Shopping on a budget at Tutuban Center night market

  Mitch M. Arceo  /    Dec 18, 2015

Night market at Tutuban Center

With just a week before Christmas, more people are rushing to buy gifts for their relatives, godchildren and friends. Just go to market places like Tutuban and you’ll see how busy the streets are with people in a mad shopping frenzy, checking out possible gift items while moving from one stall to another.

Last week, this writer and nine bloggers took the challenge of joining the large crowd at the Tutuban Center Night Market for one night of fun and shopping. The challenge was to buy as many gifts as we possibly could, enjoy one ride at the carnival and eat either a one-day-old chick or dynamite from the street food stalls, all within a P500-budget.All these three challenges must be completed in one and a half hours, with photos of the items (and selfie) to be uploaded on various social networks.

With the game in mind, we set forth to what was to be the shortest 90 minutes of our lives. First up was the carnival ride, wherein this author chose a more conservative and less thrilling yet nostalgic ride—the carousel. While most of the participants opted for the Flying Fiesta, I giggled like a child at the sight of the carousel, made even livelier with colorful horses and bright lights.

Not minding the stares I received from the adults who were waiting for their children, I reminisced the times when I was still a kid with my mom and grandparents watching me from outside the carousel. It was really a nostalgic moment for me.

After a short visit to memory lane, it was time to search for some street food.

A short walk outside the carnival led us to the street food area wherein a wide selection of food was available. Pressed for time, I only tried the dynamite (green pepper stuffed with cheese and ham and wrapped in lumpia wrapper). With a wide array of street food in front of me—deep-fried quail eggs, squid balls, pork barbecue, pork and chicken intestines, meat balls and more, I made a mental note of returning to this night market so I could try the other street food as well.

For the last challenge, I scoured the area for affordable but great finds. The place did not disappoint as I was able to buy various items perfect for my family. Still with P440 in my wallet, I managed to buy clothes, mug, pen, flashlight, sunglasses, toys, earrings, bracelets and pouch. Who would have thought that one can buy so much with only a shoe-string budget!

The challenge was a success, I must say. After the shopping rush, all participants headed straight to Orion Hotel for a good night’s rest. Orion Hotel, which opened in October 2012, offers 41 rooms for tourists and shoppers who want to relax after a long day of shopping. Although Divisoria may have a reputation of being a not very tidy place, Orion Hotel aims to compensate for that by providing clean and comfortable rooms.

“We make sure that we offer clean and comfortable rooms so that once guests enter the hotel, they immediately see and feel that the ambiance is different. We offer basic amenities to make their stay comfortable,” said Rica Claveria, operations manager of Orion Hotel.

Orion is the only hotel inside a shopping mall in Divisoria, making it more convenient for guests who cannot wait to shop as soon as they get out of their rooms.

“Guests don’t have to worry about getting out of Divisoria when the traffic is heavy. They can do their shopping at ease and without rush because they can just stay overnight at our hotel. Business owners from the provinces also stay here when they buy stuff for their provincial businesses,” she added.

During peak season, guests are advised to book reservations one week ahead of time. However, the operations manager said they still accept walk-in guests depending on the availability of rooms.

“We’re hoping to add more rooms, depending on the availability of the mall, to cater more to group travelers. But for now, we want to focus on familiarization of the hotel. We get more exposure online but we also want locals to know more about the hotel,” shared Claveria.

Meanwhile, the Orion Café, which opened last January, offers breakfast and pasta menu that is available from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.