Have malls become tourist destinations themselves?

SM City Baguio. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.

Malls are so ubiquitous that they have become an integral part of Filipinos’ daily lives, whether they realize this or not. This is true even when you’re on the road. On a recent trip from Manila to the north (and back), we stopped by a couple of malls several times, either to grab something to eat or to buy pasalubong. Other times, we would actually head to the mall because the fun activity we wanted to do was located there.

Here are 10 reasons why a detour to a mall on your way to your destination (or perhaps when you’re already in the area) isn’t such a bad idea after all:

  1. Amazing view decks.
    SM City Baguio is located in a pretty elevated spot that gives mallgoers an awesome view of the city. When we were there as part of the NLEX Lakbay Norte trip recently, we chanced upon seeing the fog slowly engulf the view of the city, an occurrence that people from Manila don’t see every day.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Dancing Igorots.
    It’s such a delight to see Igorots dancing around SM City Baguio, much like how bands would play for mall-goers at the SM Mall of Asia. Wearing their traditional ensemble (the bahag), it’s an amazing way to showcase their culture to thousands of mall goers. They also have an actual Igorot house set up in one part of the mall to further pay homage to indigenous people living in the region.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Art exhibits.
    There was an art exhibit called “Pandegka” [Pandegha is an Ibaloi word that means “to create or make”] when we dropped by SM City Clark on our way to Baguio. The gallery features local artists with artwork that is equally intriguing, amusing, and entertaining. Located at The Event Centre, the exhibit runs until March 19.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Digital artwork on walls.
    It’s cool to see digital artwork on display in many of the hallways of SM City Baguio. Specifically created for the mall, the walls serve as a huge canvas for local artists to pay tribute to their rich heritage and culture. The artworks turn what would have been dull and plain walls into an exciting part of the mall experience.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Access to the Sky Line.
    If you haven’t been to SM City Clark in a while, you’d be surprised to see that they had built Sky Line right next to it. It’s an elevated hangout place that features outdoor exercise machines, a playground for pets, a track for runners and walkers, and lots of Instagram-worthy backdrops. Visitors also get an unobstructed view of Mt. Arayat from here.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Access to the Sky Terrace.
    The Sky Terrace is like a huge rooftop hangout place for mallgoers in SM City Baguio. It features inflatable balloons that kids will enjoy. It’s an ideal place to drink a cup of coffee while enjoying the cold weather in the country’s summer capital.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Close to Sky Ranch.
    Another advantage of dropping by SM City Baguio is its proximity to Sky Ranch, an amusement park that is just a couple of minutes away on foot from the mall. They have rides that young ones would enjoy and those that would satisfy thrill seekers.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Awesome activities.
    We spent a good 30 minutes ice skating at SM City Clark. None of us were experts in the craft, but the kid in us was very happy we got to try this out. We also spent a good amount of time in the bowling alley, which really worked up our appetite.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Wide variety of dining options.
    As is to be expected, malls offer a wide array of dining options for practically any craving one may have. When we were in SM City Clark, we had lunch at Mesa and snacks at Everything But Cheese. When we got to SM City Baguio, our big appetite brought us to The Hill Station, which serves hearty meals and yummy desserts. They have al fresco seating, too, which makes drinking our mojito all the more delightful. For dinner, we dropped by Entrée by Visco’s for yet another serving of delicious food that we’d be glad to have any day of the week.
The parabur ti namarsua art exhibit at sm city baguio. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Complete your step count.
    For people looking to get some physical activity, malls are actually an awesome place to go. Because you’ll be entertained by what’s happening around you, you’ll never notice that you’ve completed your 10,000-step quota for the day. Also, malls are ideal for grabbing things you might have forgotten at home, such as a pair of slippers or a nail cutter.
Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.
  1. Pasalubong center.
    No trip is ever complete without buying pasalubong for loved ones waiting at home. And there are lots of options inside malls. We dropped by Toll House for some snacks and kakanin. We also got some polvoron and pastillas from Sasmuan Delicacies, which we love to pieces! Then we headed to Betty’s Special Native Cakes, where we had bibingka duman and maja blanca. Lastly, we had palabok and halo-halo at Susie’s Cuisine, where we also picked up chicharon, peanut butter, and puto.
Kenneth M. del Rosario
Kenneth has been writing for the Philippine Daily Inquirer for more than 17 years, covering travel, food, motoring, technology, real estate, and business, among others.