3 malls in Manila that you have already broken up with


Malls abound in Metro Manila. Every year, new shopping malls rise above our cities as lands are “developed” into shiny fields of consumer excess. In provincial cities, the mall serves as an alternative town plaza. The never-ending construction of new malls across the country seemingly indicates progress and development.

However, as the global trend shifts to online commerce, the Philippines continues to build old-school malls. Filipinos have even come up with a general term for spending time at the mall-malling, something which is a major part of our urban culture.

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And this is why malls that have fallen by wayside have become places of interest. More than being relics of the past, old malls serve an ominous warning: Anything shiny and new will eventually fall into ruin.

Also, walang forever.

Check out the following malls that will bring back memories of nostalgic shopping trips:


Harrison Plaza

We’re beginning this list with the mall that started it all. Known as the pioneer shopping mall in the Philippines, the 39-year-old Harrison Plaza still stands mightily between Harrison Avenue and Pablo Ocampo St. in Malate, Manila.

Established in 1976, during the rigid Marcos regime, the emergence of a one-stop recreation mall like Harrison Plaza was refreshing for Filipinos at the time. One US dollar was around less than PHP 10 at the time, hence people enjoyed buying imported products at Harrison. It was like the Duty Free of Manila in the late 1970s.

After six years of operation, it closed down for renovation from 1982 to 1984. Today, the two-storey Harrison Plaza is no longer at par with today’s malls. But back in the day, it was the first and only mall to house two rival major department stores, namely SM and Rustan’s. Being the first mall to do so, loyal customers kept coming back to Harrison Plaza. It continued to become the leading recreational place in the coastal district of Malate, Manila until the early 90s. But like any ageing entity, it gradually lost its charm.

Thirty-nine years and still counting, it’s still open for business, but the mall is now dwarfed by high-rise condominiums in the area. Entering Harrison today is like being timewarped into the 1970s. The architecture and some of the shop signs are quite old-fashioned.

Senior citizens kill time by the waterless fountain on the ground floor, which has become an indoor plaza of sorts. The second-floor exudes the vibe of a Malate red-light district because of the sheer number of massage spas you can find there. But unlike the spas in Malate, the ones in Harrison do not offer “extra service” or “happy endings.” Harrison Plaza was also known for gay cruising, especially in its comfort rooms. Now, you can’t tell if the CRs are still being used as cruising spots, since these rooms have been renovated.

Surprisingly, this outdated mall is attracting a lot of foreigners.

Harrison Plaza no longer attracts the regular clientele of popular malls, but it can be proud of the fact that it housed 200 establishments during its prime. Its walls may have faded and some of its stalls have been left behind, but Harrison Plaza will always be open to its loyal customers, just like the old folks who go back here for a stroll down memory lane.


Uniwide malls

Standing solemnly along the main thoroughfare of Las Pinas City is Uniwide Metromall. The mall’s entrance is decorated with banners announcing Big, Big Sales throughout the year. Inside, the mall could easily pass off as a shooting location for a zombie apocalypse film.

Many shops, although up for lease, are dark and empty, big chunks of the mall’s ceiling have fallen through, and a musty smell greets your nostrils upon entry. Host to many fun memories of childhood, Euroworld (the big treehouse/amusement park) looms over the mall’s greasy food court.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis brought about Uniwide’s sad fate. From being the single largest retail group in the Philippines, with several mall branches across Metro Manila, the Uniwide Group fell into a “nasty battle” against the Security and Exchange Commision. To this day, the company remains deep in debt.

And yet Uniwide continues to run its operations. But now, the malls offer offbeat sights that you won’t see in any SM or Ayala mall. The parking lot of Uniwide Coastal Mall has been converted into a provincial bus terminal. There’s a karinderya-slash-KTV bar near the old Jollibee inside Metromall, and a kantunan (pancit canton stall) can be found among the cellphone vendors outside.

If burgers are more your thing, head over to the nearby Burger Machine. For dirt-cheap items, such as secondhand clothes, pirated DVDs, Christmas decorations, and hipster knickknacks, Uniwide is your best bet-that is, if you don’t mind a bit of dust and the occasional cat as you do your shopping.


Ever Gotesco-Commonwealth Center

In 1994, a modern castle was built in the heart of a bustling city. Well, It surely isn’t a castle, but for kids and kids-at-heart, Ever Gotesco Commonwealth once held the throne for being the best mall in northern Quezon City, long before SM Fairview, Fairview Terraces, and Trinoma came into the picture.

Loyal customers kept coming back to it for its famous one-stop shops. Celebrities frequently held mall shows in its activity center, and box-office hit films premiered in its cinemas. Because of its mass appeal, Ever Gotesco was a popular recreation place for low to middle-income families until the early 2000s.

Other prominent Ever Gotesco branches are the pioneer Ever Gotesco Grand Central that opened in 1972 in Rizal Avenue, Caloocan; the Ever Gotesco Ortigas Complex in Pasig which opened in 1995; and the Ever Gotesco Manila Plaza that debuted in 1996 in Recto Avenue, Manila.

But with the renovation of SM North and the establishment of SM Fairview in 1997 and Trinoma in 2007, customers discovered more modern options. Popular brand-name stores dwindled and the Ever cinemas started showing bold, “bomba” and sub-quality indie films.  

Now, Ever Gotesco-Commonwealth has turned into a big tambayan for students, an unofficial office for realty agents giving away flyers, and at times, a tagpuan of networking agents and their new recruits. The third floor has become a wide Zumba dance floor in the afternoon. At night, it’s an air-conditiond Luneta Park for hook-ups and PDA.

Much has really changed in Ever Gotesco-Commonwealth, and sadly, it isn’t for the better. We can no longer call ourselves loyal customers, but nostalgia will always bring us back to its hallways.

What is your favorite forgotten mall? Tell us in the comments below.


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