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Dissecting Divi: Understanding the country\\\'s iconic center of commerce

Log on to the website,, and discover a street of Divi each day.
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Many words have been written and said about Divisoria, but “duality” is probably not one of them. The commercial center of the city of Manila is often thought of as a crowded and dingy marketplace, and yet more shopping malls and condominium towers are now being built there at a frenetic pace. On its streets you can find all sorts of food, clothes and accessories sold on decrepit pushcarts, behind aging wooden counters and under tattered tents and parasols— and  then find practically the same items, at the same price, in overflowing boxes teeming the aisles of the clean, completely air-conditioned Tutuban Prime Block or 168 Mall.

But somehow, within a one-square-kilometer patch that straddles two districts—affluent Binondo and hardscrabble Tondo—these contrasts coexist and make the economy hum with activity. More than just the interplay of rich Chinese traders and hardworking Filipino storekeepers (and customers), Divisoria is the yin and yang of Philippine business: it shows complementary opposites within a greater whole, constantly interacting, never at rest. [Read and understand the charm of Binondo with its eclectic mix of old and new traditions and businesses.]

And that greater whole, as we at Entrepreneur have tried to show you since we launched our first Divisoria special issue in 2005, is this: profit. Indeed, people from all walks of life (and not just the ones that do business in the district) earn from the margins of the goods they buy and sell, in and out of “Divi.” More than being a shopper’s paradise, Divisoria teaches the budding entrepreneur one of the basic tenets of business: buy low, sell high (or, as is often the case within the district, sell a lot to keep your prices low).

To help you, dear reader, find the items that could give you the best margins for your fledgling business, Team Entrepreneur went out and traced the streets of Divisoria once again, taking pains to note what goods are sold on each stall and store on each street, and what landmarks you can remember to keep from losing your way on your own trip to Divi.

In this package of stories, we also set out to show that even in a bargain haven like Divisoria, some goods are priced just as much or even lower than the ones sold within the district—hence the Definition of Cheap tag on one of the articles. Conversely, we take a look at some of the shopping malls within Metro Manila and show how they have adopted the concept of flea market stalls and low-priced goods within their walls—a process we have described as “Divisorization.” To inspire you to pursue your business, no matter how small or big it is now, we are featuring three entrepreneurs that have made the successful jump from a tiangge stall to a mall outlet—like many businesses in Divisoria have done.

Finally, we give you a directory of suppliers located both within and outside of Divisoria, in case you do not have the time or tenacity to wade through the sea of humanity there just to talk to a storeowner who could get you the goods for your business. In the end, we hope this package of articles brings you dual delights: the resources to get your venture going and the happiness of finding the bargain only Divisoria can give.


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