Once upon a time, a high-profile VIP was at her wits’ end wondering where she could tour her high-profile VVIP visitors from abroad. These were worldly, sophisticated travelers who flew from Paris to Prague at the drop of a coin, so the mission was to show them how the Philippines was second to none this side of the planet.
As the visitors would land in Manila, the problem was how to make the capital city and its suburbs, or Metro Manila, look as pretty as a postcard. But how? This was long before Mayor Isko’s beautification program had been a gleam in his own eyes, and until as recently as four or five years ago, remember how Manila was a “dying city” in the eyes of a sitting President?
The solution came in an aha! moment for the gracious host, which was to whisk her guests away to Tagaytay, which would then be their home for the next two and a half days, where the trip would begin and end.
Not all of us can afford to keep our visitors in Tagaytay as their base, but Metro Manila, come to think of it, has something that Paris and Prague do not have: Malls, walls and walls of malls, a megacity a’crawl with malls, every one of them alike but unique in their own way. What would Metro Manila be without Henry Sy’s concept of the Great Mall as an all-day shopping destination, miles and miles of a hall to replace the plaza cum park cum market cum convention center?
There are 74 malls that are “tops” in Metro Manila, 14 of them in Quezon City. From 168 in Divisoria to what my pavement philosopher calls the mall of the rich, Rockwell, you can proudly take your tourist from A to Z of the Philippine malling experience. Where else but in our malls can you find under one roof a slew of government offices that issue passports and licenses; provides guarded parking for motorcycles, cars, buses; shows movies and concerts seven days a week; has space for art galleries and mass vaccinations; operates medical, dental, cosmetic clinics – all that and fully airconditioned, too!
The best thing about a mall? Has to be the democratic space.