Things You Can and Cannot Buy in the Philippines

Is shampoo available in the Philippines? What about cheese, peanut butter, etc.? I remember these were things I wish I’d known before I went. Here’s a list of things that you might be wondering about. Whether you’re headed to the Philippines, or trying to figure out what to send your loved one in a care package, it’s good to know what you can and can’t get there.

*This is coming from my experience living in the Northern Philippines for 18 months. Things may be slightly different in other areas in the Philippines. Anyone with expertise on other areas of  the Philippines, feel free to let me know so we can add more helpful info for readers!

Soap

Yes, there is soap in the Philippines. Just be aware that a lot of the soap has “whitening” agents to lighten up the skin, so be careful not get that kind if that’s not what you want.

Shampoo & Conditioner

Yes, these are also available. They are sold in bottles as well as individual packets. They’ve got a pretty good selection of brands but not every single brand.

Medicine

Most over-the-counter drugs are available in the Philippines, but they may be under a different name, so you need to make sure you know what you’re getting. Drug stores are everywhere there, and you often can get a lot of things over-the-counter that are sold prescription-only in the U.S.

Ranch Dressing

They don’t have ranch dressing mix, so you might want to bring some if you like to eat it a lot.

Brown gravy

Yes, you can usually find brown gravy or something similar there.

Laundry Soap

Laundry soap and dish soap is very readily available, usually sold in individual packets (because most people do their own laundry by hand there). They’ve got Tide and some different brands as well.

Cosmetics

Yes you’ll probably be able to find most cosmetics you’re looking for there. I’m not sure if they are all the same brands as in the U.S. though.

Cough drops

Yes, Hall’s cough drops are available. But make sure to look in the candy section to find them.

Crackers & Cookies

They have lots of crackers, cookies, and snacks!  They have Ritz and Saltine-like crackers, but they’re different brands: Fita and Skyflakes, or Rebisco. They often sell them in packages with a bunch of individual packets. They have lots of creative snacks, like crackers covered with different flavors of frosting, or oreo-like cookies with different flavored fillings. Chips Ahoy and Oreos are available in the malls, but at a higher price than the Filipino brands.

Pasta

Yes, noodles are available. Aside from Asian rice noodles, there’s lots of spaghetti noodles, macaroni, as well as Raman and Cup-a-Noodles.

Peanut butter

Yes, peanut butter is easy to find. The imported brands like Jiffy are more expensive but they also sell peanut butter made in the Philippines. Peanuts are also sold.  Jam is also sold. Look for mango jelly – it’s the best!

Instant Oatmeal & Pancake Mix

Oatmeal is available in large packages as well as individual packets. There’s chocolate, banana, vanilla, & sweet corn flavored oatmeal, as well as oatmeal drink packets.

Pancake mix is also available.

Macaroni and Cheese

Not available in most places. But many stores do sell popcorn kernels that come with cheese packets that can be used to make it if you want.

Hamburger Helper

Not available in most places. I did find it once in the Baguio SM mall.

Feminine supplies

Available in most places. But they are a little different, so bring some with you if you prefer certain brands. Tampons are harder to find.

Toilet Paper

This was probably one of the biggest rumors I heard before going to the Philippines (that they don’t have it). Yes, they have toilet paper. Not everyone may use it, but you can get it just fine.

Juice

Yes, you can find juice anywhere you go. Dole fruit juice in cans and Tang are quite popular.

Chocolate

What would I do without chocolate? There’s plenty of this in the Philippines! In the malls, you can find well-known candy bars (such as Snickers, Kit kats, and Toblerone), but they are quite pricey. Goya is a popular brand of chocolate there.  They also sell Nutella, and sometimes even brownie mix. The country also has their own candybar brands, such as Cloud 9 and Choco Mucho. They are pretty good and way more affordable than the imported ones.

Chewy Granola Bars

You can’t really find chewy granola bars. Sometimes you can find the hard ones at malls. But try out the Cloud 9 “cereal” bar – it’s about the closest you can get.  I used to get a whole package of these every week. Yum!

Cold Cereal

You can find cold cereal here, like corn flakes, but it is imported (& hence, expensive).

Ice Cream

This was another rumor I heard – that there was no ice cream in the Philippines. I guess people assumed because they didn’t drink milk they didn’t have ice cream. Not true. Filipinos love ice cream! They don’t sell a ton of flavors, but they do offer some really good chocolate-based flavors, like rocky road, and other kinds. They also sell Filipino flavors like melon, cheese, mango, ube, macapuno, etc.

Yogurt

Often malls carry individual things of yogurt. Sometimes they don’t. But they’re a little more expensive. They also sell individual yogurt drinks.

