1st SM Mall in MIMAROPA to open in Palawan on September 15

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A LOT OF EXCITING things are taking place in Puerto Princesa City, and my only worry right now is the traffic. It’s a battlefield (bigat ‘no?) out there everyday, and all street corners midriff of the town seem to be spots of congestion.

I understand that traffic congestion is an unavoidable problem in developing cities, and the integral result of the way modern societies operate. However, just because I understand does not mean I am not upset.

Like many, I am frustrated by our local policymakers’ inability to come up with a possible immediate solution to the problem, which, by the way, presents a grave public policy challenge.

I can think of one, and that is removing tricycles in national and principal roads. Apologies to neighbors, relatives, and friends who operate tricycles to convey passengers, but right now, that’s the most immediate there is to accomplish.

Otherwise, nobody certainly wants to be caught in the nub of a larger traffic problem, which I can see happening the moment the SM City Puerto Princesa opens on September 15.

Just my two cents.

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Aerial view of the new SM City Puerto Princesa.

Discovering Palawan, Discovering SM City Puerto Princesa

SM Supermalls, which is owned by SM Prime Holdings (SMPH), is ready to open its 64th mall in Puerto Princesa this week.

Russell Fernandez, the SM City Puerto Princesa’s public relations officer, was kind enough to grant an interview with me a couple of days ago at Itoy’s Coffee Haus to let me know how it’s going to be different from the other malls that SM Prime Holdings owns.

Some major parts of the interview I will hold in reserve for my news story that will be submitted to the Philippine News Agency. The rest, will be part of this blog.

The three-level, 54,000 square meter resort-style complex mall is located on a 47,000-square meter site along Malvar corner Lacao streets that used to be a squatter settlement and a location where indigenous materials were traded.

And SM is short for “Shoemart,” run by the retail giant SM Group of Companies, where SMPH belongs. Its owner is Chinese-Filipino Henry Sy Sr., known in the Philippines as the “Retail King.”

As a premier mall, Russell said SM City Puerto Princesa envisions to reflect Palawan’s tropical feel while assimilating SM’s innovative design approach. I thought this is true because among all SM City malls I had been to, this one’s got the feel and look of a modish seaside resort hotel from outside.

Did you notice that the entrances to the mall are painted in green? I’ve been asked that a bunch of times. Why not navy blue like what its branding is known for?

I forgot to ask Russell about this particular information, and I know I shouldn’t have. But my guess is that aside from the fact that SM is now innovating on the look of its future retail malls, the shade really symbolizes Palawan’s devotion to protecting its verdant surroundings.

The green color represents, too, love of life, of balance and harmony, of reincarnation, of peace and relaxation. And because it is these things, then I’d assume that SM City Puerto Princesa wants to be at least one of the refuges that you and I are looking for away from the stresses of life’s daily routine.

And lest you forget, green is also the color of money.

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“It’s incomparable because it doesn’t look like just a block of commercial complex. At first glance, you will think it’s a resort hotel,” he said.

The mall’s interiors are distinctly crisp and modern with textures and relaxing colors that give one the sense of being on a tropical holiday. At each opening to the level above, walls clad in a unique plaster give a quality of continuous and soft waves.

The mall’s ceiling will display hundreds of delicate handcrafted wooden lanterns not only for ample natural lighting, but also to add to the Palawan feel.

Russell was excited to talk about SM City Puerto Princesa’s commitment to sustainability, telling me that it was projected to achieve a sustainable future.

“If you will notice, the design is with glass walls that speak of modern architecture, and doesn’t isolate us from the natural surroundings. It allows us to see outward, and it lets in sunlight to make a bright environment for shoppers,” he stressed.

It will have a sewage treatment plant (STP) to take care of restaurant and toilet wastes with a treated water recycling tank system for toilet flushing, plant irrigation, cleaning and maintenance, and other non-potable purposes that will help in the conservation of fresh water.

Great Shopping + Leisure + Entertainment

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For great shopping, leisure, and entertainment, the SM City Puerto Princesa will have the following:

  • SM Store
  • SM Supermarket
  • SM Appliance Center
  • ACE Hardward
  • Watsons
  • Surplus Shop
  • Miniso
  • Sports Central

Miniso is “a Chinese-low cost retailer and variety store chain that specializes in household and consumer goods including cosmetics, stationery, toys, and kitchenware.” Its marketing strategy is the same as Muji, Daiso, and Uniqlo.

What I’m most excited about, on the other hand, is its three state-of-the-art cinemas and two Director’s Club theaters.

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The Director’s Club theater can sit around 30-50 people for a luxe cinema experience. (Photo borrowed from SMCinema.com)

In Manila, when I want to watch a movie with extraordinary comfort (and when I have money to spare), I go to the Director’s Club at the SM Mall of Asia that has leather seats, butler service, and a menu that’s entirely for its clients.

First in Palawan Brands

Lifestyle in this bustling city will definitely get a boost with these first-in-Palawan-brands that are soon to open their doors in SM City Puerto Princesa to clients.

