There are malls in Davao City?

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Friday, February 28, 2014


CONFESSIONS are in place: I am not a home-grown Davaoena. Almost twenty years ago, I decided to accept a job transfer from Manila to Davao City, believing that the move would be refreshing, albeit temporary. I was so much younger then, adventurous and curious, willing to leave behind whatever comforts I had in Manila.

When I first arrived in Davao City, there were only two malls: JS Gaisano (Ilustre) and then recently-opened Victoria Plaza (JP Laurel). Since the new office I had transferred to was located in Bajada, Victoria Plaza became my regular watering hole. Lunch breaks were spent at the food court; groceries and meats were bought in the mall's supermarket; while Dunkin' Donuts was the coffee shop before Blugre showed up, and so on. I had spent so much of my first years in this mall that I was witness to the original water fountain in the atrium as it invariably transformed into a wide range of... for the lack of words, "things."

Then after a few years, the office transferred to another temporary location, a stone's throw away from the Apo View Hotel. So naturally JS Gaisano and the then new Gaisano Mall became my alternating watering holes. While not as expansive as Victoria Plaza, I nevertheless contributed to the profits of the vertical JS Gaisano Mall. A few of my fascinations in this mall provided for the rapid growth and development of my lack, if not absence, of patience. These included the location of escalators and the totally alien sales transaction called "issue" (which, by the way, I heard continues to this day). The then controversial Gaisano Mall had its ups and downs too: while it housed a wonderful array of cheap and expensive wine, its guards persistently and insistently chased shoppers in an attempt to attack receipts with red marking pens which supposedly ensured security.

Soon enough, the office finally transferred to its permanent location. When I was informed that the office was to be situated so very far away from the urban amenities I had become so very accustomed to, so very many kilometers from JS Gaisano towards the south, and so very many kilometers away from the Ulas junction towards Calinan... well, I panicked.

Since the beginning, I had moved my residence alongside the locations of the office. From the first apartment up north in Sasa, I had transferred to another in Matina. And now I had to move again? Fortunately, by this time, I had already adopted Davao City to be my permanent home. And since the office was finally settling down in a permanent location, I figured that it was high time for me to find a permanent residence... in Talomo - not too far from the highway that will bring me to where the malls are, and not too far away from the work that allows me to spend my salary at the malls.

I was so horribly amused with the fact that in a relatively short span of time, I had resided in areas that spanned the entire Davao City, from the north to the south.

It was therefore a great relief for me that SM Davao decided to build its mall along Quimpo. At least, I need not go all the way into or traverse the city proper to go to a mall. For many years, I had to schedule my life with military precision: trekking from the office to SM Davao to do my groceries, purchasing supplies and doing my bank transactions. Lunches in any mall were out of the question. Since then, my wine drinking, food binging and shopping spree days have considerably dwindled in reverse proportion to my increasing age. And mind you, it's not called mellowing down.

In the meantime, NCCC Mall opened near Ateneo along McArthur Highway. Ayala built Abreeza Mall near Victoria Plaza, and SM built SMX near my first apartment in Sasa. Since these malls have opened, I have been to NCCC Mall about three times (overtaken by two visits to S&R); I have been to Abreeza only once; and I have yet to set foot in SMX. Truly, the booming economy in Davao City is witnessed by the ongoing construction of Felcris (which, twenty years ago, I mistakenly thought was supposed to be Filcrest) in front of the LTO, and the newly opened Gaisano Mall in Toril.

Curiously, within more than a decade or so of working in this far-flung area near Calinan, it never occurred to the families of mall tycoons to build a mall in this area. For heaven's sake, I had constantly thought to myself, it is still part of Davao City, you know! So what have been built near my place of work, you might venture to query. Well, there's Jollibee now in Calinan. There's also a Mercury Drug outlet and an ATM machine in Tugbok.

Nowadays, I simply wait till I visit Manila to go to a mall. Yeah right, in the midst of mind-boggling traffic jams. Sigh...

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 01, 2014.

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