and Malling Culture in the Philippines
The density of the crowds flocking to the
malls for pre-Christmas sales underscores the dominant role that malls now
play in the life of the Filipino city-dweller. In turn, the rule of the
malls over the urban life of the Filipino can be traced to the advent of
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
At the Glorietta
shopping mall in Makati City, the crowds have started to get thicker than
usual. In a matter of days the Glorietta, together with nearby Shoemart
Makati, will be operating on extended hours.
Right at the doorstep
of the shops renting space in the Glorietta are small shelves containing
goods at discounted prices.
It’s the Christmas
season once again. And in this Third World country, where malls dominate
the urban scene, the Christmas season has become known to be something
other than the time to commemorate the birth of He who preached on the
brotherhood of all men: it is now also known as the season of
pre-Christmas sales, courtesy of the malls.
But first things
first. What is a mall?
Wikipedia.org defines a mall thus: “A
mall is a shaded
avenue or open space, such as
In recent decades in many countries, the word
mall has also come
to mean a
A shopping mall, meanwhile, “is a building or set of buildings that
and have interconnecting
that make it easy for people to walk from store to store,” the online
encyclopedia explains further.
The density of the
crowds flocking to the malls for pre-Christmas sales underscores the
dominant role that malls now play in the life of the Filipino
And there are several
of them. Off hand, the Metro Manila regular would think of the SM malls in
the cities of Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Quezon, and Parañaque; the
Robinson’s Galleria, Robinson’s Place, the Shangri-la Plaza Mall, the
Glorietta, the Starmall, Harrison Plaza, Ali Mall, and Power Plant Mall.
There are other big malls in the country’s other major urban areas like
Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.
It used to be that
the only malls in Metro Manila were Ali
Mall in Cubao, Quezon City and
Harrison Plaza in Manila. The SM City in North Edsa was build in 1985, but
for a long time it was the only Metro Manila mall aside from Ali Mall and
Many will remember
that most of the malls that came after the aforementioned three trace
their origins to the time of the Fidel V. Ramos presidency (1992-1998).
This, as activists and students of recent history will note, was a period
when the Philippine economy was increasingly being pried open to foreign
investment – at a pace previously unknown.
The suddenly speedy
influx of foreign business demanded new outlets for selling imported
goods, larger spaces than those the traditional department stores could
provide. The wily big businessmen like Henry Sy and John Gokongwei saw in
malls the prospects of bigger bucks, and Gokongwei his Robinson’s Galleria
and Sy his SM Megamall.
And they were right.
Urban-based Filipinos, long bombarded by the “Buy imported, its better”
propaganda of the multinational advertisers, got excited at seeing more
and more of their favorite imported brand-name clothes and other goods
available in greater quantities and, by the law of supply and demand,
increasingly cheaper than they usually were.
businessmen followed suit, and Sy has kept building malls ever since; he
is now busy supervising the construction of the SM Mall of Asia in Manila,
which threatens to be the biggest mall in Asia once completed.
It is thus that the
malls came to be a prominent part of Filipino urban life.
It has become normal
to see the malls flooded with shoppers right after the offices issue
The malls are thus
responsible for developing consumerism among the urban-based Filipinos.
They did it first by increasing the availability of the imported goods
that they were “trained” to crave above anything else, and then by making
them look forward to the sporadic sales – mid-year sales, year-end sales,
pre-Christmas sales, Halloween sales, back-to-school sales.
decapitalization that globalization wreaks on Third World economies like
the Philippines has resulted in an ever-decreasing purchasing power.
Which brings us to
the particularity of mall life this year. Sales have become more and more
frequent. Whereas before we would only see sales in malls during holidays,
in the middle and end of the year, and shortly before school starts, now
there are sales almost weekly.
Why so? Because the
urban-based consumers, with their ever-devaluing money, are increasingly
unable to afford the goods that malls sell at their regular prices. So
malls have to come up with sales more frequently to entice their customers
to keep patronizing their wares. This explains why the malls flourish even
as the Philippine economy languishes in dire straits. Bulatlat
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