MALAY, Aklan — Boracay just recently got its first mall — but it’s no monolith on the shores of paradise, like you might first imagine, as I did. Naturally, the literal casting-in-stone of the island’s commercialization, which has been escalating since the ’80s, would make one wonder, is it worth it?
But look at it this way: beyond the beach that attracted millions of tourists over the years (1.7 million in 2016 alone), is a town with real people and real needs. Literally just a street away from the parties and the clubs are their homes. For them, the mall took too long to arrive and during its opening last weekend, they marched in hoards to welcome progress. I asked a local vendor why he was there, sweating and squeezing himself into the crowd when he could just be chilling on the beach. He answered, “Hindi naman ako madalas pumunta sa beach.” It’s in this light — from the perspective that not everyone in Boracay is a wedge-wearing, camera-toting, sunscreen-slick tourist — that the idea of a mall doesn’t appear so bleak.
Called CityMall-Boracay, the mall is a two-story building on a three-hectare property that was once a vacant lot. It sits along the Main Road of Brgy. Yapak, right across Fairways and Bluewater Resort, near Station one. Of course it’s not on the beach. It is a project of CityMall Commercial Centers Inc. (CMCCI), the community mall development arm of DoubleDragon Properties Corp. (DD), which is responsible for building community malls in provinces.
CityMall-Boracay is the first branded community mall on the island, carrying its first Jollibee outlet, a huge SaveMore supermarket, Watsons, Ace Hardware, and even cinemas, which are to be run by ABS-CBN. All of this has been possible in partnership with Jollibee Foods Corporation and SM. One restaurant owner on the beach said the mall with a full-size supermarket is a welcome development for them, since they used to get all their supplies in Caticlan.
As for the question of sustainability, CityMall has made efforts to put the local government, its residents, as well as concerned tourists at ease. It’s a “greenergized” mall that gets its energy from solar panels installed on its roofdeck, and water is sourced through a rainwater harvesting system. It’s the first establishment to commit to garbage segregation. It also promises to help the local economy by showcasing local products, in partnership with the LGUs and the Department of Trade and Industry. So far, it has provided 250 jobs to Boracay locals.
CityMall-Boracay is the 14 th CityMall to be built in the Philippines and the company expects at least 30 operating CityMalls this year 2017 for a total of 100 outlets nationwide by year 2020.