I was already in college when I first heard the term ukay-ukay, and I was told that it was a rage that started in Baguio. It refers to a store that sells used clothing, shoes, and accessories, although it is possible to also find items that have never been used or rather new (and some still with the original price tags) sold there as well. They’re typically found near transport terminals and wet markets. Somehow, I never really got hooked to it, or at least not until recently. And, it probably has something to do with my first visit to an ukay-ukay, which wasn’t pleasant at all.
The first ukay-ukay I’ve been to was a huge room with rows and rows of clothes. It had no air conditioning, so the room was so stuffy, and after a few minutes of being inside it, I had trouble breathing. I had to leave before I was able to find anything I would want to buy. The strong odor apparently came from the disinfectant used on clothes. I had to console myself with the fact that I was pretty good at hunting down at the mall branded apparel at bargain prices. I decided then that ukay-ukay shopping was not for me.
Years passed and I met some coworkers who prided themselves as ukay-ukay queens. Impressed with the items they had supposedly bought from an ukay store, I would tag along whenever they would schedule a trip to their favorite shops, daring them to prove to me that I could also get something as nice for myself from an ukay-ukay. They would bring me from one store to another until I found something that I liked.
There were times when I would find items that were in really good condition, but rather expensive, especially for a second-hand clothing. Most of the time though, I would buy only skirts because I felt that they’re the safest item to wear from an ukay store, i.e., probably the most hygienic piece of clothing compared to blouses, pants, undergarments, even shoes.
Since most of the things I usually ended up buying weren’t really much of a great find, I had stopped going to ukay-ukay for years unless my daughter(s) would need a costume for a school presentation that I couldn’t easily find at mall department stores. However, now that we live in the suburbs where beauty salons and ukay-ukay are just about everywhere, not to mention my in-laws, who live across the street from us are frequent ukay-ukay shoppers, my curiosity to see if the stores in our area are really better than the ones I’ve visited before got the better of me. I can’t say though that I finally thoroughly enjoyed the experience this time, albeit it was better than the ones I had before.
It wasn’t until I came back from my recent solo trip to Singapore (to visit my husband and meet one of my cousins and his family as well as some friends) that I began to look at an ukay store with different eyes. Apparently, while I was away, my 13- and 10-year old daughters visited one of the stores with my in-laws and found a few items that they really liked. And, I must admit that I was pretty impressed with their bargain-hunting skills when I saw their loot.
As much as possible, I would only buy them brand new clothes. However, if you think about it, there’s really no harm in having them use second-hand clothes, even from strangers. After all, kids generally do not have body odor and they tend to outgrow clothes fast. Besides, there are so many anti-bacterial products available in the market now; disinfecting them should not be a problem at all.
Out of curiosity, plus proof of their ability to find great items at an ukay-ukay, I started to give in to my daughters’ request to visit the store again. I also used it as an opportunity to teach them how to budget their money by giving each of them only PHP250.00 to spend.
Just like any adult shopper with so many options to choose from but with a limited budget, my daughters had some struggles while shopping too. They kept asking for my opinion, if not for extra money so they could buy everything that they wanted. Nevertheless, I was proud of what they have accomplished in the end: getting sensible yet fashionable pieces within the budget. I even got into the shopping spree myself and bought each of us a pajama set for Christmas!
So, what do you think? Good buy or not? ❤
P. S. I had been to the same ukay-ukay twice this week already. Shhh!