  • Mesa Restaurant – a dining place that is popular for combining the best of Filipino cuisines with healthy class and blend.
  • Kuya J – this restaurant has model/actor Jericho Rosales as its endorser. You have to try its Sinuglaw because I can attest to its goodness na best sa kanin even if its really appetizer; and also its grilled rack of ribs.
  • Cabalen (Eat All You Can, Eat All You Want!) – a favorite Pinoy restaurant not only for traditional dishes but also the exotic as well. They said dining here “makes you feel the authentic traditional home-cooked food the Kapampangan way that you have not experienced for a long time in a very reasonable priced buffet.”
  • Rib ShackYes, baby back ribs!
  • Turk’s Shawarma – this one I would surely love for shawarma is a favorite. It specializes in Turkish cuisines that are suitable to the taste of Pinoys.
  • Breadtalk – by the Breadtalk Group of Companies, a Singapore-based multinational food and beverage corporation that sells wonderful breads and pastries. If you’ve gone to Vivocity in Singapore, and has had your meal in Food Republic, well, they operate that.
  • The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf – I’m really this one than Starbucks 😉 because its blends are light and subtle. Not too sweet! I also heard Seattle’s Best is setting up a store in the premiere mall so, let’s see.
  • Powermac – if you’re one of Apple’s 588 million users, then you’ll love this store for your Apple devices.
  • Rulls Cellphone and Accessories – another popular cellphone accessory store.
  • Dermcare – the new luxury in wellness and beauty is going to be here in Puerto Princesa with a full store.
  • Belle La Peau and Dent XP in the health and wellness area
  • Hush Puppies, Macbeth, Memo, Regatta, and Tobys

Home-grown Brands

Shoppers and diners will also enjoy the best of Palawan’s home-ground brands like McCoy’s brick-oven pizza, Isla Casuy de Palawan, Vogere by Bong Villanueva, Divine Sweets, Puerto Electronico, Banh Pho Chao Long, Heavenly Dessert, Miss Tea, and the ANCIENT DYNASTY KITCHEN.

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I just have to post my friend Siobe Yu’s invitation for me to see the opening of Ancient Dynasty Kitchen, which will soon serve traditional home-cooked Chinese dishes in an authentic Chinese family environment.

Who doesn’t love Chinese food?

Since Palawan is a tourist haven, Russell added that SM City Puerto Princesa made sure that there will be a traveler’s lounge available for foreign and domestic tourists, where they could rest, bathe, book flights, and seek assistance on other businesses.

Parking won’t be a problem as it has a two-level parking area that has 398 car slots. Thank goodness for this, because I always worry leaving my ride under the heat of the sun.

The parking areas are with block paving that can be later lifted up and replaced, and to allow rainwater penetration in the grounds to replenish underground water table. Kind of neat since the use of pavers do not leave lasting marks on the space where they are placed over.

Think how far this city has gone from the two department stores that I first knew: Triple O Mart along J. Rizal Avenue, just a stone’s throw away from the Immaculate Conception Parish; and that Indian-family owned store near the Puerto Princesa Pilot Elementary School — sobrang layo na.

Yesterday, a lot of us were just dreaming about having a SM City that’s got it all for us. Well guess what, now it’s a reality.

Truly, they’ve got it all for you!

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Big Trouble in Paradise

HERE’S A STORY I wrote for the Philippine News Agency (PNA) about Coron, a beautiful island municipality in northern Palawan. It’s about a planned undersea park being proposed by Coral World Park (CWP), which claims to be “the largest Marine Reserve and Coral Reef Conservation program in Asia. ”

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Beautiful Kayangan Lake in Coron Island, Coron, northern Palawan.

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This photo of the small inlet that leads to Kayangan Lake was taken from a promontory where I stood for a while to take in the charming view.

The reason why it’s controversial is in the story.

Tagbanua tribes in Coron spurn Nickolodeon undersea park

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, July 27 — The Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IP) community in Coron and nearby islands gave the thumbs down Thursday morning to the propositioned 400-hectare Nickolodeon undersea park due to fears of irreversible negative environmental and cultural impacts.

Amil Abella, representative of the Tagbanua Tribes of Coron Island Association (TTCIA), said in a Greenpeace Philippines-hosted press conference here that the project will only displace them from their ancestral domains, and will spoil their traditional fishing grounds.

“If there are investments that will build structures that will cause destruction to our ancestral domains, our agreement is we will not accept them,” Abella said, adding they live independently and are reliant on Calamianes’ beauty and blessings.

The Calamianes is an area in the northern part of Palawan that includes Busuanga, Coron, and Culion island towns, and the islands of Calauit, Malcapuya, Banana, Pass and Calumbuyan, and several minor islets.

“The legendary heroes of Coron will unite and defend the last ecological frontier of the country, where we live with freedom and abundance,” he added.

Continue reading the story here: http://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1003332

It’s really difficult to marry development with environment conservation, especially if it would have irreversible impacts on the lives of the indigenous peoples and their ancestral domains.

I am for development. The SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT kind. The one “that meets human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend.”

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You’ve never been to Coron if you haven’t been to Kayangan Lake.

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Sustainable development should not be compromised.