IN PHOTOS: What Dangwa is like during Valentine’s season

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
totalITemsFound:
maxPaginationLinks: 10
maxPossiblePages:
startIndex:
endIndex:

Originally from Benguet, Sonia Morales and her husband decided to take a stall in Dangwa to sell sunflowers freshly grown in La Trinidad. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In the middle of a side road at Dangwa, Sean Uy is hunched over a flower arranger who is spraying blue paint on white-petalled roses. “I came here to buy flowers for my girlfriend because we're going to have a date tomorrow,” he says.

It was only a Friday, five days prior to Feb. 14, and yet Uy, like many others, were already sifting through rows of stalls and vendors selling flowers — some were cut and arranged as bouquets, some were stacked on top of each other with only sheets of newspaper separating them, some were refrigerated, and some were covered in plastic while their stems were made to soak in plastic buckets filled with water.

Uy says the prices at Dangwa are inexpensive, recalling that he would pay around ₱1,000-₱1,200 for roses sold near De La Salle University, his university then, while in Dangwa, a dozen of “blue roses” wrapped in decorative felt paper only costs him ₱700.

Photo-45 (1).jpg The flower market was named after the bus terminal, Dangwa Tranco. The place that was once just a bus terminal then became the drop off and trading point of ornamental growers from Benguet, Laguna, Tagaytay, and Cotabato. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-24.jpg “I came here to buy flowers for my girlfriend because we're going to have a date tomorrow,” Sean Uy says. He adds that he came to the flower market in Dangwa because the blooms are inexpensive and the place also offers a wide variety of flowers. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-5 (9).jpg Besides flowers grown in the Philippines, Dangwa also imports from growers in Thailand, Netherlands, and Ecuador. Photo by JL JAVIER

Arlene Manlangit, a 46-year-old florist who has been running her flower shop called Dangwa Florist for over 12 years now, says that even when prices in Dangwa increase during peak times, such as Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, or All Saint’s Day, the prices are still relatively cheaper than flower shops in malls.

Dito kasi ‘yung bagsakan ng lahat ng bulaklak galing Baguio,” she explains. The flower market named after the bus terminal, Dangwa Tranco, became the drop off and trading point of ornamental growers from Benguet, Laguna, Tagaytay, and Cotabato. The market was dubbed by the local government of Manila as “Bulaklakan ng Maynila,” which supposedly attracted more traders.

Now, the market also imports from growers in Thailand, Netherlands, and Ecuador. Manlangit adds that even her flower-arranging business had an international boost. “Nag-bridal fair na kami sa ibang bansa like Singapore … For funeral naman, mga [clients from] U.S., Canada,” she says. She also attributes this international exposure to their website, where most of their inquiries come from. A widowed mother of three, she says the business has certainly helped her raise her children, proudly sharing that all three graduated with degrees.

“Imagine mo ‘yun, 2003 namatay ‘yung asawa ko, ilang years, iniwanan ako, Grade 6 pa lang ‘yung eldest ko so ‘yung flower shop, ‘yung binigay ng Diyos sa akin, prino-provide niyayung ganitong biyaya na maganda,” she says.

Photo-16 (7).jpg Arlene Manlangit, a 46-year-old florist who has been running her flower shop, Dangwa Florist, for over 12 years now, says that because they also sell flowers online, they've had customers from Singapore, U.S., and Canada. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-27 (3).jpg The market was dubbed by the local government of Manila as “Bulaklakan ng Maynila,” which supposedly attracted more traders. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-47.jpg The Dangwa flower market is open 24/7. The vendors say that the market's peak seasons are during Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and All Saint's Day. Photo by JL JAVIER

Like Manlangit, Sonia Morales has also solely relied on her flower shop business to provide for her family. Originally from Benguet, she and her husband decided to take a stall in Dangwa to sell sunflowers freshly grown in La Trinidad. “Rinefer lang ng kaibigan na may bakanteng pwesto ... Tapos ‘yun, kinuha na namin,” she says.

Morales boards a house in Sampaloc, while her husband stays in Benguet, as he is the one who plants the sunflowers, ensures that they are of quality, and delivers their produce to Dangwa. “‘Pag pangit [‘yung bulaklak] bargain na lang binibigay na sa tawad nila,” she says. “‘Pag maganda walang problema kasi maraming bumibili.”

To the untrained eye, it may be difficult to decipher a perfect bloom from one that is not, and Morales shares that she doesn’t have a particular set of standards as to what constitutes a beautiful sunflower and an ugly one, adding that she can just innately tell whether their flowers grew well or not.

Photo-30.jpg Narciso Casino, a 63-year-old flower arranger, is also the president of the Dangwa Flower Arranger's Association, an unregistered organization he founded to fend off fixers. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-32 (1).jpg While Dangwa is replete with flower shops, it has also afforded livelihood that don’t necessarily require owning a stall — whether it be being a flower arranger or working as a street cleaner. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-36 (1).jpg Besides flowers, Dangwa also has stalls that sell leaves and grasses that are usually used to complement bouquets or large decorative structures for weddings, funerals, and other occasions. Photo by JL JAVIER

While Manlangit and Morales have made a business out of flowers through their shops, Dangwa has also afforded livelihood that don’t necessarily require having a stall.

Narciso Casino, a 63-year-old, carries a photo album of flowers he has arranged — from the carriage of his barangay’s Sto. Niño to the picture frame of Cory Aquino during her burial — and offers passersby his flower-arranging service.

He shows off his ID, saying that he’s the president of the Dangwa Flower Arranger’s Association, an unregistered organization he founded to fend off fixers.

Kunyari kausap kita ‘di ka sakin nagpagawa, pinaliwanag ko na sayo maraming fixer, tapos umalis ka, nag-down ka, tapos nawala na ‘yan, di mo na nakikita,” he explains. “‘Wag kayo magpapagawa sa walang ID, kasi ‘pag may ID, sagutin ko ‘yun. Gagawan ko siya ng bouquet.”

Photo-12 (4).jpg Some flowers are cut and arranged as bouquets, some are stacked on top of each other with only sheets of newspaper separating them, some are refrigerated, and some are covered in plastic while their stems are made to soak in plastic buckets filled with water. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-41 (1).jpg There are also stalls in Dangwa that exclusively cater to wholesale buyers. The vendors of these stalls say that they don't just rely on occasions such as Valentine's Day because they sell the same amount of flowers to their 'suki,' no matter the season. Photo by JL JAVIER

Casino shares that his flower-arranging service, which he officially started in 2000, has helped him provide for his daughter and his newly born grandchild. His wife left him 27 years ago for his drug abuse, but he says he has lessened it when he started working as an arranger, and stopped entirely when Duterte became president.  

O, eh kung matokhang ako? Ayoko nga,” he says. “May pangarap pa ako sa buhay eh. ‘Yung apo ko gusto ko mabigyan ng education.”

When asked if there’s someone he’ll arrange and give flowers to this Valentine’s, he jokes, “Wala, ayoko na magmahal.” And almost instantaneously, he smiles, takes his joke back, and says, “Meron na akong minamahal eh ... Apo ko.”