Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ukay-ukay craze

Island Color
Raquel C. Bagnol

SALE. The sign could be read several meters away- a huge banner bearing the magic words which is a sure-fire way to lure most individuals (majority of whom are women) who are economizing and making efforts to stretch their hard-earned pesos (or dollars).

Sunday mass has just finished and so many Filipinos were milling about Palau’s main (and only) street. Like me, the huge sign caught their attention and they went straight to the rummage sale held in front of a medical clinic and dove into the displays of clothes, shoes, and other rick-racks like a pack of hungry wolves.

Rummage or yard sales are common in Palau, usually done as a fundraising activity. Unlike the Philippines where ukay-ukay stalls occupy permanent places and displays, the organizers here would distribute fliers and put up announcements in stores and other public areas weeks before. On the scheduled day, they would erect a huge open tent and sell anything from clothes to shoes to kitchen utensils to toys to hair driers to everything imaginable at lower prices.
This particular one was sponsored by the Palau Swimming Association to help defray the group’s plane fare and expenses for a competition in Japan in November.

I parked across the street and fished the camera I always carry from my bag, feeling a wave of nostalgia sweep over me as I snapped photos of the mad throng. It was a glimpse of home, a very common sight anywhere in ukay-ukay stalls in the Philippines. Only a handful of Palauans joined the crowd.

Back home, I would have normally been one of those who crowd the stalls, picking and dropping one item after another while enviously eyeing what somebody else is holding onto.

Although I knew that wonderful “treasures” can be found in ukay-ukay heaps which you only need to use with your creativity to make them look classy, I had no intention of joining because this is Palau and even though everything was on sale, everything was still very expensive.
Shirts are priced at $5 each and that’s already considered the cheapest, not to mention the fact that they all come in 4XXX sizes reaching way below my knees with the sleeves almost reaching my wristwatch.
I crossed the street and went a little closer to get close-up photos when the camera lens focused on something- a stack of secondhand books, my weakness.

The next thing I knew, I was already squeezing in between bodies and picking up one book after another, until I spied a stack of bestsellers.
It was hard to decide which book to choose and I was afraid to ask the price, feeling sure it would be above $5 each.
Here in Davao, I could very rarely afford to buy Danielle Steel books on sale. They are priced P90 to P120 but I was wrong. I went home with six novels which I bought for only $3, or just $.50 each (that’s P25, the equivalent of a Mills & Boon pocketbook). For the first time in my eleven-and-a-half months stay here, I finally bought something which I consider cheap. I also discovered that no matter where I go, the ukay-ukay craze is still in my system.

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