Build it and they will come

This is my column today at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

IN this age of consumerism, I have always wondered what it is that attracts people to certain places and establishments.

I admit I never really understood the whole point of the movie “Field of Dreams” but this dialog from that movie is stuck in my memory: If you build it, they will come. (As an interesting aside, I recently met up with a friend from college who was and continues to be a serious film buff. He, too, admitted that he never really got the point of that hit movie. That provided some measure of relief because for sometime I really felt like a total failure for not getting the whole point of that movie. If anyone out there has an idea, feel free to drop a comment at my Web log at

Anyway. This dialog was top of mind last week as I finally saw for myself two areas in Metro Manila that seem destined to be the next choice destinations.

First, the Trinoma complex that is rising fast at North Edsa, a stone’s throw away from the first SM complex that started the whole mall trend in the Philippines. In the late eighties, SM City North Edsa was The Mall in Metro Manila—throngs of people were willing to traverse the whole length of Edsa just to get there. Someone told me that Trinoma stands for Triangle North of Makati although I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this piece of information.

The question is: Does Metro Manila really need another giant mall?

From the looks of it, Trinoma, which is being put up by the Ayalas, is going to be as big as or perhaps even bigger than Glorietta. I wonder what is going to happen to the many quaint restaurants, entertainment centers, tiangges and other smaller stores nearby when the giant mall begins operation. The Trinoma is located very near the Quezon Memorial Circle where these tiangges and restaurants are.

As we all know, these smaller enterprises do not stand a chance against a giant mall. Cases in point: the death of all those shops and restaurants in Pasay Road, in Cubao, and even in Alabang.

I don’t have anything against these malls and I know that there are advantages in putting as many shops, restaurants, and entertainment centers under one roof. At the very least, it makes our lives simpler and offers convenience. I just wish that these malls become more conscious of the negative effects on the environment—they generate more waste, use up more water, etc. I am told that most of these malls do not have effective systems for waste disposal.

And of course, we all know that these giant malls rule and kill the smaller competition.
On the other side of the metro, I finally saw for myself last week the changing face of Macapagal Avenue at night. For those unfamiliar with the area, Macapagal Avenue is parallel to Roxas Boulevard from Sen. Gil Puyat (or Buendia) Avenue to Naia Road. It is supposed to be the most expensive strip of road in the Philippines for reasons not entirely due to construction costs. I actually work around the area, but since I have shunned any semblance of nightlife for sometime now, I haven’t been able to check out the area until last week.

I was in for a major surprise. Macapagal Avenue is the new nightlife destination in Metro Manila and it is pulsing with activity at nighttime. Right in front of the Philippine National Bank headquarters is a dining and entertainment center that features a host of restaurants and bars. One of the choice destinations is the famed Mikey’s Bar and Restaurant, owned by presidential son Juan Miguel Arroyo. I was told that the young Arroyo is often there to personally entertain patrons but since I didn’t have the desire nor the inclination to make his acquaintance, we chose not to go there. Besides, the restaurant was quite full with people sporting Rolex watches and we didn’t feel like we’d fit in. So we moved on.

Right next to it is another complex of restaurants that form the outer layer of a public wet market that sells seafood. The attraction of the place is that people buy fresh catch from the wet market and have these cooked in any of the many restaurants around. For a fee, of course. It’s not actually a new concept in dining as this was pioneered by those enterprising market vendors in the Baclaran area.

Since we live in a country where people easily latch on to a successful venture, we’ve had a number of these establishments mushrooming around the metro, from Parañaque to Libis to Shaw Boulevard. It’s the shawarma and litson manok syndrome—everyone copied the idea to the point that one could find one in every corner. The market got saturated and everyone lost in the venture eventually.

Ironically, these places became renowned as dampa which is Tagalog for a small nipa house, something that they are definitely not.

But what makes the Macapagal Avenue dampa complex more enticing is that it is located on reclaimed land that used to be part of the Manila Bay. Even if people know that the seafood does not come from the murky waters of the nearby bay (most likely harvested in Aklan and shipped to Manila), at least one gets to eat seafood with the right ambience. And what’s more, the stink of the bay does not get in the way of the dining experience unlike in those restaurants near the Quirino Grandstand. There’s some value to be had in dining and drinking with the sound of waves lapping under your feet, but let’s face it, Manila Bay is not exactly the cleanest body of water there is.

We toured the wet market to check out the seafood available. I have to hand it to these vendors, the market offered prize catch. Yes, there even was mameng (Napoleon wrasse, a rare fish that was in the limelight recently when Chinese poachers were nabbed near the Tubbataha Reef with more than a hundred of this delectable fish in its hold) available. We were tempted to point out to the vendors that selling the fish was illegal, but one of my friends reminded us that arguing with people welding sharp knives was not a brilliant idea so we simply did not patronize that particular stall.