Pudding mix

If I recall correctly, I don’t think they have this. Maybe at some big city malls.

Campbell’s Soup

Hard to find. Might be available in larger malls. If you’re looking for cream of chicken soup, there are substitutable chicken soup mixes sold in most grocery stores.

Sour cream

I don’t recall ever seeing this.

Candy

They sell lots of different kinds of candy. You can also find Skittles, Mentos, Gum, etc.

Frozen Section

They carry lots of hot dogs. Sometimes you can find chicken nuggets in the malls, or mixed veggies. They carry lots of Asian frozen stuff, such as siopao, lumpia, bangus, fish balls, etc.

Cheese

The regular cheese used in the Philippines is shelf-stable. It’s different than normal cheddar cheese (softer maybe?)  but not quite like velveeta. Occasionally you can find regular cheese in the refrigerated section, but it’s very expensive.

Meats

They sell lots of seafood (usually whole) as well as chicken, pork, and beef. Ground pork/beef is usually available in the malls.

Milk

Most Filipinos don’t really drink milk. The milk that is sold in malls comes in a carton and is shelf-stable. It tastes a bit different than normal milk but not much. Individual cartons of chocolate milk are often sold (refrigerated).

Canned food

Tuna, corned beef, and spam are the majority of canned meats. And they come in all sorts of varieties and flavors! You probably won’t find chili, beans, ravioli, or other ready made stuff in a can.  Sweetened condensed milk is sold. Canned fruit cocktail is better in the Philippines because it includes coconut gel cubes. Yum!

Chips

They have lots of chips – mostly Filipino brands. You can also often find tortilla chips, Doritos, Cheetos, and Lay’s, but they are imported.

Batteries

Yes, you can get batteries, usually at the mall. They are also often available at photo printing centers.

Spaghetti Sauce

This is easy to find anywhere. Italian-style is the regular stuff we use in the states. Pinoy-style is the sweeter stuff used in Filipino-style spaghetti (more common and sometimes easier to find).

Oil

Yes, oil is easy to get anywhere. Lots of Filipino food is fried. Coconut oil is the most common.

Popcorn

You probably won’t find microwaveable popcorn at the store. That’s because people don’t have microwaves in the Philippines. But they do sell popcorn kernels that you can pop over the stove.

Baking Supplies

If I remember correctly, I think most baking supplies were available. Flour, sugar, and salt I know for sure were. Baking soda and baking powder – I think so but I honestly can’t remember for sure. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong).  One thing to keep in mind is that there’s no ovens (unless you want to pay a high price or have one imported), so you’ll have to do any baking you do with a toaster oven.

Flour tortillas

It’s rare to find these. I found them a couple times in big city malls, but it’s not common to see.

Bread

Oh yes, you can get bread there. There’s even little bakeries along the side of the road that sell yummy sweet rolls and stuff. They’re quite heavy and rich. My favorite thing was going to get Pandasal (rolls sold by the dozen at little pandasal shops along the road). They are delicious! It’s hard to find wheat bread but some stores carry it.

Flip Flops

These are very easy to find. Everyone wears them and they are sold everywhere.

Umbrellas

These are also readily available. Filipinos use them to keep the sun off as well as the rain.

Soy sauce

You can get this anywhere.

Taco seasoning

This one’s a bit of a hit and miss. You may find some at the mall occasionally, but they don’t always carry it.

Vinegar

Also readily available.

Stationary, Stickers, Envelopes, and Office Supplies

You can get all these things in department stores (in the mall).

Toothpaste & Floss

Toothpaste is sold everywhere. Floss is harder to find.

Sunscreen & Bug Spray

You can get these there.

Clothes

There are thrift stores called ukay-ukay stores where you can find pretty cheap clothes. You can also a seamstress – they are very talented and skilled.

*Some more rural towns don’t have malls, just outdoor markets and sari-sari type shops that carry the basic necessities.

*Grocery stores vary in what they carry. It’s a surprise whenever you go shopping. One week you you’ll see something but the week it won’t be there.  But this mostly applies to imported stuff, like cheese,  and certain types of snacks, etc. The basic Filipino staple foods are always available.

*My experience has been that when you first get there, you might crave certain foods back home for the first little bit. But after being out their for a while, it’s not a big deal – You start to crave American food a lot less and enjoy the Filipino lifestyle much more.

Want to add something to this list? Feel free to contact us here or comment below.

This article was contributed by Rebecca, Philippines Baguio Mission, 2009-2011.

27 thoughts on “Things You Can and Cannot Buy in the Philippines

  • all of these (as in all of it) are available in S&R.
    It’s our version of Costco here in Manila. There’s branches in BGC, near Mall of Asia and Alabang.

