September 18, 2011

Christmas in July was only a metaphor, but Christmas in September is SERIOUS business

In July, when we received our HHE (household effects) shipment, I joked that it felt like Christmas to have everything again. What I did not expect when I said that was two months later to be celebrating the Christmas season! Yes, I have said it before Christmas officially starts in September in the Philippines! Carols on the loud speakers in the mall, ‘Happy Christmas’ wishers on the streets and at work, decorations on sale in stores, and blinking twinkle lights are starting to emerge wherever we drive.

Hiva and I decided to go to one of the stores near the Mall of Asia that we had heard about that sales everthing including Christmas decorations—UniWide. UniWide is a large warehouse type store that sales wholesale items at discount price. Several people have told us how great the prices are, but I was skeptical because if the prices were so great, then why don’t more people go?

On our drive we saw a traffic controller that was full on dancing while he directed traffic. His dance included pirouettes, lunges and all kinds of Michael Jackson style hand and foot work! It was so graceful! We did not mind staying at the light for an extended period of time!

When we arrived I understood the reason. UniWide is located in a “has-been” mall at the south end of Roxas boulevard. As we approached we had to navigate through large pot holes and several old buses using the abandoned parking lot as a makeshift bus terminal. The building itself was in decay. Paint was chipping, awnings torn to shreds, storefront windows literally boarded up with plywood and tin sheeting, and neon lights that used to welcome shoppers to the mall now dangled haphazardly down the wall leaving a vivid color mark where the sun did not scorch like the rest of the building. Now, I don’t watch horror films, but as we tried to decide where to park I could not help but think this was a perfect venue for the next something-big-and-dead-kills-the-innocent-shopper- thriller!

We parked near the two other cars in the dusty lot, thinking that was the best bet for safety—if other people trusted to park here. As we exited I noticed that one of  cars had a terribly flat tire and the other had not moved in months because the dirt around the tires was undisturbed evidence there had been a rain storm, followed by a muddy flood, then the water evaporated  leaving a layer of cracked, desert looking sand. What did we get ourselves into?

Inside the mall building was just as creepy. The escalators at the entrance were unmoving and the whole second story was walled off. The only natural light that seeped into the building was through the cracks in the hastily boarded exterior windows. There was no main lighting and  only one in every ten stores was open for shopping. They were dimly lit with wire lights strung across the ceiling and one or two exposed bulbs humming with electricity. The floors of the mall were white tile, meticulously swept and the bathrooms were clean  I could smell the fresh bleach—a fresh welcoming smell in stark contrast to the rest of our surrounding. We continued to walk deeper into the mall, past rows of abandoned stores that still had window displays as if they were opening in a few hours, and the large grand entry with restaurants lining the walls and benches and tables in the middle awaiting guests; Just like you would see in any other mall. But it was all wrong. The mannequins in the window displays were covered in dust from non-use, the restaurants were dark and the grand entry was empty and tables were lonely without guests using them. Just about then I was creeped out enough and ready to leave when we rounded the corner and were greeted with large bright banners of UniWide announcing Christmas sales, decorations and colors of all styles flashing with life at us…a complete juxtaposition to the rest of the mall.

We went in and spent several hours looking around. It was a blast. There were decorations, Christmas items of all sorts, kitchenware, toys, furniture, wholesale food products, and more and the prices were cheap! It was like a massive Ross! (They even had some items that had Ross tags on them! I was not supposed to take photos inside but I quickly snapped a few shots with the camera just hanging around my neck...sneaky, sneaky!)  Totally a cool place to come look for anything you need. But if you go, park in the back at the entrance to UniWide itself, spare yourself the disturbing walk through the mall.

Next we went to S&R, the Philippine version of Costco and Sams Club. There was a Christmas sale all this week. Hiva had gone earlier and left after 5 minutes because of the incredible amounts of people. Today was no different. A line outside wound around just for a cart, when we got inside the place was complete chaos! People had their cart filled to the brim with decorations and goods for the holidays. I could not believe it! I would have taken a few photos but they told me I had to turn my camera into the front desk. For about 3 minutes, I was completely fascinated that Christmas shoppers were so serious in mid-September by the way they were acting it was Christmas Eve and we needed to get all our shopping done in time for family dinner.

But then on the 4th minute, when I had dodged the fifth raging shopper darting to the next sale with their cart spilling over, I hit “Wal-martitis” mode real fast. (If you did not read about Wal-martitis in my previous posts, that is what I call it when I am in a store, like Wal-Mart, and so many people are pushing, shoving, and selfishly not paying any attention to general public around them that I get claustrophobic and need to leave FAST to keep my sanity.) So for the 5th and 6th minutes spent in the store we were retracing our steps out. YIKES! We will just have to do without S&R grocery items until next week! We went to Hypermarket instead. (In fairness, it is usually Hypermarket that gives me Wal-martitis, but after being in S&R earlier it felt like we were walking in an open air market with all the room in the world!

If it Christmas shopping craze is bad now I wonder what it is like in December.


  1. My brother (who served his mission there) always said that as soon as the 'ber' months start so does Christmas. I didn't know how serious he was!

  2. I love Uni-Wide. S&R was definitely crazy last week. They had a sale going on. I tried to go in twice and gave up both times. Today the sale was over and it was much better...except that it had been picked clean...Just wait until December...the ramp up to Christmas has begun...Clair