A Critical Review of SM City Gensan

SM City Gensan
photo from Mindanaonews.com

   As you pass by in Santiago Boulevard or in San Miguel Street you will notice the huge structure of SM City GenSan. As you look at it, you feel proud that SM is finally here in GenSan (or in SOCCSKSARGEN). On the other hand, you wonder why this mall is special in its own ways. Why is it that this mall is such a big thing? Why it helps the local economy and at the same time causes problem in the society. More questions have been raise than answers to be answered.

The first SM in Carriedo
photo from Pixel Quotes Blog

    Henry Sy Sr. started his business in 1958 in Carriedo, the central business district of Manila back then. He started a small shoe store and later expanded to a fully functioning department store named "Shoemart" in Quiapo. When his  business flourished he change the name of his department store to SM --- the abbreviation of shoemart. The old site in Quiapo was demolished in 1982 to give way to his frist SM Mall. In December 25, 1985, SM City North EDSA was opened.

   Sy studied the market and saw the potential of putting up malls in the Philippines. Though he experienced problems in his early years such as WWII, Martial Law, and the volatile economy of the Philippines, his persistence and determination drove him to strive harder. And because of this his company grow and become the largest shopping mall and retail operator in the Philippines. It is also been consistently cited as one of the Philippines best managed company. As of 2007, SM Prime Holdings (the parent company of the SM Group's shopping malls) became one of the largest shopping mall chains in the world. As of now there are 45 SM Shopping Malls in the Philippines and 5 in China. They are planning to put up SM Malls in North America, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and Japan.

SM North Edsa, the first SM Supermall
photo from wikipedia

   SM Malls is located in major cities in the Philippines. It is easily accessible and situated by places of public interest such as churches, schools, major roads, highways, etc. 

   It is a good sign that SM City GenSan invested in the city. The existence of this mall is expected to further invigorate the local economy. It will attract more investors and will create more opportunities for the people.

   But as the city grows, we expect to encounter problems. It will create problems such as crime, pollution, traffic and keen competition among businesses most especially the small-medium enterprises (SMEs). Since GenSan is a highly urbanized first class city and the center of commerce and logistics of SOCCSKSARGEN, more migrants will come from neighboring towns in Mindanao. 

Downtown area of General Santos City
photo by Van Almeria

Aerial shot of General Santos City
photo from GensanBoy

   "Cities have certain magnetic powers, attracting people to it as a place for social and economic betterment, a center of art, fashion, and learning, the very foundation of man's civilization. On the other side of the ledger, it is a place where one gets the pangs of loneliness resulting from the impersonal and contractual relations, leading a few to alienation. The city, likewise, is a focal point of social disorganization and social problems. Crime and juvenile delinquency, drug addiction and alcoholism, poverty and pauperism, prostitution and mental sickness, not to mention the housing, educational, political or transportation problems, afflict the city." (1)

   The influence of SM Malls (or in general the company itself) can never be deny. Ranging from the Philippine Business, politics up to the popular culture, its power speaks for itself. SM Malls started the Philippine "malling" phenomenon. Malling becomes a way of life for millions of Filipinos. It becomes the meeting place for both young and the rare place(s) where young and old go together. People from different classes, occupations and levels of education meet there.

   SM City GenSan as well as the other malls in the country, belongs to the bird-cage or atrium mall type. Bird-cage mall is usually enclosed and designed to resemble  an amusement park or public park, just to give the illusion of public space for the public. That is why a mall is a combination of public park, movie houses, restaurant and public market put into one. "Shopping malls are designed and built by corporate interest whose purpose is to make money. Though they resemble or even actually simulate non-profit public spaces like parks, they are not really public; rather, they are quasi-public commercial spaces that wish to attract people into them as potential consumers. And one way of doing that is to offer the kind of park experience that the public sector increasingly fails to offer." (2) 

   The existence of SM City GenSan gives the public an option to hangout and experience the "SM feeling". Compare to other malls in GenSan, SM package itself to be the best among the others. They are good in Branding/Image Management, Public Relations and Marketing Strategy. Other malls such as KCC, Gaisano and Robinson are trying to compete with SM City GenSan just to stay on the competition. The Generals (people from GenSan) tagged it as "The War of the Malls".

KCC Mall of GenSan
photo from Opentopia
Gaisano Mall of GenSan
photo from mysmartschools.ph
Robinson's Place Gensan
photo from skycrapercity.com

   We are thankful that the economy of GenSan is improving, but we are also worried about its disadvantages. As what Anna Marie Karaos from Inqurier said: 

"The better performing cities will always attract people because they offer economic opportunities and a better quality of life. In a sense cities have no choice but to meet the challenges of urban growth through better fiscal management, urban planning, environmental and social interventions. A growing urban population is better seen as a resource than a burden. The only way our cities can bring growth to the country is for them to successfully convert their growing populations into real human capital."

   The competitive economy of GenSan is starting to heat up the competition. We are confident that the local government of General Santos prepared plans for it and hoping that they will implement it properly for the good of the Generals. 

1. Panopio Isabel S., Cordero Felicidad V., Raymundo Adelisa A. General Sociology: Focus on the Philippines. Quezon City. Ken Inc. 2009
2. Maasik Sonia & Solomon Jack. Signs of Life in the USA: Readings of Popular Culture for Writers, 4th ed. Boston. Bedford/St. Martin's. 2003

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.