A number of fruit stalls were also present and it was a delight to see fruits that are not readily available elsewhere such as durian and marang. I didn’t know what to make of the stalls selling pirated DVDs and VCDs though. It seems these stalls are pretty much a common sight anywhere in the metro today.

I haven’t checked out The Fort (we’ve been planning to visit and test if the famed Krispy Kremes doughnuts measure up to the hype) or the Libis area lately. I am told that these places are enjoying brisk business.

Seeing how people are flocking to these places and taking note of the number of malls and commercial places being put up at a fast pace make one wonder if all these is a mirage, too. Consumer spending seems to be on an upward trend and liquidity seems to be high. Either people just don’t give a damn about our problems and just want to go on with their lives or people simply need more diversion to take their minds off their problems. What do you think?


george said…
dear bong,

i'm an avid reader of your columns. I agree with most of your opinions. I would like to invite you to dinner when you have time so we can discuss the "Field of Dreams" at length. Prior to that, where can i send a book to introduce myself?

more power to you...
domingo said…
Bong, it’s not “If you build it, they will come;” it's "If you build it, HE will come."
elino napigkit said…
Please allow me to comment on your article.

First, is on the voice over in the movie (Field of Dreams), if I remember correctly it said… “if you build it he will come.” These are the words he constantly hears and another one was… “ease his pains”… which he thought the “his” was meant to be the author (black guy).

Second, is that the leading and living characters of the movie have one thing in common, their passion for baseball. A passion that haunts them for the “what if scenario” in their respective lives.

The young “doc,” (Burt Lancaster) who opted to be a doctor instead of continuing a career in baseball. Who went to the field to pursue his “what if dream,” but after taunting the pitcher (he winked at the pitcher, a deed he wanted to do all his life) he came back to reality to save the life of the little girl (the daughter of Kevin Kostner); that proves he is really destined to be a doctor.

The author who was obsessed to find out and write what really transpired on the payola scandal that rocked the sport during that era. He went to “the beyond the field” to interview the dead players involved in the scandal.

And the leading character (Kevin), who carried a feeling of guilt because of his teenage rebellion against his father (a baseball player), who wanted him to be a baseball player too. He was influenced by the author’s book of freedom and left his father for the life of the “flower generation.” And now on his adult years, longs to tell his father how much he misses and loves him.

The baseball field he built is a playing field where dreams comes true, where the living can interact with the dead to find out what happened to their dreams and passion for the sport.

Any heart would melt at his penultimate dialogue, “Dad would you like to catch ball?” The end of the movie is a sight to behold, father and son playing ball, and one of them is dead.

Without knowing it, he built the baseball field to fulfill his long time dream of playing ball with his dead father… “If you build it he will come.” And to show his love to him… thus, ”ease his pains”…

How nice it would be, if we could find a similar field where we could sit beside our dead father, put our arms around his waist, lay our heads on his shoulder and say “I love you Dad and I am sorry if I hurt you.”

Relating the movie into the aspect of real estate development, I guess these developers feel that people would come if they build something where people could feel and see their dreams and “ease their pains”….
Bong C. Austero said…
please leave a comment with your email address or cellphone number and I will get in touch with you. Don't worry I will not publish your email and cp number. thanks!

Bong C. Austero said…
Right; I adapted the dialogue as title of that column and it got stuck. thanks for pointing it out, though.

Bong C. Austero said…

thank you for sharing. I get that point about building our own pathways/venues to achieve our heart's innermost desires. it's the interplay of "reality" and "dream" that I didnt get. I know the playing field is a metaphor, I just didn't get how a metaphor can be literal at the same time.

I think I have to watch the movie again.

george said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
domingo said…
Bong, perhaps, the movie is related to Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” the other road kept “for another day” that leads to a “Field of Dreams,” of “might-have-beens.”
museinthecity said…
I think "teacup economist" is a variation on "armchair investor" or "laptop warrior" which are consdescendingly applied to neophyte investors and political bloggers, respectively.

Blog lurker out of the closet here. I'm a Filipino expat living in Los Angeles for more than two decades.

Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking blog. It gives me a much needed shot of the local Philippine scene in a thought provoking and articulate form.

Keep up the good work; will comment again soon.
Bong C. Austero said…
hmmmm...i should reread Frost. Thanks for the lead.

Bong C. Austero said…
muse in the city,
that's what i thought as well. thanks for dropping by. feel free to contribute anytime.

Bong C. Austero said…
muse in the city,
that's what i thought as well. thanks for dropping by. feel free to contribute anytime.


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