“What is that strange sound you are making? Ukay-ukay?”
This is probably one of the comments you will receive if you say, “ukay-ukay” out loud.
Ukay-ukay stores are probably some of the biggest second hand clothing stores I have ever seen. ‘Ukay-ukay’ in Filipino means to dig, or rummage. The name comes from the piles of clothes an ukay-ukay store usually has, placed on tables where you need to dig and dig to find what you’re looking for (if you know what you’re looking for!).
My husband loves op-shops (what we call second hand stores in Australia!), and through a conversation with one of my cousins, all of a sudden ukay-ukay stores were on our list of things to see on different islands around the Philippines! We have visited ukay-ukay stores housed in tents, huge warehouses, office spaces; and it is always a surprise to see U.S or Australian brand name clothes all the way on a random island in the Philippines.
Ukay-ukay stores are usually filled with locals, trying to find a bargain dress or unique jacket. A few people we spoke to about these bargain stores, said that you always hear of a friend or relative who has scored brand new high end items, even with the store tags on! For example, there was mention of an authentic Louis Vuitton bag found in good condition in an Ukay-ukay store in central Luzon…
My theory to the large amount of clothing, shoes and accessories and numerous ukay-ukay stores is that they are shipped over as aid during one of the natural disasters that often strikes the Philippines. You will be sure to find random things that will not suit the context of the Philippines such as knee-high leather boots in a size 41 (Filipino feet are generally quite small!) or snow boots. But hey, Filipinos are known to be resourceful and entrepreneurial and they have certainly tried to turn lemons into lemonade. If you love second-hand shopping, looking either for that one off item or a bargain, then this would have to be some of the best second-hand clothing stores I have ever seen!
**Authors note: You may need a time limit and a leash on your other half. The warehouses are huge, and you may not realise a whole day has passed while you have been busy ‘rummaging’. The ukay-ukay stores pictured can be found in Olivarez, Tagaytay. There are numerous stores there that will keep you busy for a few days!**