There are a lot of choices for buying your food in Davao. The palengkes are great for fruit, vegetables, meats, fish, etc. There are bread/pastry shops on every corner, and often in between. Even the neighborhood sari-sari/kanderias have items that can get you by. But when it comes to regular groceries I most often go to the supermarket. For the most part the supermarkets are in the malls here. There are some stand alone (Savemore, for instance), but it is not the norm.

We are lucky to have a wide variety of supermarkets to choose from. Each seeming to have it’s own specialties and pricing schemes. Unfortunately you will need to visit the different malls to visit the different supermarkets. At times I do go to each one of them, but I’ve got one that is my favorite. It is also my least favorite.

I know, you are thinking the heats been getting to me. I’ve really lost it. How can it be my favorite and my least favorite? Well, let me explain.

Prior to moving here I had happened upon the GMall (Gaisano Mall) supermarket almost by chance. I was looking for a particular item and it had been mentioned to me that I might find it there. GMall is not the closest mall to me, and in fact takes a good amount of time to get to, so I hadn’t figured I would use them. I also thought that most stores would carry the same items. It was this first trip to the GMall supermarket that opened my eyes to the imported, natural and organic items they carried that were, for the most part, not available elsewhere here in Davao.

I was pretty excited to discover this store, and it has since become my go-to, default destination for groceries. The stock varies, and if you see something you want you better grab it. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them. Though there is so much they don’t have, I am always happy to find the new stuff they’ve brought in. The prices for common, local items are as good or better than the other stores, too.

That pretty much sums up why they are my favorite. The list for why they are not is much longer.

Where to start? It is crowded. Always. Now to be fair I almost always go on Saturday afternoon, and all the malls are crowded. From what I can tell, Gmall is the worst (or best depending upon your view) in this regard.

As I stated, if you see something you want, you better stock up. It may be awhile before it comes back, if ever. So items come in, sell out and are never to be seen again. It reminds me of Costo that way.

I don’t buy produce there. It is generally old and of poor quality. They also don’t stock many items that I want, such as spinach and cilantro. Their prices are good to OK in for the produce, but not much better than the others that have much fresher stock.

Pricing (not the prices) is a nightmare. Many items have no prices listed at all. Even more common is to a have a price underneath an item that isn’t for that item. They are constantly, as in every time I go there, moving things around. It seems to be a full time job for much of the crew. I’ve asked a few of them questions regarding stock and prices, of course they did not know. It is really difficult to get through the aisles with all the customers and the crew.

I don’t know where they are getting many of their imported items. You do see some Kirkland branded things, but they must have some agreement with a distributor that is closing out old stock from the US. You need to be careful because many of these imported items are close to expiration. Often times they are in poor condition, too. They do have a section in the aisles that is supposed to be for discounted items that are expiring, but you will often see stock on the regular shelves that are in the same situation.

Tough they carry the imported, natural and organic items, you will most often pay a big premium. Sometimes an amount so ridiculous that I can not justify it. Such was the case recently when they had the sliced almonds from Costco that I always bought back in the States. They wanted somewhere just under $20 US for them, and I just couldn’t do that. Additionally their expiration was in only 5-6 months.

Last, but not least, is the check out. Two of the last three times I’ve been there the something failed in the equipment. The first time the entire network went out and the hundreds of people that had been in line for a lengthy amount of time, had to wait until it came back up and each register rest manually. I was in line close to an hour,I’d guess. The next time, after waiting 10-15 minutes the reader quit half way through the person in front of me. I was kindly asked to proceed to another line, where I got to wait another 1-15 minutes.

My plan is to change my shopping day from Saturday to one day during the week. I’m hopeful that will take care of the crowds and lengthy check out times, to some extent. It doesn’t fix the other problems, but with less crowds and less stress I might have more time to look things over and find the things that are misplaced. I could even take the time to gather them and run them through the price checker, which is close to the produce section.

It’s far from perfect, really far, but it is still the best for me. And with gritted teeth, I must admit it is my favorite.

photo: tomtacks – Gaisano Mall at night | skyscrapercity.com

Anki Bisaya Phrasebook Flashcards