Friday, June 10, 2011

BYOTP: Bring Your Own Toilet Paper

"The supermarket opens at 10 am," the uniformed guard said.  He was going through bags of every employee who lined up at the entrance of the mall at Market Market with a wooden stick, as if it was a metal detector.

I just got out of a cycling workout class in a nearby gym at the Fort. I was still sweating profusely, even after showering.  It was like having a steam bath, for free.  The only draw back was the dangerous level of fumes that those colorful jeepneys produce aside from traffic jams.

A military camp back in the days, the Fort is now developing fast into a city that blends commerce, retail, and condominium living into one big space. Tall construction cranes like dinosaurs stand beside unfinished buildings that clutter the place.
"Shoemart Bicutan will open at 10 am by the time we get there," Egay said. "At least on the way home. Stay here while I get the car." Thank God for that option.

I stood waiting in front of these rows of condominiums dressed in canary yellow and lined with palm trees. They swayed as chauffeur driven cars swooped by to pick up their precious passengers.

One good thing about Ayala Land is its policy of leaving out a big percentage of their properties for green parks to serve as "breathing spaces." Of course, that is with a corresponding premium per square foot on their real estate market value.

It did not take long before we were on our way to Bicutan. The minute I saw an empty passenger jeepney stop in front of us beside a sign that said "No Waiting" I knew I was in SM land. Egay honked the car to no avail. Good thing he knew the place inside and out so we went through a side street that got me to where I was supposed to go. It is very much like navigating your way to most government services.

"Go up the escalator to the next level and turn right," the guard told me after using the standard wooden stick to check me out.

I finally found myself inside SM Hypermart, the epitome of Philippine capitalism. In contrast to the environmentally sound Global City, this part of town has its mathematics of profit per square foot in mind and only that. Period. I guess they figure that their patrons from the lower level of society do not deserve the comfort of free flowing traffic and breathing spaces.

Before heading out, I decided to pay a visit to the restroom.  As soon as I did what I was supposed to do, I found out that toilet paper was not part of the deal. After profiting from me, SM could not even spare me one basic necessity in a "comfort room."

I don't know about you, but I noticed that every SM that I have been to, be it their mall or real estate development, gave me a feeling of claustrophobia. Aside from the dark and crowded hallways are numerous stalls blasting out ear splitting music. My Chinese friend told me that it is good omen to have all the racket and noise. It scares out evil spirits. There must be plenty of them.

Please do not get me wrong. I must admit that SM is the only place where you can find whatever it is you are looking for. Its impressive foot traffic draws all kinds of merchandisers who are willing to pay 20% of gross sales for a space. It just seems to me that the only people they need to please are their investors alone.

Fortunately for them, they seem to flourish no matter what they do in a land of the inarticulate. I apologize for this sweeping statement but it is the truth. Anybody with money and power can get away with crap. Ask around and they will tell you with resignation, "that's just the way things really work."

Just keep in mind that next time you visit the Philippines, BYOTP. Bring your own toilet paper.

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