I have heard from the grapevine that a mall will soon be open in Occidental Mindoro particularly in San Jose, the town where I was born some 624 full moons ago. I am not so excited about this news unlike the Gen-Xers over social networking sites. Development for me is not measured by the presence of malls, be it SM, Robinson or Gaisano, or any building for that matter but by positive figures in an instrument called Quality of Life Index (QLI). According to Wikipedia, QLI is, “…based on a method that links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys to the objective determinants of quality of life across countries.” It dwells on 9 factors to determine the score namely: health, family life, community life, material well being, political stability and security, climate and geography, job security, political freedom and gender equality of a certain municipality or country. If we performed well in all of these factors, this would be the true sign of development before any prominent physical economic barometer used by many like malls or gigantic commercial establishments are put into place.
We need malls but not yet. What we need initially is to pass through a QLI and consequently get a good QLI rating first. In our sister province particularly in its capital town of Calapan, numerous malls exist. First was Citimart followed by Robinsons (neo Calapan) and in 2012, Gaisano and Puregold became both operational. But unlike Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro is still short of important and stable public utilities which is first and foremost is the reliable source of power or electricity including transport facilities and other infrastructures like roads and bridges. Trust me, to shopping mall investors, with this prevailing reality, placing their investment here is foolishness. The province’s five seaports are doorways to neighboring provinces and regions. The people of Oriental Mindoro are united against any project detrimental to their environment that’s why farming will forever be their main livelihood next to tourism. Speaking of which, Puerto Galera is a huge revenue earner.
Compared to Oriental Mindoro, we are far behind in every aspect of QLI. We are politically unstable, culturally diverse, spiritually misguided and socially unaware and as a consequence, we are still economically flaccid.
What San Jose need at this point are not malls but projects and programs both in private and public spheres that would integrally answer those concerns and factors rather than, again, malls that would only siphoned money from the pockets of the masses, the fishers and the farmers. Mall owners and capitalists are channels of “side effects” of the dominant hyper consumerist culture. The shopping mall, for me, is the basilica, the grand temple of our culture of consumption and acquisition where money is god, goods and gadgets are altars, brochures are bibles and the sales clerks are acolytes.
These giant malls are continuous to branch out outside Manila and virtually scattered all over other provinces. Malls to some are extensions of the country’s capital for they offer products that cannot be accessed in the locality. Branded and expensive t-shirts, caps, underwear, bags, cosmetics, modern electronic gadgets, toys, vitamins and practically all those products being advertized in our TV screens. Not to exclude other “health” services like a full body massage, foot spa or liposuction and the list is almost endless. But do we REALLY need them? We cannot find cheap but quality farm implements and inputs or fishing gears at the mall. The things truly needed by majority of our people. Indeed social scientist Henry Fairlie maybe right when he wrote, “The most important fact about our shopping malls is that we do not need most of what they sell.” But like the gremlins, malls in the country continue to multiply while our eyes are wet with their air conditionings and their food courts are feeding us with foods that are alien to our taste buds. Malls are of course found in such provinces, towns and cities where said business is feasible.
SM Malls in the country, according to 2012 report, have expanded by 10%. SM Malls have grown from 23 in 2005 to 37 in 2010 or an average growth rate of 12%. In addition, SM Investment’s reported capital expenditures which will fund shopping mall and other property projects has been slated to increase by 16% to Php 65 billion in 2013 from Php 56 billion in 2012, again, according to Wikipedia. If this is development, is this for us or for them? Local politicians who would benefit from it through straight or crooked (as politician or businessman, or both) means included!
While our leaders are neglecting the importance of QLI, having a mall in our midst is certainly not a true priority. This mall of our dream is a mall but terrible…