Welcome to Manila
With more than ten million people in the Metro Manila area malling has become a growing cultural habit of most of it’s population. Still considered a developing country the Philippines is packed with hypermarkets and major names such as the Mall of Asia, SM and Ayala. With the high humidity and heat most of the populations pass time by strolling through malls to stay cool.
Manila is full of surprises if nobody forewarned you about them. Intense heat, loads of traffic, jeepneys galore, lots of honking, lots of sweating, and your body begging you for more cold buko juice. In the metro Manila area part of the lifestyle of living here is to go “malling” to stay cool and get your errands done in one place. When I visited the Philippines for an extended period of time two years ago I was shocked by how often my boyfriend wanted to go to the mall to “cool off”.
“Malling” in my family happens usually during the holidays when we are shopping for gifts and usually this isn’t done as a family. We usually go on our own and at our own pace. So when my Filipino boyfriend asks me to go strolling to get out of the heat I have to understand how way of living too. Here in the Philippines you have to stop comparing to how things are done at home. Some people go to malls for window shopping or just to browse around while others go to malls to tackle many tasks at one location. Malling in the Philippines is how Filipinos come together to share a meal, go grocery shopping or have a break from the heat.
Whether you’re visiting the metropolitan Manila area before heading to another destination keep in mind that you are going to do some serious people watching while strolling. If you head over to Starbucks or Bo’s Coffee you will find many students with their books open and a frappachino studying for endless hours. Security will greet you at the door and even open it for you with a lovely “Hello Ma’m or Sir”. Back home we usually go to Starbucks to meet up with friends to catch up. Starbucks is usualy a good meeting place for business or quick coffee dates. I think that any traveler will be surprised by the security greeting you from all entrances of the mall with wooden sticks briefly checking through your belongings making sure you aren’t carrying weapons. But how carefully are they really checking through your bags?
What is Malling?
It’s sometimes overwhelming to discover which mall you actually want to visit because there are too many to choose from; SM Manila, Mall of Asia, Robinson’s, and so forth. In the Philippines, shopping malls offer so much more than just shopping. For many people in western countries going to the mall isn’t an everyday habit to “kill time”. We actually go when we literally need to buy something or window shop. But in the Philippines you go to the mall to eat meals with family and friends, pay bills at SM, do some grocery shopping, browse for home goods at Lowes, get a massage or foot spa, mail or send parcels, drop off the kids at kiddy play zones for a designated amount of time, watch a movie in the theater and also for other entertainment purposes.
Why do Filipinos spend a lot of time in malls?
Some families walk the mall together to just simply get out of the house because in some cases they don’t have Air Con in their dwellings and want a change of scenery. I find this phenomenon and way of living mind blowing compared to the reasoning for malling in the west. Back home I never go to the mall unless Macy’s is having a sale and I have a surplus of coupons to shop around and buy what I need getting unbelievable deals to show my mom when I come back home. Strolling through the mall in the Philippines is for multipurpose task running where you can get a lot of errands done in one place instead or driving around the city trying to find parking spots for all of the individual places you need to visit to get your errands done for; massage, mailing a parcel, grocery shopping, eating a meal, buying a lightbulb, and finally breaking for a coffee with friends or family.
Snacking your way through the malls
I always work up an appetite for something delicious while trolling through the malls. Be sure to sample some of most typical Filipino snacks such as buko juice, brownies, bibimka bread, and lumpia. I have come up with the conclusion that the reason why you will be paying a quadruple cost for the lumpia (usually 10 php each) in the malls is because you are essentially paying for the aircon that comes along with it! Take note at the salespeople in the store as you browse around. They usually greet you with “ma’m and sir” followed by “what are you looking for today?” as they follow you around the store. One thing that I like about retail in the Philippines is that you are never ignored! I can’t even come up with how many times I actually had a question or couldn’t find an item in the mall and could not find one salesperson to assist me or one that looked like they were interested in assisting me. Get ready for plenty of pleasant greetings, some good people watching, and oh..some Air Con!
My best Mall picks
- MOA (mall of Asia in Pasay) is the biggest mall in all of metro Manila. You can easily spend a day here if you need to do grocery shopping, eat, and stroll some more. Located on Seaside Blvd next to the sea this mall offers an indoor ice skating rink, a huge food court, plenty of restaurants on the first floor and fireworks each Saturday at 7 P.M.
- Robinsons Place in Ermita is my favorite mall because you don’t feel the crowd as much and the lights aren’t as bright compared to SM Manila Mall. Mr. Choi is my favorite restaurant there with delicious dumplings, noodles, and smoothies. You can check out the menu here.
- SM City in Baguio is a open air mall up in the norther region of Philippines (about a seven hour drive north of Manila). What I like most about this mall is the cool air and the less crowded feeling. There’s a really great Korean restaurant (Wood Nymph) nearby Starbucks.
Keep in mind that most malls open at 10 A.M. When I first arrived to the Philippines last September I was super jet lagged. Wide awake at 6 A.M. my boyfriend took me over to MOA to begin our day malling only to find ourselves starting our day with a warm bowl of lomi at Chowking outside the mall.