Shopping through the stretches of busy streets of Manila could be a risky attempt due to the notorious snatchers and pickpockets around the area. It would take a big ounce of confidence and strong common sense not to bring anything eyeful when you plan to. Since I’ve been hearing a lot about the cameras that cost half of their original prices and the superb camera repair services at the infamous Hidalgo Street, I decided to go for the first time.
It’s no surprise that just like any other streets in Manila, Hidalgo is clogged with both shoppers and vendors that make shopping a bit of a challenge. With that said, if you’re planning to buy a camera here, don’t expect to be able to shop as if you’re in a mall. I opted to take the calesa going here to feel the vintage and historic vibe of Manila. I checked the almost-tumbledown stores with noisy wall fans first where owners inherited the business from their family. You can easily tell if a store is brand new through its AC and glass doors.
I was surprised not only by how these camera stores are all situated next to each other, but also by the outdoor glass drawers that accommodate a wide variety of cameras from mirrorless ones to SLRs. It’s a risky marketing strategy, but people flock around them, bargaining with vendors to get the cameras at their cheapest possible prices.
You won’t only find repaired second-hand cameras in Hidalgo, but also new ones that are still cheap. Stores here provide you with every piece of photographic equipment that you might need, even if it’s only for a project at school, or for a photo shoot. And due to the advent of popularizing the Instax, Hidalgo provides the shoppers with a complete list of Fujifilm Instax cameras for sale, as well. If it’s not available at the store, you can pre-order it.
I also got a chance to converse with some of the store owners and ask them about their lives in Hidalgo. Dong Camera Repair Center, owned by Mr. Virgilio Gales, though situated on the street next to Hidalgo, attracts a lot of photography enthusiasts due to the grand array of cameras displayed at his store. He’s accommodating and told me about his job. He started repairing film-based cameras as a business in 1960 and soon started a collection. Now, he has a cabinet sheltering various cameras which he always checks once he gets home to relieve his stress.
When I asked him why people frequent Hidalgo for all their camera needs, he told me that time can dictate how this community has helped many photographers with all of their photographic needs. Indeed, quality is not just a habit, but also a responsibility. I was also amazed by what he said about Hidalgo Street not being like any other street in Manila: it became a community of people who have great appreciation of photography and of cameras.
I only wanted to see what kinds of cameras people sell at Hidalgo because my friends had been suggesting this place for ages, so I was surprised to learn about the life stories of the store owners, too. Some may think that this place is not the ideal shopping destination when it comes to safety and comfort, but there is more here than pickpockets and noisy sidewalk vendors. I think this community could have a great contribution to our culture if only people would start recognising Hidalgo Street as the photographic capital of the country.