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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, January 28, 2019
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with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit

So, does new mall meet expectations?

Rock & Refuge

It's almost two months now since the Ayala mall in Bacolod opened to high expectations. So, now comes the inevitable question: does it meet our expectations? Is it becoming the leader in local retailing? Does it offer the mod.cons in a mall we all expected?

The answer is yes and no.

The mall is not yet complete, so this is, at best, preliminary. Let’s talk about supermarkets, which, needless to say, is my happiest place on earth. You bring me to a new place and I’d go straight to its supermarket or, in its absence, the public market. I know all the nooks and crannies of SM, Robinson’s, even Gaisano City supermarkets and I have my own posse of vendors in all the public markets of Bacolod, including the make shift ones like Pamandayan in Singcang.

Having laid down my credentials, I say the Ayala supermarket is the supermarket Bacolod will love. In fact, when I first stepped into the supermarket, the first thought that came to my mind was: Goodbye, Old Love. I have a new one.

Not only is the size just enough so that you do not traverse a kilometer to get the toothpaste or cookies that you forgot to pick up. It also looked and smelled fresh, even its meat section. And best of all, the ingredients that had to be bought in Manila before are mostly now all there. Open those Chinese, or even Spanish cookbooks you’ve given up on because you didn’t have the ingredients. Chances are what you didn’t have before are now available.

But all things must come to an end, no? I had that when I checked out. There was a Persons With Disability lane, but there was no one there. I looked around and asked a girl who apparently works there [she was wearing the same uniform as the others.] who was in charge of the lane and she looked at me with a blank face and shrugged her shoulders indicating she did not know. She must have been a PWD, too, perhaps a deaf-mute?

Then the thought came: Did they forget us PWDs? We were wheeling our carts out and this officious guard stood on our way asking for our receipt, I looked at him, said nothing and proceeded. Mercifully he let me go. My companion that day, Good Friend R shoved him away. What was that? The last time I saw something like that was in Gaisano City. Is Ayala serving the same market as Gaisano City?

They must be doing this to stop pilferage and theft in their supermarkets. But why do they burden us customers for their paranoia? They should institute security measures but not line up people to present their receipts like Jews had to present their papers in checkpoints during the holocaust.

Going into the main sections of the Ayala mall, I also realized they must indeed not fully considered us, poor PWDs. Unlike SM for instance, where the PWD access is everywhere and distinctly marked, here you have to seek them out and you could just fall before you find it. If I have this difficulty when my only[!] problem is that my bones and balance are still recovering, what about our senior citizens?. I’d advice my old folks not to go to this mall, sorry. And I think the DSWD should inspect the mall and see how the elderly and the PWD can navigate it. There are just too many elevations and small steps here, the possibility of tripping off is very real. And we all know hip replacement costs a million now.

Then there is the question: so how did the other malls fare with this new competition? Here, the jury is hung as well. There are people who swear it has eaten a big chunk of the market. I thought so too last December. I still cannot be in heavy crowds so I chose SM, and true enough, it did not have the kind of holiday crowds they had last year. But towards the end, the thick crowds returned and I had to stop going there altogether. To get a better gauge, I asked my capitol friends and they all said they still go to SM and Rob.

Of course this is still too early to really make pat conclusions. At best, everything is still in a flux. All the malls now are in fighting form, so to speak. They won’t give up, that’s for sure.

As to Ayala, it has another question to contend: Is it going the way of its Seda Hotel and its mini-mall in Talisay?*

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