By Manny Villar
It’s summer and the humidity stifles the entire city. You walk inside a mall to escape the heat and get a cold drink. You meet with your barkadas in the afternoon to watch the latest movie in the newest, state-of-the-art cinema inside the mall. After that, you decide to apply for a job in a BPO company right inside the mall.
You then spend the late afternoon walking about and window shopping. You walk past the shops, cafes, entertainment centers, a gym, a medical center and dentist office, grocery stores (maybe pick up a few items you need at home), and you stop by the chapel to say a short prayer. In the evening, you meet with your family for dinner. You share a simple meal with your Nanay and Tatay and your siblings.
The malls have become part of our lives. We go to malls not just on weekends but even on weekdays. Some of us actually work inside malls or park our vehicles in the mall basement in order to get to work. Malls are no longer just shopping malls, it has become a center of community.
When the first mall in the Philippines was established in 1932, few would have guessed that it would usher in a boom in mall construction decades later. Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna and Paz Pardo de Tavera, was the architect of the magnificent art deco commercial center, the Crystal Arcade which was air-conditioned and housed upscale shops, a cafe, and the Manila Stock Exchange.
Today, there are more than 150 malls — big and small — in Metro Manila and more in the urban centers all around the country. They have become our modern town plazas where people meet and spend their time for leisure and business. Malls have become centers of our urban communities.
This was my vision when we started building malls. I wanted to give our people a place where they can comfortably enjoy their day, meet with friends and family and enjoy life. The idea is not just to build an edifice where people can shop but to give them communal space.
This was the guiding principle of the six community Vista malls that we already put up: the EVIA Lifestyle center in Vista City in Daang Hari,; Vista Mall Pampanga; Vista Mall Bataan, Vista Mall Santa Rosa, Vista Mall Antipolo, a mall-next-door that acts as a “big backyard” for its huge community of families; and Vista Mall CDO, an activity hub complete with biking trails, running paths, and pit stops for outdoor sports enthusiasts that will surely delight the active community that it serves.
And we intend to provide our people with more community malls. In recent days, we announced that we are spending P50 billion in 2018, the bulk of which will be for the development of malls, in line with our vision to reach 1.4 million square meters of gross floor area from leasing spaces by the end of the year. Malls will corner 85% of this target, while office projects will account for 15%. From our current total of 22 malls, we are targeting a total of 60 malls by 2020.
This expansion is part of a larger build-up and diversification of Vista Land which has an established presence in about 133 cities and municipalities across 46 provinces and focused on the development of Communicities — integrated urban development combining lifestyle retail, prime office space, university town, healthcare, themed residential developments and leisure components.
This aggressive growth is a reflection not only of our commitment to help the quality of life of our people by giving them communal space but also of our confidence in the Philippine economy and the industry, in particular, given the strong demand for commercial spaces and housing products, propelled by the stable growth in the disposable income, OF (overseas Filipino) remittances and sound Philippine macroeconomic fundamentals.
When I visit our Vista Malls, I like to just sit down in our coffeeshop and watch people walk by. I’d see a couple on a date, an entire family out for dinner, a gentleman picking out a gift for his loved one, or just a random individual in deep thought. If you want to see the faces of the modern Filipino, go to a mall.