IF YOU’VE NOT BEEN to Robinsons Ilocos Norte, the province’s first mall which opened Dec. 3, you’re probably 1) too busy, 2) too poor, or 3) too spiritual to care about material things and other ephemeral joys.
But I doubt the third reason very much, dear karikna, because we know how luxurious and capricious a lifestyle our priests enjoy these days. Not even the religious can resist the temptation to indulge, to the point of hedonism, which explains why the Bishop’s Palace has a swimming pool, and why some parish priests have expensive dogs they feed with imported food an impoverished human being (such as an underpaid parish catechist) cannot even afford to provide his own family.
Anyway, I have been to Rob IN (‘Robinsons almost Laoag’ is how some friends call it), and have seen all three films at the Movieworld there: Twilight New Moon, Ninja Assassin, and 2012.
The cinema is decent. The chairs are comfy. The sound system is good but not excellent, and the video is clear but not crystal (there were line distortions on the screen), which made me wonder if the films have been shown in Manila hundreds of times before they were brought here.
Still, Robinsons theatres are a paradise compared to the rat-infested, archaic Isabel, the only other cinema in the province.
I asked the customer service representative (CSR) at the lobby when a new set of movies will be shown. To my surprise, the employee replied, “Diak ammo, sir. (I don’t know),” which was a pity because CSR’s are supposed to be well-trained to answer every query, specially valid ones like mine.
I then advised the young lady never to say “I don’t know” when she is in a position to know. The better answer would be, “I’ll try to find out,” which she did eventually. According to her supervisor, the movies last for one week, but due to public demand, they may have to extend the screening of some movies. The supervisor specifically mentioned “New Moon” and “2012”.
I told this story to my colleagues at MMSU, and one of them, out of curiosity, asked the CSR the same thing when the former went to the mall. Alas, he also got the “Diak ammo” reply from the lady.
People inside the mall look very happy. And why not, the mall is an idealized world, the dwelling of illusions.
When inside the well-lit, air-conditioned structure, it is easy to forget that you live in a third-world country, and that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is your president.
My dad, 73, survivor of two heart attacks, insisted on malling although he could barely walk, so we had to use a wheel chair to show him around. A certified “butingtingero,” I think my dad felt so at home at the Handyman store.
Then we had lunch at Mang Inasal which I think is overrated. Their roasted chicken, the store’s specialty, was so dry for my taste. “Natangken,” was how my sister Helen put it. It was also unfortunate that a bean-sized stone (bigger than a bukel ti otong) was in my rice. I bit it, and to my writhing pain. I reported it to the manager who profusely apologized and promised to relay the matter to their supplier.
Let’s give some credit to the Mang Inasal staff. Thay had a lot of costumers, many of whom had to wait to be seated, but they moved very quickly, and inefficiently. We got a table, and had our meal in no time.
After lunch, we went to the Supermarket where, unlike most groceries in Laoag, aisles are so wide you can do a cotillion inside (I’m exaggerating, but just a bit). My sister was delighted that meat products there were sold many tens of pesos lower than the prevailing market rates.
My very first purchase was made at the Department Store with the laptop backpack bag I always wanted to buy in Manila, but never had the chance to. It cost 1699. I kept the receipt for sentimental reasons.
Last Dec. 8 was Immaculate Conception Day. Thus, Catholic schools had no classes. It was also Batac’s Fiesta, so no work day at MMSU, too.
But the faithful in all the churches in the province and the crowd in downtown Batac combined cannot match the number of people who trooped to the mall.
I saw many of my students and colleagues there. A standing joke is that should an emergency faculty meeting be held at Robinsons’ it would not be difficult to produce a quorum instantly.
But I do not exactly enjoy going to a mall where I know so many people. I miss the thrill of being incognito amidst a crowd.
I miss the pleasures of not having to smile, nod, and engage in small talk with people you encounter, especially if you already meet them everyday at work!
But what can we do, we only have one mall, a small one at that. Kaycee Buted, the mall’s marketing communication coordinator, offered to give me a tour, but who needs a guide in one of the smallest malls to be built in the country today? (Two-story without basement)
Gossips are rife about an SM mall soon to rise in the province. Its prospective location depends on who you talk to. I have conversed with several people who named varying sites. Each of my informants were so sure about their information, but, if I were to believe all of them, the mall would rise in at least ten different locations.
Of course, people really want an SM, and this desire for the most popular Philippine retail chain fuels speculations.
But, for now, in the meantime, for the time being, sige na nga, Robinsons muna.