KIWIS LOVE their weekend barbies (barbeques), Polynesian islanders love to fish for paua and kawhais, assorted Asians love to do a wide range of things (cooking, eating and playing mahjongg) that involve communal activity, but if you want to see what Filipinos generally do on their free time, just do what I do : go to the nearest mall.
Research is not my strong area (one of my weakest, actually) and my ADHD always leads my interviews to a dozen off-the-Google-Map detours (just ask Ambassador Virgie) so I only have my own sensory tools and natural noseyness when forming my shaky judgments, but I think I stand on solid ground when I say that Pinoys possess a preternatural affinity for malls. Ever since the days of Harrison Plaza and Makati Commercial Center, Filipinos have turned to malls like ducks to water, frogs to swamps and tuna to their spawning grounds. I think it’s the unique mix of commercial chaos, anonymity among multitudes and food court orgy, combined with the current mood of the mallgoer, that create the mall experience. Gamechanging trends in the mall industry made possible by Henry Sy and the SM Group provided us Pinoys with the Mall Generation. Could any of us born after Martial Law imagine our childhood, puberty and young adulthood without Megamall, SM North City and all those other malls of our lives?
Sorry to digress. I just meant to say that a lot of Pinoy migrants, me included, have brought this mall consciousness (of relating almost every aspect of social life to mallgoing) to our new and adopted lands, regardless of whether or not malls abroad are more beautiful, more glittering and more inviting. (They’re not.) We do it almost subconsciously, connect almost everything we do to the mall. Would it not just be the next step, if the opportunity presented itself, to associate job prospects with the mall?
This is what happened to esposa hermosa, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The mall supermarket, fairly-sized and competing with two others in the area outside the mall, is staffed by two Pinoys. One of them is Ate Emma, a cashier, who came with one of the earliest waves of migrants in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’m guessing her Kiwi husband was a former pen-pal who exchanged correspondence, visited the Islands (and her) on a whim, and came back to New Zealand with a Pinay bride. But of course, my interaction with her is limited to checkout banter, smiles and short-but-sweet phrases like kumusta na magsisimba ka ba and sobrang lamig ng winter sana uminit sa spring no? the other pinoy is the duty manager James, an Ogie Alcasid lookalike that I often see attending to the self-checkout machines that require supervisor approvals for alcohol purchases. He gives me a friendly wave and returns to his duties.
Almost every other ladies wear and accessories store is staffed by Asians, and I’m pretty sure at least half of them are Pinays, this type of merchandise attract the female of our kind, who are usually already experts in the art of making and keeping themselves beautiful and trendy in most of their outfits, not easy when you consider the downsized Asian budget.
But the real proof that Pinoys are creatures of the mall are on the walkways, the Warehouse store, the foodcourts, everywhere else. In singles, in pairs, in families, even in groups of barkadas, they literally fill up the place. You know other Asians, Islanders, Kiwis and tourists, and you definitely know if they are Pinoys, the familiar chatter, the in-between features of Asians, South Europeans and our very own ethnic minorities. They are in their element, each Pinoy diving into their favorite store, hanging out with friends, or just chillin’, hope you don’t mind if I use that youngster word.
One more thing. The foodcourt cleaning staff is filled with Pinays who do their work proudly, picking up in nanoseconds any stray tray, plate or cutlery that is no longer needed, returning the non-disposable stuff to the respective kiosks / stalls, and generally making themselves available to the dining public, especially the kabayan.
Did I say I was getting ahead of myself earlier? Oh yes I did. Esposa worked most of her professional life in a mall, so it was natural for her to look for a job in a mall, taking the first availble job in Westfield’s most popular sushi place. Very fortunately for her (and me, by osmosis) the employer was above average, it’s been (and continues to be) a good gig, the hours are friendly, and the patrons even more so, save for the occasional flakey customer demanding what he/she feels is original wasabe.
In sum, we buy necessities and derive livelihood from a mall, it’s close to our flat, and we see lots and lots of Pinoys in it, almost any day of the week. Life is good.
Thanks for reading!
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- nibbling at the realities of a pinoy fortysomething dieter (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- Ganda & Bunso adapt adjust and assimilate (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- NZ randomly, thru unjaundiced unbiased Pinoy eyes (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- why Marilou Guangco Scott is my favorite Kinoy* (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- the five people you meet in the barangay (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)