Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Landmark and Glorietta Shopping Malls

 And Now....the Weather Report 
When we got on the plane on our way to the Philippines 4 days ago, typhoon Noma (former Nomoy) was already heading towards the Philippines from the Pacific. It finally arrived yesterday. December is a typhoon season in Philippines. Unlike the previous typhoon that Ada saw last year when trees were uprooted and streets flooded, this one is losing much of its energy as it finally arrived. Still, it's a typhoon (or hurricane if it occurs in further north geographically such as North America). It's nothing to sneeze at, especially if you stay out for too long.


 When the Swiss Guards Go Marching In 
Where to go in a typhoon? Somewhere indoor would be sensible. Since our hotel has shuttle to go to various shopping malls around Makati, I thought I'll go to one of them. I heard of Greenbelt Shopping Mall that I want to check out. While the shuttle doesn't stop at Greenbelt, but it stops at Glorietta mall, which connects Greenbelt mall (several large shopping malls in Makati connects together like a giant octopus).

After a random walk around at Glorietta, I ended up at one of the exit, and I saw Landmark shopping mall across the road. I never heard of it, but its 3 Christmas trees in its store drew me there like the Star of Bethlehem drew the 3 Wise Guys (ahem...Men) to Jerusalem. I'm not a stickler for rules, but these 3 Xmas trees weren't topped with the Star of Bethlehem as tradition demands. Naughty, naughty, naughty!

While December is the rainy season, it's also the festive season of Xmas decor (if you like kitsch. I like some of it. Could be quite enjoyable, like ice cream).

Actually, I was more attracted by the store security guards who were in their full Swiss Guards uniform. I thought I should go over there and take a photo of them. They looked cute for security guards, who usually dressed in trendy uniform that looks like cops in most countries.

Most business of any moderate size in Manila would employ security guards that check your bags at the doors. I think the malls heighten their security during Xmas. There was several bombings in Glorietta that occurred in 2000, 2005 Valentine's Day, and 2007. There's good reason for all these tight security in commercial area.

Security guards in Swiss Guards uniform, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
Security Guards in Swiss Guards uniform screening shoppers

As it turned out, the 3 trees formed the backdrop where the jolly, prancing store Santa posed for photos with shoppers. I saw no kids sat on his lap. That's more like the American thing (at least in Hollywood movies). Maybe I should start the trend. But then, I wouldn't want to break his leg.


Santa, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines

Santa, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines

After some meandering, looking out for something unexpected. My prayer was answered. It's a Christmas miracle! I heard the sound of marching drum beats. I followed the sound and found 2 column of marching Swiss Guards. Well, that was quite unexpected.

Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
None of the shoppers in this photo seems to pay any attention to the Swiss Guards.
Am I the only one who's curious about the appearance of band of Swiss Guards in a mall ? They don't seem to be busy.
Maybe they're there everyday during the festive season.

Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines

Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines

Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
Swiss Guards, Landmark Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
This is the 21st century, and so the Swiss Guards include womenfolks

Naturally, I asked myself, why the Swiss Guards? What's the angle?

What popped into my mind immediately was the Philippines' Spanish colonial past. Has it anything to do with traditional Spanish culture? The answer, I think, is 75% yes and 25% no.

While the Swiss Guards served in various European cities in the 15th century, including those in Spain, but not exclusive to it. These mercenaries also served in France and Naples. I supposed the Swiss Guard inspired the idea of French Legionaire or French Foreign Legion. Possibly.

Having said that, these uniforms aren't too dissimilar from Spanish military uniforms during the Spanish Colonial era in Philippines. Although they wore breast plates on top of these uniforms in battles. Putting these 2 things together, one can infer that the Swiss Guards may have started life in Spain in the 16th century, and evolved into Swiss Guards. Hence the similarity in uniforms.

The Swiss Guards are still active today, protecting the Pope (and they must be Catholic).  If you've been to the Vatican (I have), you would no doubt spot them at every gate. The real Swiss Guards consist of only males, unlike these Pinoy performers here.


 Where Catholicism Meets Capitalism 
I tried to get back to the entrance of Glorietta 3 where I would catch the next shuttle back to the hotel. I got a little lost, which usually is a good thing. What's bad news is when you got totally hopelessly lost.

Christmas decor, Glorietta Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
Glorietta 3 with Xmas decor

This time is no different. I ended up seeing a catholic "shrine" in the mall. I'm guessing it's Virgin Mary. Or probably known by a zillion other names (like the so-called "Chinese virgin Mary", aka Goddess of the Sea, who also has a zillion other aliases).

Virgin Marry, Glorietta Mall, Makati, Manila, Philippines
The devotee is praying while holding her hand.
Doesn't the floral design of their clothes interestingly similar ?

In many SE Asian countries, it's not uncommon to see religious iconography being placed in the middle of a commercial district. It's not common, but far from rare, to see, say, a shrine of Guan Yu (God of War) in a shop in HK. It's a common sight to see a Hindu shrine just outside a shopfront or a large shrine at the corner of a large shopping mall in Bangkok. Erawan Shrine is such good example (and become well-known this year because of the bombing. Don't you get the feeling that shopping mall aren't a safe place to be?). Bali, Cambodia, etc all have shrines in their places of businesses.

In short, there's no strong and clear demarcation between place of business and place of worship. In Philippines, the main religion is Catholicism. Just because Catholicism is imported from the West where there's a clear separation of religion and commerce doesn't change that happy co-existence in Philippines, where such co-existence is allowed. Actually, it's desired. Why not? This way, all the spiritual, emotional and material needs can all be satisfied in a convenient one-stop shop.

This is cultural import that's customised to local conditions. Much like MacDonald's in some Asian countries including local cuisines in their menus. I once was able to order sugarcane juice in a Macky's in Singapore some 20 years ago. I can't do that now. Sugarcane juice is increasingly hard to find in Singapore. In China, KFC would have rice on their menus (at least in a  Suzhou's KFC outlet I went to a few years ago).

Instead of a small shrine, Greenbelt mall  actually has a chapel in it.

I didn't expect to learn any Pinoy culture from visiting malls (even if it's commercialised), like I always say, getting lost a little bit during travel can lead to unexpected discovery.

Not a bad way to spend 2 rainy hours in the afternoon, really.



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