22 May 2013

SM Megamall, Mandaluyong, Philippines

An emerging marketplace

Makati and its extensive skyline and immediate environs are usually regarded as THE main commercial center of the Philippines. The main thoroughfare, Ayala Avenue, is lined with the offices of various international financial institutions and is popularly dubbed the "Wall Street of the Philippines." But it isn't the only business district in Metro Manila. There is also downtown Manila, Bonifacio Global City and Eastwood, among others. But I chose to make the country's second largest corporate hub, the Ortigas Center, my home. Though it doesn't enjoy the affluence or recognition of Makati, it does handily defeat its neighbor in the one category that really matters- shopping.

SM Megamall on the lower left-hand corner under the Ortigas Center skyline and dark rainy season clouds.

From my condominium, I was within walking distance of eight different enclosed vertical shopping malls. All rose to at least three levels, and while some offered mostly mid-market level vendors, others, such as my retail mainstay, Shangri-La Plaza, were filled with retailers designed to attract a more upscale clientele. Although most of its neighboring competitors were easily over a million square feet each, none even approached the immense size and scope of the SM Megamall. It stretched for a couple thousand meters along Epifanio De Los Santos Avenue, the metropolis's main thoroughfare. It was so extensive, in fact, that each end was in close proximity to separate light rail stations on the same line.

The six levels of SM Megamall.

I found myself among the six tiers of the mall quite often, but mostly for non-retail related business. There were government offices within its corridors, where a quick handshake could expedite any normally lengthy process. My orthopedic surgeon was also housed at the comprehensive Megaclinic on the mall's top level. In fact, I had both of my knees surgically repaired and replaced within one of that clinic's operating venues. It was a surreal experience; after the procedure, I was a bit hungry, so they were nice enough to wheel me down to the food court, still clad in my backless gown and dizzy in my drug-addled state, to get a bite to eat at Greenwich Pizza.

The extensive front façade of the SM Megamall.

SM Megamall opened in 1991 as SM Prime's third colossal monstrosity of a mall, although it was much larger than either one of its "mega" predecessors. At over 4.2 million square feet, it served as the country's largest shopping center until SM's Mall of Asia debuted in 2006. Within its concrete walls, it offers every example of SM brand available, from SM Hardware, to SM Electronics, to SM Appliances. There is even a large convention and meeting complex known as the SM Megatrade Hall. Originally opened with the country's first ice skating rink, that feature has since been replaced by more shops. Though basic in overall design, the stacked tiers and the imposing length of the building make it quite the extraordinary destination.

A look from the top to the bottom of the SM Megamall.

Today, by most industry metrics, SM Megmall boasts a ranking of the world's seventh largest enclosed shopping mall. Presently, a major expansion is underway that will once again make the groundbreaking facility the most substantial in the country and the second largest in the world. A major American shopping destination, Forever 21, has joined Megamall's lineup while there is talk of an IMAX Theater being constructed on the property. Whether or not all of these plans become reality remains to be seen, but if there's anything the Filipinos do well, it is their retail endeavours, so I fully expect nothing but the best.

SM Megamall's official website

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