We stopped by McDonald's for a quick snack after a couple of hours and a moderate amount of purchased goods in hand. When we left the store half an hour later, the crowd had increased over tenfold! Apparently other people had the same idea as we have when Monday was declared a holiday. We wanted to buy some stuff at the clothing store in another mall, but managing to squeeze in and out of the crowd was tough. We tried just a couple of stores and were finally able to buy a couple of shirts for the kids. Whew!

When we stepped out of the building, the mass of people milling about was overwhelming. The different noise, smells, and the heat can drown out your senses. I would usually get agitated in such situations, but the trick, I learned, is to take it easy and 'go with the flow'. Also, it makes good sense to keep your bags and your wallets close to you. Better safe than sorry.

Lunchtime saw us at a nearby foodcourt and we made a couple more stops after that. Boy, you really need a lot of stamina to pass the Divi challenge. It's only been half a day and already my feet were killing me! Or is it Mother Nature keeping up with me?

Our last stop is the fruit stall of our 'guide'. Their area is where fruits are dropped off. There were mounds upon mounds of bananas, the kind that is used in cooking (we call it 'saba'). There were also coconuts, mangoes, loads of barbeque sticks, and of course, the sweet potato, known here as the 'musical fruit', as it is known to give you gas after eating a moderate serving.

It was a surprise to see an altar of the Virgin Mary in the midst of the boxes of fruits and sticks, a dominant figure amidst the humdrum of the busy community.

Our 'guide' gave us a bunch of bananas and pineapples as a parting gift (pasalubong). She's such a nice gal.

When we got home at around 5PM, we slumped into the living room sofa, exhausted from the trip. But happy. It was a unique experience, this Divi challenge.

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