A Handy Guide To Dangwa Flower Shopping, By A Stylist And Decorator
Real Living's former style editor tells us everything about Dangwa, from where to find specific flowers and how to get the best deals
“I wanna lay you down on a bed of roses…” was the song playing on the car radio the first time I was on my way to what I consider one of Manila’s most exciting shopping destinations. It was two o’clock in the morning and a friend had a friend had asked me to come along to a place called Dangwa to buy flowers for his mom’s birthday. I was slightly inebriated from a night out, but I agreed.
And I was glad I did, for a few minutes later I was in the middle of a street right smack in the middle of a dingy part of the city, but made beautiful with bunches of fresh blooms, leaf cuttings, ornamental fruits, and every kind of plant life you can imagine.
That “flower shop” turned out to be a 50-meter stretch in Sampaloc, Manila, that includes Dos Castillas and intersecting roads, namely Dapitan Street, Laong Laan Road, Dimasalang Avenue, and Maria Clara. And it’s still the best place in the Metro to get affordable and quality blooms.
Why it’s called Dangwa
I’ve been a regular visitor since that morning many years ago. I’ve gotten to know more about the place as I made purchases to feed my frustrated florist fantasies. I found out that the area is named after the Dangwa Tranco bus station around the corner. The area became flower central in the 1970s, when Farinas and Philippine rabbit buses would unload the colorful bouquets harvested from Benguet.
Nowadays, flower growers from Northern Luzon are doing the deliveries themselves, sometimes even taking care of the selling. To give customers more variety, blooms grown in Davao, Cotabato, and Cebu are now available.
Come at midnight, or very early in the morning
Trading usually starts at around midnight, when the Northern Luzon deliveries arrive. Experienced buyers know that the biggest bulk comes in on Thursdays, just in time for a weekend spike.
Only a fourth of the goods is left before sunrise, since most of the flower shops all over Metro Manila have possibly snapped up all the blooms by then. Here’s a quick guide on how to navigate the areas:
1. Dapitan to Laong Laan: tropical flowers, ornamental fruits
For sale here on this stretch are fresh tropical flowers, mainly different types of birds of paradise and bromeliads. The most exotic local plants are also available here, like the ornamental fruit called “Mickey Mouse” (you’ll know why when you see its familiar shape).
In Laong Laan, you’ll find exotic ornamental fruits, such as wild grapes and wild berries. Freshly cut leaves are the choice offerings at the end of the street. Huge Renaissance leaves (seen below) that can last you a month can be found here, alongside anahaw leaves that can be used for trimming floral arrangements.
2. Laong Laan to Dimasalang: mums, orchids, and more
This is the busiest part of Dangwa, where you will find the oldest stores such as Nene’s Flowershop, and Estings. These stores are the pioneers of the wholesale flower business, and most of the shops supply hotels, restaurants, and caterers.
The Laong Laan side sells Malaysian mums and roses (above), which are two of the most popular and widely used flowers. In Dimasalang, you can find anthuriums, and live cattleya or phalaenopsis orchids in pots.
3. Dimasalang to Maria Clara: the cheapest blooms
If you’re on a really tight budget, then this is the place to head to. Prices are cheaper here than in any part of Dangwa. The area used to be just an unloading zone, but most of what’s sold here are overruns from the other bigger shops. At Dimasalang, mums can go for as low as *P150 a bunch, and gerbera daisies for as low as P170 a bundle.
Here, you can also find gabi stalks that are natural floral foam substitutes, anahaw leaves, Renaissance leaves, and five-foot bamboo. A warning: dress down, because the wealthier you appear, the higher the price quoted.
4. Dos Castillas: Manila Flower Market
In the middle of Dos Castillas Street is the Manila Flower Market, which is a covered, warehouse-type establishment where you can shop for flowers and floral needs such as floral foam, baskets, and stands in comfort. It's also a good place to make pasadya or customize floral arrangements.
How to get to Dangwa
Leave the car at home, as it’s notoriously hard to park. Take public transpo, or a cab.
However, if you still insist on driving, the best route is to pass through AH Lacson (formerly Governor Forbes Avenue). Coming from Quezon City, head to España Avenue and turn right at AH Lacson. Take another right at Laong Laan, which is at the corner of the Hospital of the Infant Jesus.
When commuting, there are jeepneys you can take from the Manila area going to Dapitan, Laong Laan, and Dimasalang that will pass through Dos Castillas. Or you can take the España route: Get off at AH Lacson and ride a jeep going to Tayuman. Get off at the Hospital of the Infant Jesus. From España, you can also take an afternoon walk, a leisurely 30 minutes along AH Lacson going towards Tayuman. A nighttime stroll is not recommended!
The original article “Flower Power” appeared in the June 2004 issue of Real Living magazine. RL web editors have updated some portions of the article. All prices quoted here may vary per store and seasonal demand.
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