Unlike its namesake up in the mountains of Ifugao, this highly-congested street is no man-made wonder of the world. Instead, it is a place where you can buy any kind of car part that you could possibly need.
From nose cuts, half cuts, whole engines, computer boxes, accessories, wheels, injectors and side mirrors, most anything car-related can be found in one of Banawe Street's many shops. And unlike at dealers, where a simple, unassuming part can cost an arm, a leg, (and sometimes a spleen), in Banawe, you can haggle. You can also choose whether to buy a brand new genuine original part, used surplus, replacement, Class A, or otherwise. Really, it's a buffet for car guys and can even be a treat for dumpster divers who don't mind getting their hands a little greasy.
Still, to car owners and car enthusiasts, Banawe in Quezon City is a mysterious place. While you can fix or customize a car to your heart's content, you can just as easily get ripped off if you are unfamiliar with the place.
So, to demystify what is undoubtedly the unofficial hub of Philippine auto parts, here is a quick, useful, simple and easy guide on how to shop at Banawe like a pro.
1. Don't pull up in a nice car, wear pambahay
First impressions count; we all know that. That's why we try to look our best no matter where we go and who we meet. In Banawe that counts too, but in reverse.
Let's say it bluntly: if you look successful or rich, you may get a price that matches the first impression you make. We jokingly refer to it as mestizo tax, or the higher price that the store clerk can give to a person who comes in wearing designer clothes, an expensive watch, a nice pair of shoes and Oakleys covering your eyes.
It also won't help your cause to get a good deal at Banawe if you pull up and park at a shop in a nice, expensive car. Do that and, immediately, any inquiry you might have can easily result in jacked up prices. Hey it's business, and if they can make more profit on, say, an oil filter, then why not? All is fair in Banawe.
Unlike supermarkets or department stores, prices in Banawe are not printed on labels, tags or such, and very few shops use barcodes, if any at all. If you've ever shopped here before, you'll notice that the clerks all speak in code; numbers have been replaced by letters. Even with my personal experience dealing with a lot of the shops here, I still don't know what it means when they say YYGX as a price for a certain item. It's a clever system, really, and there's no Enigma machine for us to decipher it.
So, dress as simply as you can. Wear pambahay (home clothing) like shorts, a T-shirt, and an old pair of sneakers. Leave the Oakleys and the nice TAG Heuer at home. If you have a nice car, park it somewhere out of sight or perhaps an even more secure location, then either walk or take a cab. Banawe is not a fashionable place, and a well-dressed individual sticks out like a sore thumb.
2. Banawe is a “family” place
One thing to keep in mind is that Banawe is a family affair. One shop is really part of a larger network of shops in the same area, and these groups are really owned by several families.
If you come looking for a particular item and that shop doesn't have it in stock, don't be surprised if the clerk makes a few quick calls and says what you're looking for can easily be brought there in a matter of minutes. That's how they operate, and this cross-selling or consigning between family-owned shops is one of the reasons they are successful at their business.
One good tip is to be friendly to the shop clerks because they can get you almost any part you need, and you don't have to walk around in the sun (or rain) to do it. More importantly, be kind to the mechanics that are working on your car, for obvious reasons.
3. Know exactly what you're looking for
I've spent quite a lot of time sitting in the waiting area of a few shops while my car was being worked on in Banawe, and one thing I've noticed is that the clerks tend to get bombarded by all kinds of inquiries from people who are just browsing.
By now I can spot them from a mile away; they're usually in groups of 2-3 guys (yes, guys) who walk from shop to shop, asking about the prices of 3 or more parts or accessories, and then walk away without a single thing on their list. Sometimes they even linger at the counter, looking around for anything on their list of needs and wants, and still they walk away without making a purchase.
To be honest I was guilty of that when I was younger; only when you sit and observe the facial expressions of these “fanboys” and the clerks do you realize that it's quite common. Only then can you understand why the clerks tend to be rather cranky.
