The A Ba Ka of Philippine Souvenirs: U for Ukay-Ukay

The idea behind taking home souvenirs is somewhat similar to commemorating a special event. In the case of traveling and exploration, we, as tourists, tend to go about shopping for something that would remind us of our latest adventure.

Of course, sometimes, we plan our travels according to a certain purpose. For example, we visit a place because they are famous for something that we are currently interested in.

Letโ€™s take a closer look at this topic as we continue with the โ€œUโ€ issue of the A Ba Ka of Philippine Souvenirs series.


U for Ukay-Ukay

We know it all too well, the joy of finding a treasure at an affordable price. Yes, I am talking about thrift shops.

In the Philippines, thrift shops are known to the locals as โ€œUkay-ukayโ€ or sometimes just โ€œukay.โ€ It came from the Filipino word โ€œhukayโ€ or โ€œhalukay,โ€ which means โ€œto dig,โ€ and is somewhat similar to โ€œto rummage.โ€

Ukay-ukay is also known to the locals as โ€œwag-wag,โ€ which means โ€œto vigorously shake the dust off of an item.โ€


So what is the big deal and what is so different about โ€œUkay-ukayโ€ in the Philippines? Aside from the quality merchandise, for me, it signifies the resilience of Filipinos.

Back in the โ€™80s when the Philippines was going through so much calamity, the Philippine Salvation Army made sure that the Filipinos had help. Dry goods such as second-hand clothing were given to those who needed the donation.


Sure enough, the goods started to pile up, and to save up on space, traders bought the excess goods at a low price. They then started selling second-hand goods.

Fast forward to the present where ukay-ukay items are not only for those who are low on funds but also for those who embrace the practicality of having high-ticket items at a low price.

Ukay-ukay stores are not limited to second-hand clothing. There are also shoes, bags, accessories, and even toys.

For many tourists, aside from the items bought from the ukay-ukay stores, it is the experience that they are really taking home with them. And so, that unique fur coat that you bagged could be a reminder that you found a treasure tucked in a jam-packed clothing rack.

Ukay-ukay stores can be found in many corners across the country. However, there is one city that mongers praise for curating some of the best ukay-ukay finds in the country: Baguio City. So get your souvenir fund ready!

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