Notes on the Mall

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.


Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

35 thoughts on “Notes on the Mall”

  1. i love the malls[malling] but lately i have been very impatient with too much of a crowd.i would rather have it the other way…my mom calls it mollengs…molengleng..i think it is idling ..when they were still alive in one of my dad’s free moments when he is not puttering around or butingting she says”look at him he is molengs again[.good thing my father is hard of hearing otherwise they would bicker again.] then my sisters and i will just be hysterically laughing because my mom who was 93 then could still associate molengs from malling was beyond our comprehension….MAY THEY BOTH REST IN PEACE..ARE THEY TOGETHER SOMEWHERE AND STILL BICKER?

  2. Herdy- I was not aware that you are a mall-hopper in the first order. But with your experience from your first visit of the mall, it looks like you are not a happy camper initially. You are “picky” and “very strict” and I was wondering if that is your real trait in the classroom environment. You do not like to be branded as “Terror Herdy” in the school campus.

    I hope that the owners of various retail stores in the mall are reading this site. I would think that this will be a win-win for them to encourage their front employees to be more responsive to the needs of their customers I think you were just comparing the malls in Manila to the Rob IN which is not comparable in any shape or form.

    The food that I really missed here in the west coast is the pancit canton of the Max-Fried Chicken Restaurant across the Central Bank along Harrison Blvd. They serve a good fried chicken too- I was wondering if there are any cook experts here who could generously post the ingridients of the “canton” food.

    1. Sir William S., nothing beats La Moda Pancit canton here in Laoag. hmmmm

      I am exacting when it comes to service because its the best thing the Filipino can offer. We don’t have cutting-edge technology or world-class infrastructure, but service is where we (can) excel.

      I am not a terror though, and if I ever get mad, I do so not out of despair but always with hope that we can do better than the status quo.

      I think my students feel how dear they are to me.

  3. I have been to the mall two days after opening, and because that was a Saturday, there were so maaaaany people! Long queues at the counter, so many people at KFC, and crowded escalators.

    It’s good that there is CD-R King there. My mom prefers to go to CD-R King when she wants to buy something for our computer when she is in Manila. However, for me, a mall is incomplete if it does not have a bookstore. Many of us at MMSU-SHS want a National Book Store there but unfortunately, there isn’t one at the moment. I really love to go to NBS. Every time I go to Manila, I do not miss to go to NBS. There are still a few empty spaces, and there are a few parts that aren’t finished yet, particularly the ceiling at the second floor of the department store.

    It seems that Robinsons Ilocos is actually much smaller than SM Rosales. But still, it’s good that we have a decent mall here.

    About having an SM here in Ilocos Norte, how about building it inside MMSU Batac? Preferably behind the main library, CAS or COE. My mom said, “E di tawaging SMMSU!”

    1. Yes, guien. We should have an NBS here. That there is already one in Vigan could be a reason. Or, maybe they are waiting for an SM.

      I am also a bit techie, so I am happy that we have a CD-R King at Robs.

      SMMSU? hahaha

  4. yan ba ung mall na kinukwento mo before na kinailangan mag giba sila ng elementary school para maitayo yan (sa harapan ba to ng simbahan??)??

    1. nope byron, hindi natuloy yun. Sa kalapit na town ito, near the boundary of Laoag, talagang bakanteng lote ang tinayuan, malawak yung area.

  5. I just knew that Expressions will be at Robinsons. Aw, not NBS. There already is Expressions at Mart One Laoag, so why have another one at San Nicolas? But I hope that books will be available at Expressions.

    When we went there two days after the opening, there were lots of notebook coolers at CD-R King. I need one, but because I did not have sufficient money, I decided to go back next time to buy it. I just went there today, and surprisingly, there were no more notebook coolers!

  6. How come the comment area for your “Defending the bakla” post is disabled? I can not make a comment on it.

  7. No malls met laeng ti pagsasaritaan- iti serbisio, estetiko, magatang- awan makaatiw kadagiti Ayala Malls, nupay adda duaduak iti panagballigida iti Ilocos kadagitoy a panawen a saan pay unay a narang-ay ti ekonomia ti probinsia. Ket no met SM ti pagsasaritaan, diak sa ket kayat nga umay ti maysa nga ‘institusion’ a mabigbig iti panangipapilitna nga agtagalog dagiti empleadona. Ayna ket no umayda iti Ilocos, nasken nga isuda ti mangibagay iti bagida kadagiti aglawlaw a danonanda (karaman ditan ti lenguahe).

    1. Usto ka dita, Eugene. Maysa pay, napalalo iti ‘labor exploitation’ iti SM, i.e. contractualization, union busting, etc.

      Ngem mas magustoak a pagpaspasyaran ti SM Malls, simple laeng ti disenyo na, maulawak ti Ayala Malls.

  8. i like the mall of asia whenever i vacation in the philippines.but maybe i will like robinsons ilocos norte since it is near batac and almost laoag.and i like to eat at la modas then go to the fruit market where i buy boxes of assorted fruits in season. don’t they have labor laws in the philippines and the dept of labor should be enforcing and overseeing the implementation of said laws so that there will be no labor exploitation etc?

