The SM Seaside Mega Mall in Cebu, Philippines

The mall from the air as being built with the Sky Tower.
The mall from the air as being built with the Sky Tower.
The Sky Garden
The Sky Garden
Inside on opening day
Inside on opening day
The iconic cube
The iconic cube

The Philippines is a conundrum of sorts. It is a poor nation. Most people there earn maybe 20-30,000 pesos a month, around $650-700 per month, but many make much less, yet the culture loves to shop and buy.

There are 55 shopping malls in the country and most are huge complexes even by American standards, which are small by comparison. The newest mall is an architectural wonder in itself built by SM Prime Holdings (which has built most of the 56 malls in the country) in Cebu City, Cebu, a city of around four million people. It is their 4th mall. Located on South Road, the new mall took four years to build and cost P20 billion (over $4,000,000) to complete on a 30 hectare site. The mall serves many purposes with its convention center of 24,000 sq. meters, a hotel, offices, 500 shops, a 14 lane bowling alley, an indoor Olympic ice rink. It is the country’s 4th largest mall with over 470,000 sq. meters of floor space. Most of the shops are new to Cebu and are internationally known, many are American, known in Manila until now. Ironically, it was designed by an American Miami, Florida-based architecture and interior design firm, Arquitectonica.

There are several cool things about the mall, like the rooftop Sky Garden (over 23,000 sq. meters) is more like a park where people can enjoy nature and eat, an amusement park, and the over 300 foot Sky Tower with restaurants to view the Cebu City skyline, much like Seattle’s iconic landmark. The mall is five levels. The complex also has a huge IMAX theatre and five smaller cinemas, in addition to grocery stores. Many of the restaurants face the ocean and there is even a concert hall. The designers literally tossed everything into this! Since many Filipinos have no car, there will be 77 buses to bring people to the mall from various points in Cebu City.

This mother of malls will need 5000 workers just to keep it operational, not counting the employees of the 500 stores! This will be sorely needed in the Cebu area, where there is high unemployment. The stores alone could hire an equal amount. The parking garage holds 5000 cars and most stores occupy the 1st-4th floors.

So, how can a nation with so many malls make a profit where the average Filipino earns not more than 15,000 -20,000 peso per month and average apartment rent ranges from 5000 to 18000 pesos ($1 USD = 45 peso)? The only answer is that Filipinos must sacrifice on other things in order to spend what money they have left at the malls!

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