A mall in Imus, Cavite

A mall in Imus, Cavite

Several years ago my friend Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano wrote a piece for “What Canst Thou Say?”, a newsletter edited by Quaker mystics.  She titled it “Malling”.  I had never heard this word before.  It means spending time in malls!

Evelyn wrote about taking a friend who is poor and had been through a very hard time to malls in Manila.  She wrote about this as an act of compassion and Christian service.   “Malling” gave her friend a chance to relax, to be taken care of and have fun.

I avoid malls whenever possible.  So this article surprised me, stretched my understanding and helped me to examine some of the judgments I carry about malls and what they represent in our culture.

I’ve now spent several weeks in Manila, and it feels like most of that time has been in malls.  My understanding has been stretched even further!   Lina and I have come to malls to shop, to find internet cafes, to watch a movie and to eat.

The vast networks of malls in Manila, one connecting to the other, often by bridges over busy streets, are full of shops, thousands and thousands of shops and restaurants and food stands.  They offer a refuge from the smell and noise of the streets (though they often substitute the noise of arcades and piped in music), a cool place in the very hot and smoggy summer, a dry place when the rainy season comes.

On our most frequent commute from Katipunan station on the LRT 2 train line, we often switch at Cubao to the MRT 3 line.  This involves a walk of at least half a mile between train stations, all of it through malls.   Malls in the US are usually separated from each other (aren’t they?), whereas here they lead into each other.  They cooperate with each other!

I am happier and more peaceful away from the consumer culture of Manila’s malls, yet I see their value to people here.  Some are even quite beautiful, with inset gardens and green spaces.   These are the high end malls where anyone can go “malling” even if they can’t afford the luxury goods on display.