Some of you may say it's window shopping, and that's fine in a place like a department store where you can just walk around and browse, but in a place like Banawe where you really have to get the clerk's attention, it's a waste of their time. Sometimes people even haggle the price right away, and then walk away, saying they'll look around first. Some even say things like: “It's cheaper in the forums” or “I saw that same item in Sulit [now OLX] and it's much cheaper”. If it was cheaper online, then what are you doing in Banawe?
So before going, it's best to have a list of stuff that you need and/or want. More importantly, be prepared to actually buy it. Don't go there, ask about the price, haggle, and then leave by saying you'll come back later to buy it. Clerks tend to remember that inconvenience, and they can reprice the item/s accordingly.
No one likes anyone who wastes their time, so why would you do it to someone else?
4. Shop with a sample
More often than not, we go to Banawe to find a part or two to replace something that broke with our own cars. That means the car in question cannot be driven there, which prevents the mechanics from having a clear look at what is needed.
If, for example, you took it to a dealer, they would refer to a service manual and be able to immediately point to a specific part number. But their fees can be quite expensive and with good reason; they are the most competent when it comes to your model and have a full suite of services and diagnostic equipment specific to the brand, their cars and their engines. Of course, getting a car serviced with an official dealer/service station preserves your warranty if it's still valid.
But the expense of getting work done at a dealer is easy for most of us to justify when it comes to relatively new cars, but for older models, it's a bit trickier. For example, if you have a broken suspension bushing that leads to a knocking or rattling sound (or kalampag), most dealers will only sell you a suspension arm or assembly to address that one issue; a part that could probably cost north of PhP 10,000. In Banawe, you can get just the rubber bushing for, say, PhP 700 and have them install it for PhP 300. These prices are hypothetical, but indicative. Do the math.
It will be useful if you know some local jargon, especially when referring to cars. For example if you have a 1993-1996 Mitsubishi Lancer (CB/CD), let the guy behind the counter know that you're buying for an Itlog or a Hotdog; local slang derived from the shape of the taillights. If you need parts for a 1993-1996 Toyota Corolla (AE100/AE101), say that you have a Big Body; a reference to the large size of the car at the time.
Still, the best way to shop in Banawe is to have the broken or worn out part with you as a sample. Some shops that specialize in certain brands (i.e. Mitsubishi, Toyota, etc.) do have service manuals where you can describe the issue and point to the part in the diagrams, but not all have these reference materials. Shopping with a sample if the car itself is unavailable is the way to go.
After you show the clerk the sample, what he does next is present you with a variety of choices, and that's the beauty of Banawe for car guys. He will show you several options, and they vary from store to store. To break it down, the general classifications are Genuine/Original (best quality, most expensive), Japan Replacement (OE grade), Taiwan Replacement (decent, usually the cheapest), Surplus (used), so on and so forth. When you have decided, you can now haggle.
Still, buyer beware. Don't forget to get a receipt in case the part doesn't fit when you bring it back or fails far too quickly.
5. Speak softly and be humble
If you've noticed, most of these tips are about changing the way you, dear car enthusiast, deal with the people at Banawe.
For some people, it's hard to swallow pride, smile, speak a little more softly and show humility to the store clerks or the mechanics at any Banawe shop. Of course all of them are out there working to make a buck, and that's cool; everyone has to make a living. But these are the people you should really be friendly to; they know their job (well not all, but you get the point), and you need them to get it done in order to get your car moving again.
If you ever have to go to Banawe to get parts or accessories, keep this in mind:
Kapag astig ka, astig din ang presyo mo.
Special thanks to:
Rev-Up Auto Parts - 135-137 Banawe cor. Kaliraya Sts., QC (Tel: 732-4331 / 732-4348 / 743-3222)
LTC Korean Parts Center - 185 Banawe St., QC (254-4009 / 254-4332)
Mivec Auto Supply - 160 Banawe St., QC (711-3588 / 741-4628 / 741-4631)