Start building a sustainable wardrobe through thrifting

Gerald Dizon –

February 20, 2023 | 2:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — In a world of expensive everything—onions, oil, monthly bills, groceries and heck even your favorite fast food meal, what then is the last bastion of value shopping one can cling to? Well, one word: ukay-ukay.

Need to assemble an entire office wardrobe for cheap? On a desperate hunt for last-minute ensemble to some formal gathering? Or simply want to upgrade your closet for everyday wear? Ukay-ukay, more fondly nicknamed “ukay” by many, provides you with all manner of apparel that you need.

Thrifting is fashionable and sustainable

A phenomenon emerging from the eighties, stemming from an excess of humanitarian goods for calamity-stricken communities, the sale of and shopping for ukay-ukay (from the word “halukay” meaning “to dig”) quickly became prominent first in Cebu and Baguio, and eventually across the country over time.

Funnily enough, the craze has spread not only among regular Pinoys but also among celebrities.

Ukay-ukay is also known to come from a variety of sources, from the then excess donations from affluent countries, to the now more notorious company overruns and out-of-season discards from various retail giants abroad.

For the fast fashion industry, specifically, these excesses are grossly mishandled. They eventually end up in landfills that pollute the environment, causing harm not only to the planet but also to both human and wildlife with lasting effect.

It is in this regard that thrifting in the form of ukay-ukay, while not a wholesale solution to the fast fashion problem, is an important way to instead advocate for sustainable fashion. Acquire, not purchase; upcycle or recycle—these are the way.

Where to shop your ukay haul online

From humble, single-stall shops in your local plaza during weekend or night markets, a hole-in-wall shop or sidewalk puwesto along busy pedestrian walkways, ukayans have expanded and become more ubiquitous that you can find rows and rows of them in bigger establishments and shopping centers. 

What’s even more innovative and a testament to the necessity of present ukay-ukay-fresh-appeal/”>pandemic times, ukayans have even opened up shop online, making acquisition more convenient for cash-strapped and environmentally conscious Filipinos.

So if you’ve got the shopping skills, the eye for fashion and not much else (cash, most especially), then ukay shopping is the perfect option. If you’re looking for shops to support to start your thrifting journey, then have we got a nice list of fashion thrift stores in Facebook from across the Philippines:

Metro Manila


Visayas and Mindanao

Needless today, ukay shopping has cemented its place in Filipino shopping culture, one that’s evolving and not going away anytime soon.

Wais choice for cleaning

Boosting these local thrift stores is leading detergent brand Surf through its Surf Ukay Partnerships.

True to its “Wais”slogan, Surf believes in getting more for less without compromising on quality. That’s why it’s important to support local ukayans with the best detergent that offers Best Ever Linis, Best Ever Bago with Surf Active Clean.

The perfect wais choice that’s ‘sing galing pero di mamahalin, keep your wais ukay finds clean and smelling fresh with Surf.


To shop online for Surf products, visit Shopee store here and Lazada store here. For more information, visit

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