Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Really Big Mall- Is This Called Progress?

Sorry it's been a few days since the last action here on the blog...between both of us taking turns feeling like complete crap, taking care of each other and other business, we haven't been able to post here since last week. Now that we're better, we'll get some fresh news up on the site before we start getting hate mail....

As I mentioned, both Kendra and I had some dark evilness residing deep inside for a few days. It was pretty bad, but we pulled through. We felt well enough to go along with Kendra's co-worker Sam to the Mall of Asia on Sunday which was an interesting trip. Sam stopped by the building at 11am to pick us up and once outside of the Glorietta area we instantly hit stand-still traffic. But not before Sam makes a right turn onto EDSA and gets flagged down by a cop. Now, I don't know how the authorities expect to enforce traffic laws here, seeing that 99% of all traffic lights are stuck on red 99% of the time and traffic "lanes" just do not exist here at all. I soon found out that, like many things, "enforcement" and "compliance" both have their own shades of definition and after a bit of dialogue between Sam and the cop, the situation was $ettled. Exact amount undetermined. We're still debating whether having 2 Americans in the car with him helped or hurt Sam's case. In any way, it was taken care of there on the $pot.

About 45 minutes later, we arrived at what is now the 3rd largest shopping mall in the world, beat out only by the Golden Resources Mall in Beijing and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada. The Mall of Asia sits on 19.5 hectares of land and has a gross floor area of 386,000 square meters. Of course, it does take alot to impress the two of us, having lived in the shadow of the Mall of America in Minnesota, which resides at around 8 or 9 on the size list, but #1 in the Most Visited mall in the world. The Mall of America's "Wow!" factor is Camp Snoopy, the amusement park located inside the mall, and the Mall of Asia has some uniques ammenities of it's own:

Like a badminton court...

And an ice skating rink. (Why this exists in the Philippines and not in Minnesota is beyond me.)

We followed the signs to the parking garage, parked and walked around for a bit and were actually pleasently surprised at the space inside the place and the ease of walking around. We had been dreading the thought of manuevering through a massive, recently opened mega-mall on a weekend here, but Sam said he thought it would be Ok. And it was. For a while.

Our main attraction today, and the only thing we really wanted to do, was to check out the Everest movie at the IMAX theater in the mall. It's not a new release by any means, but given the Philippines recent multiple successes on the mountain, it's got a lot of local hype. And, it's a good show (my Dad's got the DVD, of course!). We followed Sam through the mall and with the help of some directions by a security guard, found the theater and bought our tickets (150 pesos a head- about 3 USD- nice!). We even got to pick our seats from a computer display (we would wonder why later).

We had about an hour and a half to kill, so went to check out some more of the mall and to find something to eat. We passed by a large concert area; the stage of which was visiable from the many levels of the mall and opened up to the outside. One really nice thing about the mall was how open it was. This meant that it got very hot in certain places, but added alot in terms of natural light, breeze and color, with lots of plants and flowers. Other sections of the mall were sealed off and air conditioned. There was also a walkway which led outside and over the perimeter road for a great view of Manila Bay and the surrounding areas.

After enjoying the cooler (albeit not-so-nice smelling) breeze of the bay, we found some lunch at a small cafe, which specialized in fresh fruit smoothies. We had the typical task of explaining "vegetarian" to the wait staff and they did their best.

Somehow, during the time that we were eating, the entire population of metro Manila descended on the mall. Our worse fears of overcrowding and insane walking patterns became a horrible reality. Sam led us through the riotous havoc and we got back to the IMAX theater in one piece. We picked up some popcorn and a Coke for the show... happy to not be given the super-sized bucket fit for a family of five like at a U.S. theater. The Coke was slightly bigger than your typical 12 oz can and the popcorn the size of a regular microwave bag- much more manageable.

One thing that confused the heck out of us was trying to reason why people were mobbing the theater doors like it was 6am Black Friday morning outside a WalMart when we were all holding tickets with assigned seats. There were 30+ minutes till the doors were to open and a line had formed across the lobby area, past the concession stands, through the front doors and out into the mall itself. We were incredulous at this bizarre behavior, and just hoped to God that people abided by the assigned seating,....if they didn't we would take no part in that insanity. Eventually, all turned out well- the show was sold out, but everybody was civil and sat where they should have (Come on, people- the screen is 60 feet high- there's not a bad seat in the house!).

After the show, we plowed our way through the crowds and back to the parking garage and headed for home. The Mall of Asia experience was just another of the many examples of Western commercialism and glitzy, big city undertakings that are attempted here in the Philippines but fail miserably in the most basic regards.

For instance, even though the sizes of popcorn and sodas are smaller here, we still had trash in our hands as we stood up from our seats. Guess how many opportunities we had to throw it away as we left the theater? None outside the door, none in the lobby. It was only until we had gotten back into the mall and walked around a corner that we found our first trash can- which was the size of the one we have in our apartment bathroom.

Another example- entering the parking garage required Sam to speak to 2 different people, drive past a machine designed to dispense ticket stubs, and get a hand-written ticket by yet another person manning the gate.

And for a just-built, glamorously shining state-of-the-art movie theater that holds several hundred people at a time, I would suggest having more than one itty-bitty soap dispenser in the bathroom...in addition to toilet paper.

It's these things, like efficient traffic flow, basic sanitation and proper waste disposal that get completely overlooked here in the quest for Mossimo aparel stores, plasma TV retailers and TGI Friday's restaurants. There are so many "cart before the horse" situations here that one has to wonder where it's all going to lead and what or who is going to suffer in the process.

(Might it be these people? (I can't imagine these "homes" are the desired mall-side realty for too much longer....)


At 8:42 PM, Blogger Marco said...

Hi Tim,

I do enjoy reading your blog.

However, it disheartens me to see how you seem to always highlight the bad side of my home city, almost trashing it. It is in a Third-world country, after all, so there is really no need compare Manila and Philadelphia.

No matter how filthy or gritty Manila is, she will always be my home city, she's like a mother to me. And inspite of her problems, deep down, she still has a heart and a soul. I don't want to sound so poetic, but it's true, people still manage to smile. She has her own charm.

Having a big mall is not really a gauge of progress, if you ask me honestly, but do you really have to be sarcastic?

I found this review from someone over at Yahoo travel and he summarizes what Manila is all about (cut and paste if the link doesn't work):





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