The Philippines is definitely the mall capital of the world. If you think the U.S. had a lot of shopping malls packed with ironic and angst-ridden teens, shopaholics, and over-spending families, you ain’t seen nothing yet compared to the Philippines. (On a side note, many of the malls in the U.S. are doing very poorly and starting to shut down, thanks to the rise of online shopping and other economic factors.)
It’s a fact that Filipinos LOVE their malls, so much so that they represent far more than just a place to walk around looking at attractive members of the opposite sex, buy unhealthy food that tastes way too good, and max out our credit cards.
Instead, malls are community centers in the Philippines. In the gritty, crowded, chaotic, and often unsafe city streets, shopping malls stand as some of the only places to enjoy comfort, cleanliness, and order.
It’s the only place where there is no trash or litter, everything is nice, new, and clean, you can walk around without being robbed or worrying about beggars or riffraff, and the air conditioning is free! Of course, window shopping is also a major attraction at the malls, and even humble Filipinos who can’t afford the regular mall shops can patronize the smaller kiosks, markets, and vendors that pop up there with lower prices.
Believe it or not, I read that something like six (or maybe four) out of the top ten biggest malls in the world are in the Philippines!
Out of all of the malls, the SM brand of malls is definitely the largest, most impressive, and most impactful on their lives.
Right now, SM has about 70 malls open across the Philippines, with dozens more in the process of opening or construction. SM malls in the Philippines alone have more than 17,000 stores and vendors in their malls, and have expanded to China, where they have seven new malls including the second biggest in the world (SM Tianjin).
The SM Mall of Asia in Manila spans a jaw-dropping 4.2 million square feet! That’s approximately 44 acres – or the same as 33 football fields stacked six levels high!
SM malls may be virtually omnipotent now, but they started from humble beginnings. In the 1950s, a shoe store salesman named Henry Sy, Sr. opened his own shoe store, expanding to a chain by the 1970s. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, that exploded into mall construction across the country with the first super mall in Quezon City in the Philippines in 1985.
Now, SM malls contain not only shopping stores and food courts, but governmental agencies like passport offices and motor vehicle departments, multiple mega churches with thousands of members, gyms and sporting complexes, health clinics, ice rinks, science and discovery centers, convert venues, arcades, karaoke parlors, bowling alleys, and even rides like you’d find at an amusement park.
While I’m not a mall guy AT ALL and HATE shopping with a passion, it is nice sometimes when you’re in the Philippines to escape the rain, humidity, heat, riff-raff, traffic, pollution, and other taxing elements of society here to go to the mall, where you can find modern conveniences and a whole lot of people doing the same.
Check out an SM Mall the next time you’re in the Philippines!