Flowers, in different sizes and in all possible colors, bloom 24/7 on the adjacent historic streets of Sampaloc, Manila. There is neither an opening nor closing hour for the various flower stalls and shops doing business in this area and who cater to all kinds of floral arrangement requirements of various clients throughout the year.
Popularly known as “Dangwa,” the famed flower market—occupying the streets of Dos Castillas, Maria Clara, Laong Laan, and even Dapitan—stands near the Dangwa Tranco, a terminal for buses that ply the Manila-Benguet route. In this station, fresh flowers from Baguio are brought every day.
From eight flower stalls during the 1980’s along Dos Castillas street, the number of stalls has now grown to about 300, according to a rough estimate by some officials of Barangays 490 and 343, which both have jurisdictions over the said streets.
Bing Bayanquiday, owner of Love Basket, one of the stalls along Dos Castillas, has been in the flower business since 1994. Selling flowers for over 20 years, she recalled how Dangwa changed over the years: “Maliit lang dati [ang Dangwa]. Noong araw, ‘di ito tindahan ng mga bulaklak na nakikita mo ngayon. Noong araw, ang talagang tourist spot ng bulaklak ay sa Quiapo kasi dati, ang bagsakan lang ay yung mismong Dangwa Transit. ’Dyan binabagsak, ‘dyan inaabangan yung mga flowers galing ng Baguio.”
(“Before, Dangwa was not that big and it wasn’t the flower market that you see now. Before, the tourist spot for flowers was really Quiapo; only Dangwa Transit, was the place where the flowers from Baguio were being unloaded.”)
Besides blooms like Malaysian mums, carnations, and roses from Baguio, the flower market now offers imported ones such as stargazers, gerbera, and tulips from China, and orchids from Thailand.
Dangwa becomes busier, and more colourful during the last week of October—a time when Filipinos would endearingly buy flowers to remember their loved ones on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. To gear up, these flower vendors prepare their supplies for the influx of clients.
Lovie Pascual, a florist and owner of a flower shop named after her since 2012, shared, “Yung mga kinakailangan naming sa ‘undas’ tulad ng mga floral foam, basket, yung mga bulaklak pine-prepare na namin. Yung ginagawa naming sa ordinaryong araw ngayon dumadami . Sa October 27, busy na kami.”
(“We prepare things we need like floral foam, baskets, and flowers. The activity we do during ordinary days multiply during All Saints’ Day. By October 27, we are already busy.)
According to Pascual, more than a hundred bundles of flowers, usually composed of a dozen stems, gets sold during this season, compared to about 20 bundles of flowers being sold daily on a regular day.
After the Halloween season, Dangwa florists would gear up for the Christmas season and for weddings held towards the end of the year.
“Malakas din kapag Pasko at New Year bilang pangregalo or centerpiece sa table. Instead of items na pangkaraniwang material [na regalo] yung iba, ang gusto nila flowers para maiba naman,” Lovie said.
(“We also sell a lot during Christmas and New Year, when flowers are given as gifts or used as centerpieces during celebrations. Instead of the usual material things being given as gifts, some prefer to give flowers.”)
Other occasions when Dangwa is being flocked by clients are during Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day. In between these big occasions, Dangwa florists remain busy making flower arrangements for celebrations including birthdays, anniversaries, and for cheering up sick friends or loved ones.
Because of this, some florists, including Lovie, have sleeping quarters in their stalls, and has made the flower trade a family business.
“Dito na ako. 24 hours. Dito na ko nakatira. Kumukuha ako mga kamag-anak ko rin gusto ko rin naman makatulong at makita nila paano kumikita. Minsan’ di natin naiiwasan yung hirap ng buhay, ‘di sila makapagaral. Ito, magandang option kasi matututo sila galing sa ‘kin. Tayo naman ay hindi na bata, matanda para kung halimbawa mawala na, meron namang mapagiiwanan. May kapatid na ako pati ibang tao na nakarating na sa ibang bansa bilang florist. Willing naman ako [magturo], ‘di ako madamot. Kung ano yung kakayanan ko, tinuturo ko sa iba,” she shared, and added that she also became a florist for about a decade in Bahrain before starting her own flower shop in Dangwa.
(“I’m here 24 hours. I live here already. I hired my relatives to help them earn money. Sometimes, life gets tough and they can’t afford to study. This is a good option for them because they can learn from me. I’m not getting any younger so if something happens to me, I can pass the business to them. I have siblings as well as other people I know who were able to work as a florist in other countries. I’m willing to teach; I’m not selfish. I teach what I know to others.”)
Currently, Lovie and her three other siblings as well as her other cousins are florists by profession or have their own stalls in Dangwa.