  • Can’t find self rising or Bread flour in Bacolod supermarkets, The beef is sad, Even supposed quality steaks a like porterhouse is like eating a shoe. Cheese selection is poor, lucky if you find more than a couple packs of sliced american or some mozzarella. Once in a while you can find a box cake but then no icing, cereal selection is poor. No deli’s in the supermarkets and if you do find a deli somewhere its like 2000p per kilo for turkey ham.

    • We do have a problem with Cows and Cow products because our climate and grass isnt the best for raising cows. So dont expect quality cheese, milk, beef etc unless they are imported and expensive. I think the best cows you can find here are in batanes. AND DONT LOOK AT SUPERMARKETS FOR FRESH MEAT! Fresh pork, chicken and beef can only be found in the town markets early in the morning. They are going to be sold out after 10 am.

  • “That’s because people don’t have microwaves in the Philippines.”

    Im like,.”wow, I happen to use a microwave oven everyday”

    Ranch dressing – available at SM and most Puregold stores.

    • I’m sure she meant not all Filipinos have microwave ~ like me. Why have a microwave when you already have an oven? The only redeeming quality of a microwave is to heat stuff faster. For many Filipinos, this is in the least of their needs.

    • Butter is available here, my wife buys it in Bacolod City at one of the Malls. Some European and US items are at Ayala (Wherever that is). Butter doesn’t taste the same though, I think it is from Buffalo not cows as we may be used to. As to sending anything here, look up Balikbayan boxes, these take anywhere from 2 mos. to half a year to arrive though.

  • I am a diabetic and living near Bacolod City. I have been looking for 4C Tea 2 Go, Green tea with honey, sugar free but can’t find it here; also canned chili. Also looked for Italian Sausage could only find fennel seeds, can’t find decent casings anywhere so we can’t make regular sausage but can make sausage patties. Diet sodas here are very limited despite the huge amount of indigenous diabetics living in this country, Coke Zero and sometimes diet root beer and 7Up. Everyone keeps repeating to me that this isn’t the USA; as though I need to hear that. Before I came here for this extended and very long vacation I did go online to see what I would need and was told ‘everything is available’ here if I am willing to pay; well it turns out that was not correct. I have a Jig saw and can’t find blades for it; oh and it uses batteries and I can’t find replacements. Funny too how the hardware stores show advertisement of items that I am often told are not in stock! Last but not least, it was virtually impossible to find Iodine anywhere. So if anyone knows where to get these items let me know but if all you are going to do is tell me how this isn’t the USA, keep it to yourself. Thanks.

    • you may find iodine in the pharmacy, but it is very hard to even get in the usa. you can get betadine in the usa, maybe they have similar in the PH, could be calling it something different. You may try iodiphor, I used that for sanitization in food service and breweries, you may find it useful. Then again, Iodine is a precurser to meth, so you may just have a very hard time finding it at all.

  • I’m looking at this from a different perspective. I’m in the US (in Minnesota), and we have three employees from Philippines who are in the US through next week, and I’m wanting them to try some candy or simple food-type stuff that they’ve never heard of or seen before–as sort-of a “taste test” or fun experience for them to try. It needs to be products or “stuff” that I can bring into work. Any ideas? What would really blow their mind?!

    • It kind of depends on the Filipino – there are a lot of American foods in the Philippines and some Filipinos are more Americanized/familiar with American culture than others. I knew a Filipina who was totally weirded out by the concept of cold cereal/milk when she first got to the states. A few other ideas: Maybe pumpkin pie, S’mores, Beef jerky. As far as hot stuff goes: Mac n cheese, Biscuits & gravy, or corndogs with ketchup/mustard maybe? (they’re super-duper familiar with hot dogs but I’m not sure if they know what corn dogs are). Maybe some really good Mexican food samples – they don’t really have Mexican over there, but I once made some meat/cheese quesadillas for my Filipino roommates and they absolutely loved it. Oh yeah, & definitely some homemade chocolate chip cookies! (& brownies). They’ll love them – they’re familiar with store-bought cookies like Chips Ahoy and Oreos, which are sold in the Philippines, but most of my Filipino friends had never tasted the real homemade gooey soft stuff. Hope that helps!

  • I am heading to the Philippines in Feb and want to bring some Canadian treats for my team. I am not sure what I can bring from Canada that they don’t already have – I planned on bringing maple syrup for them – and maybe ice wine. Any other suggestions? Anyone know anything specific to Canada?

  • Filipinos love sweet and salty things. I would go with ketchup chips, Hawkins cheesies, chocolate bars such as coffee crisps, big Turks, or eat-mores. Kinder surprises would also be a hit as they would give those to their kids.

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