  9. SM has vigorously recruited INC (Iglesia Ni Cristo) members for its workforces. INC members are not allowed to be union members as mandated by their leader/s. As such, SM malls are now about 85-90% INC parishioners. A very good move for a mega-management for higher yields, but as you said it right – “labor exploitation”! Ironically, SM hosts a Catholic Mass aired on TV, not w/ INC. Sadly, INC votes are dictated by their leaders, depending on the bulk of “donations” given by the politicos. I hope these INC young ones have become wiser and use their freedom to chose the leaders of our land…

    1. INC has made religion a perfect political tool. But our constitution gives primacy to the practice of religion. Just wondering, if the Philippines becomes mostly INC, say 80%, then there will be no need for elections anymore. Their leaders will just need to appoint our public officials.

  10. Hahhh!!! That would be the worst era in Philippine history, sir Herdy! Nooh, I don’t think INC could never muster the majority of Pinoys here in Pinas. Their un-Nationalistic stance is disheartening! They do not attend Flag-raising ceremonies; don’t participate in the Pledge of Allegiance; no parades; no birthday parties; no church ritual for their dead, etc. For most Pinoys, such life is so bland and no excitement. I don’t think I can live a life like that, even while in my sojourn in Saudi Arabia, we still have parties, Christmas celebrations, wine (bawal, but we managed) but without pork and no dinuguan, just like INC.

    1. RE: “They do not attend Flag-raising ceremonies; don’t participate in the Pledge of Allegiance; no parades; no birthday parties; no church ritual for their dead, etc.”

      Asiong, I think it’s the Saksi ni Jehovah you are referring to here.

  11. ..halow poh!!!
    i think sa San Nicolas din po itatayo yung SM…

    but for now, we must enjoy having Robinsons Ilocos Norte kasi almost all of us nagsasawa na sa pagpunta sa Laoag City..
    anyway, thank you po sa pagshare nyo ng experience nyo because the staff can correct their wrongs..i mean they can improve it…

    i appreciate you sir herdy…
    i am one of the news writer who joined the DSPC in Solsona…God bless!!!!

    1. hi romella, nice to have you here.

      Thank you for taking my comments in a positive light. It is a writer’s duty to help improve the status quo.

      Yes, I agree that SM must be built in a location that will not add up to Laoag centro’s congestion.

  12. Ummm… yeah, I guess I over-reacted, sir Herdy, INC also celebrates birthdays, but it’s true, they don’t want to attend flag ceremonies, pledge of allegiance and their dead are not allowed to enter their house of prayer!

    1. As a sociologist, asiong, I find no fault at what people do to express their religious beliefs unless they affect me, and society at large. I basically respect all of INC’s actions, except block voting. It’s a ‘live and let live’ attitude to religion which our constitution encourages.

  13. As a good citizen and individual, I also respect anyone’s beliefs, even INC’s block voting, that’s also within the premise of freedom of choice provided for by the state. I only told you on their way of life as I see it, which really differs on the majority. Thanks, sir herdy, for your blogsite- a nice place for sharing emotions, intellectual thoughts, etc…

    1. my pleasure, asiong. I enjoy every bit. I hope more Ilocano bloggers of the serious kind would emerge.

  14. Sir Herdy-
    If there are numerous labor exploitations that were deliberately practiced to the workforce of SM rank and file employees then I would think that there is proper forum to address that issue between the labor and management groups of the company. Those issues will never be addressed until there is a formal grievance filed at the labor department.

    Another point that I would like to make is we should be easy and very considerate to those big time and deep pocket investors coming in to the province such as SM and Robs just name a few. We should appreciate their guts and balls for putting up their well earned resources in the province. And in return, as a typical investors they deserve to recoup their investment to pay off their loans, generate profits for their shareholders and other stakeholders of the enterprise, and to pay their fair taxes as required by law. It is the pre-rogative of any “private” entity to hire the best deserving employee that could make the company run efficient and profitable, and they have the option to fire them when they do not meet the company’s expectation. We need to understand that they do not exists as “charitable” institution.

    Again they are outsiders that create jobs for the locals, generate taxes for the local and national coffers, and create a place of local businesses to stage their produce. Have we seen poor people (pls no offense!!) who could create these kind of environment and opportunity for the locals of our beloved province? It has been overdue and we need to embrace and welcome these investors in our province, we need to keep in mind that Ilocos Norte is just one of the many provinces of the archipelago.

    1. William S., am sure SM workers’ woes have been brough up to labor authorities. There ara many ways to circumvent the law though, especially because taipans can afford extensive legal firepower That is why they do things legally, but not morally.

      We welcome investors, of course, and we appreciate that they bring in jobs, and that they stimulate economic activity. We must, nonetheless, continue to be watchful in upholding the dignity of labor. With few exceptions, small businesses treat their workers as family while big businesses treat their workers, to borrow Marxian terminology, as mere ‘cogs in a machine’.

      I agree that job hiring and retention should be based on meritocracy, and you are right to say that private entities may rightfully choose personnel who can best contribute to the attainment of their organizational goals. BUT, exploiting the tenets of religion for profit’s sake is just so sick.

      I have previously written about contractualization at SM:

  15. Contractualization of workers are now the option of many companies. Actually, this is the reason some big companies offer enticing Early Retirement packages to permanent worker-oldtimers in order to replace them with contractual workers at very low wages. Such scheme is very effective for a company’s EBITDA. But what suffers is the loss of taxable income for government coffers; the contractual employees do not get some benefits that permanent employees enjoy; it will take months before a contractual employee could master the needed skills, in case the company engages in highly technical services. But admittedly, contractualization is a boon for the employer. Drivers, security guards, janitorial, salesforce, etc. are the trades contracted. Even the provincial capitol has cleaners as contractuals, not permanent status utility men as before.

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