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20 April 2007

Travel to Manila, day 3:
Divine Divisoria

Tabora Street in Divisoria
Tabora Street in Divisoria.

SUMMER FIESTA season is definitely here. You can tell by the forms, colors, and textures of crafts sold along Tabora Street in Divisoria. Carnival masks, fantasy headdresses, Mardi Gras costumes, Mayflower arches, bunting flags and strings, silk flowers, feather boas, cane baskets, palm fans, sinamay fabrics—all that is needed to execute a festival event are here on wild display!

Chinatown, sitting just outside Divisoria
Entrance to Chinatown, just outside Divisoria.

Inside the jeepney taking us to Tabora Street
Inside the jeepney taking us to Tabora Street.

The narrow pedestrian street is the undisputed source of accessorial materials for gifting and event management in the metropolis. Ethnic craft makers, mainly from the central and southern parts of Luzon Island, trade their wares wholesale. Carts and more carts of merchandise hog every square meter of the street and scream for attention. Noise levels are high; vendors and consumers are relentless. The trading business is generally brisk. To the uninitiated, the business is madness.

The area comes alive at least two months before an anticipated season. The best time, of course, is Christmas. By October, glitter and gold are inexorable. Tabora Street becomes a fabulous Yuletide show by itself.

Waiting for the party
Waiting for the party.

Wall of papier-mâché masks
Wall of papier-mâché masks.

It is also the beauty pageant season
Cashing in on the beauty pageant season.

Right now, it is all about the festive month of May: the Flores de Mayo festival, the Santacruzan parade . . . and local beauty contests. At a costume shop, a gay talent scout was haggling on a garish Ifugao (northern Philippine tribe) costume for his candidate to the Miss Pasay City pageant.

“This is too expensive!” he sighed while trying on the enormous woven headdress.

“What you pay for is the drama of the costume,” the shopkeeper replied. “See, the headdress is so bongga (dramatic) on you! Buy the full attire and I’ll give your alaga (candidate) a free nose ring.”

“Yeah, but you're forgetting that we don’t have big budgets for these things.”

“Well, then I have something perfect for you. Here, take this.” He handed the talent scout a cheap alternative.

It was a tattered jute sack. Hilarious!

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