Business in the Sensate Philippine Society

A Sorokinian Sociological Analysis of Philippine Society and its implication to business. This frame of analysis classifies societies into three types – the sensate, idealistic and ideational societies. Each of these have dominant themes and an integrated value system that guides public behavior.

When I learned about the Sorokinian sociological analysis about 10 years ago, the malls have become an indicator to me of the kind of society we are in – sensate. Such kind of a society is materialistic and sensual.


The Onset of the Philippine Sensate Society

My guess is that it started in the 1950s or the 60s after World War II which practically turned Manila into ruins. I also want to say that I suspect we are now in an overripe stage of the sensate society. We are shifting to another kind of society – an ideational type of society. I will discuss about this type as another content next time.

In 1946, the United States of America turned over Philippine politics to the Filipinos. And we started rebuilding Manila under our own rule and ways. The social construction of this new reality would be presumably and logically different. I will not argue otherwise. I believe that it was a transition from an idealistic society to a sensate kind. I would claim that we had an Idealistic society before WWII. I believe so because our national heroes were born in the late 1800s and with the arrival of the Americans they directed our minds to education. A number of our biggest universities in the country were founded during this period. PUP was founded in 1904 and UP in 1908. The focus was on developing individual capacities and credential in the arts and sciences. I would set the period of the Idealistic society from the 1860’s to the 1960’s. That is practically a hundred years.


The 1960’s in my guess marked the end of Idealistic Philippine society and then the beginning of the Sensate society. In 1976, Ali Mall, the first mall ever, in the country was constructed. About a decade later, in 1985, the construction of a bigger mall, the SM West. began. It is today the country’s biggest SM mall. It is located  along Efipanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) at the intersection of North Avenue and West Avenue in Quezon City. The mall is also known as the SM West, and SM North and SM North-EDSA.


Here, my daughter, Wikka, enjoys the geometric structures in the Sky Garden, one of the recent added attractions to the Mall. Additional stores and stalls, including restaurants, like the Army Navy fast food shop and Starbucks coffee shop, and a public park like open space can be found there.

My First Visit to the SM West: The Birth and Beginning of the Philippine Mall Culture

I was a freshman in High School (1987) when the chance came for me to visit SM West for the first time. My schoolmates and friends, Marvin Pecjo and Jonathan Manansala, asked me to go with them to the mall for a stroll. Inside the mall, you will find boutiques, small specialized stores, a big department store, supermarket, movie houses, a bank and food stores, including restaurants. I still remember my classmates treated me with Brownies at Dunkin Donuts there. From that time I first experienced SM West, it kept changing or evolving and it eventually became SM City North-EDSA.


The “Malling” of Metro Manila

What is a “mall”? If a commercial building only has a single store then it is commonly known as a Department Store. Once the building has within it other stores then it becomes a mall. As I have already mentioned earlier, there was at least one mall built prior to SM West but it was only after 1985 that malls started to proliferate and quite fast. Malls today are scattered in the Metropolis. Practically all the 16 cities of Metro Manila have malls. Here are just some that are prominent and I am aware of –

SM Malls – SM City North EDSA, SM Fairview, SM Mega Mall, Mall of Asia, SM South Mall, Bicutan (Scattered almost everywhere in Metro Manila)

Robinson Malls – Robinsons Galleria, Place, the Forum, Fairview and so forth (Scattered almost everywhere in Metro Manila)

Ali Mall (1976), Gateway Mall, and Farmer’s Plaza (Cubao, Quezon City)

Eastwood City and Trinoma Mall

Gotesco Malls (Manila and Caloocan City)

Alabang Town Center, Festival Mall, and

Star Mall (Mandaluyong City and Muntinlupa City)

One of the indicators of the mall’s impact in society is the infusion and circulation of the word in our vocabulary. In 1998, for the first time I encountered the term, “malling”. I was teaching sociology by then in Manila and it was while in a conversation with few ladies who used the word. The term meant spending time in the mall for (window) shopping, strolling like walking in the park, eating or/and watching a movie. The mall has changed the urban lifestyle. Malls became a symbol of the urban section of our society.

A new culture in Manila was at hand – the mall culture. I have also heard sometime that there is even a mall capital of the Philippines – the City of Mandaluyong. It is where you can find the SM Mega Mall, which was the biggest at the time of its construction, the Shangri La Mall, the Forum by Robinson’s Malls and Star Mall. Except for the Forum, all three can be found in a cluster in EDSA corner Shaw Boulevard.

I would say that the “malling” of Metro Manila, in fact, the entire Philippines, officially began in that year when SM West was constructed, in EDSA, Quezon City, where North Ave and West Avenue meets. Metro Manila has become Malled Cities.



A Tale of Two Cities: SM City in Quezon City and SM City Manila in the City of Manila

I am not sure when was the first time SM began calling, labeling or attaching to its malls the “status” of a “city”. It differentiated, at least in name, its malls from all other malls that sprouted in the metropolis and across the country. Politically, being a city meant a higher status, thus a prestige, and a certain degree of independence. Well, SM Mega Mall and the Mall of Asia are not labeled with a “city”. They are supposed to be bigger than a common SM City.


The “Intramallus”: What are inside the Malls?

Probably, having the label of a city, it also suggests completeness. In the Philippines, it is usually the case that all, or availability of most of, the goods and services in a more advanced modern life style can only be found in the city. Does an SM City has everything the people need?

The basic needs are food and clothing. Today they are in the malls, in the groceries or supermarket and the boutiques and food courts or fast food shops and restaurants. What about other human needs?

Today, government agencies also have satellite offices in malls. In Robinsons Galleria, I was with my wife last year when she processed her papers to get a passport. There was also an office there to get National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance, which is a requirement to get a passport. In SM Mega Mall there is a chapel already.

Another notable changes in the malls are getting connected to the public transport stations including the rail transits, and the construction of condominium buildings together with or adjacent to the mall.

From a basic definition of a large building with several retail stores, our malls are different. They are now connected to residential towers, with access to transportation. More so, in our malls we also have movie houses inside, parks and museum, government offices, chapels and even schools. Are our malls truly becoming cities?

The birth of the mall made changes in doing business in the Metropolis. Businesses, particularly retailing stores, flocked to the malls. Business has a new model of delivering goods and services.






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