AS A woman fast approaching the mandatory retirement age, I could say that I grew up while Shoemart (SM) was also slowly but surely expanding its operations.

I was in high school in Manila when once a year, my mother would bring us, her three daughters, to Shoemart before the school opening in June to buy us our one pair of school shoes. My father was a government employee and my mother was a fulltime wife and frugality was a virtue that they put to good use.

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At that time, Shoemart was a small shoe store located along Avenida Rizal near the Ideal Theatre.

After choosing our pair of shoes, the sales girl would instruct the clerk which pair it was by merely moving her fingers in a code-like fashion. In a few minutes, the shoebox would come down from the hole in the ceiling.

So it was Shoemart, now SM, when it opened its first store in Quiapo along Echague Street and the new commercial center in Makati. I love to go malling in that huge air-conditioned place where almost everything was found.

After my work at the International School in Makati in the late 1960’s, I would visit SM Makati everyday around 2 p.m. I shopped there for necessities like ready-to-wear shoes, bags and cosmetics.

When I got married in 1971 and transferred residence to Cagayan de Oro, one of the things I missed most when in Manila was shopping in big establishments.

Every time I would read the newspaper and see an announcement of an SM sale, I would regret not being able to partake of it. My limited Manila trips were few and far between. I was already a working mother of a young son then. So, every time I have the chance to fly to Manila, I make sure to include visiting an SM store as part of my itinerary. Often I would buy gift items for occasional birthday parties that I would be invited to. My household items such as bed sheets, towels, kitchenware and other home paraphernalia are bought from SM. I was amazed how complete and far-reaching the selection of items is at an SM mall. SM’s slogan ‘We’ve Got It All’ truly captures the vision of the company.

There were two occasions when I attended a conference in Iloilo and I was happy to see an SM mall there. During breaks from our meetings, I would sneak out from the hotel and rush to SM City Iloilo and look for interesting things to purchase and bring home.

SM City Davao opened before SM City Cagayan de Oro. A locally based t-shirt shoppe, Modtrade, opened a branch there. The owner happened to be a personal friend of mine. So, we motored to Davao City to attend the mall’s opening.

Little did we know that a year after, SM City Cagayan de Oro started its operations here in Cagayan de Oro. My friend from Modtrade and I attended its inauguration. There was a generous buffet table for the guests. It was quite an event in a small city.

My present life includes SM in many ways. I occasionally attend the 9:00 a.m. Mass on Sundays, do the groceries at the SM Supermarket, and sometimes watch a movie after a quick lunch. I have a BDO Reward Card which has given me constant rebates. I really like going to the mall. I take brisk walks inside and consider that as exercise for my physical well-being. I appreciate the polite and well-mannered sales clerks.

I am also thankful that SM allows me to use the carts until I am able to get my ride outside. I never miss the three-day mallwide sale because I get big, big discounts and savings.

One recent weekday, I hailed a taxicab after lunch from my workplace and instructed the driver to bring me to Shoemart. The driver replied, “Asa na?” (Where is that?) And suddenly I realized the driver knew SM, not Shoemart. Who am I kidding? Not everyone nowadays are as old as I am and so why will they know the original name of our biggest mall chain? And half century is a long time.