That SM Aura Mall…

Perhaps people in more advanced countries like the US or UK will be scratching their heads after finding about the uproar in the Philippines over the “sudden appearance” of a mall in one of the Philippine’s new premier business districts.

Only in the Philippines, as they say, will such hysteria and vitriol attend what should be a sober zoning dispute or local governance issue.

You couldn’t have missed all the jabber portraying just how “sinister” one retail and real estate business empire is compared to another.  Not even if you didn’t have internet connection and a laptop or smartphone.

But the consequences of saying just how bad one real estate empire is over and over various social media platforms has actually done the opposite of keeping people from buying into their latest real estate project.

sm aura perspective

Apparently, as far as SM Aura Mall at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is concerned, that long haired social media guy’s advice way back in 2009 proves true and what he said, essentially, is that ranting on line against something tends to promote it.

He should have talked with that bald, short walking tisoy tour guy because I’d credit that guy for ranting the heck out of SM Aura and getting me curious enough to see the supposedly “evil Chinese capitalist mall” for myself.

The curiosity roused by short, bald tour guy was so incessant and so powerful that it actually persuaded me to forgo my usual Sunday afternoon gardening in favor of hauling my wife, kid, and two yayas to see SM Aura.

thai bamboosAnd I have to tell you, getting me away from my home landscaping project on most weekends is like getting Arnie Cunningham from working on Christine — I’m referring to a Stephen King novel.  Especially now that the project is  at a crucial point right now, as my Thai Bamboos aren’t growing as bushy as I want it and my midget neem trees don’t seem to be taking well to the clay-like soil of my front yard.

Never mind that taking my wife, kid, and two yayas on a road trip — even a short one — demands quite a lot of preparation (you will not believe the stuff I have to pack in the car just to ensure the kid wants for nothing anywhere he goes).  Never mind that it looked like it was going to rain hard in an hour or two and the other dozen or two reasons I normally use to cancel any trip out of the village.

The only thing on my mind was, “What the heck is the big deal with that SM Aura Mall, anyway?”

English: This is a picture of the Serendra.

It didn’t bother me at all that I would be bringing my wife and kid round past the Serendra Two blast site just days after a bomb scare at the Net One emptied offices out.  Never mind that the short route to SM Aura from C-5 would actually bring me within meters of the spot where three people died when the delivery truck they were in got walloped by a huge slab of a pre-fab concrete wall blown out by the Serendra blast.

Call me reckless, but he compulsion to see this mall was stronger than any fear of inconvenience or death.

Then again, in retrospect, it’s not as if I haven’t seen it at all.

I saw it being built over the past dozen and a half months every time I passed that road in Bonifacio Global City on the way to or from a  meeting at High Street or Burgos Circle.

Bonifacio Global City on a Gloomy Sunday

It’s true, there weren’t any signage, but a construction site that massive couldn’t have possibly escaped the attention of the BGC administration.  They probably could have sent over one of their guys there and knocked on the site engineer’s field office eight months ago and asked, “Hey dude, what’re you doing there?”

There were one or two instances when I parked my car by the roadside near the “W” Residential Condos to rest a bit before the long drive home and a motorcycle riding security officer (of BGC or a nearby building) knocked on my window and asked me what I was doing.  So, I don’t think all the heavy equipment and ruckus that attends a construction site that massive would have been overlooked — unless you were purposely ignoring it.

Market! Market!

Market! Market! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe the government people overseeing BGC were sleeping in their offices all the time or too busy shopping at Market! Market! which is just across the street from SM Aura.  Who knows?

I don’t know if heads will roll at all considering that, according to a couple of news reports, the Armed Forces of the Philippines would actually be losing P20 Billion in “modernization funds” because of the BGC Administration’s decision to give away the land where SM Aura is without SPECIFYING its use FIRST.  It is, in fact, a crucial detail that seems to have been missed by whoever gave the land away.

Fidel Ramos, president from 1992-1998

I don’t know if P20 Billion will amount to much if ever we do get into a “war” with China — doesn’t matter which China you’re talking about, because either one of them could probably takeover the country or BGC in a few weeks.  But heck, every peso spent on National Defense ought to count, right?  It’s not as if all that money still ends up lining the pockets of generals and colonels, some of it actually gets spent on new boots for some of our soldiers who will need them to run interference for Chinese artillery fire.

Which brings me to ask, how is that AFP Modernization program coming along anyway?  It sure as heck would be great to look into how all that money has been spent all these years and years.  I was still working as a scriptwriter for PBS-RTVM in the late 90’s when President Fidel V. Ramos made a big deal about all the billions and billions that were going to go into making sure we our country could defend itself from aggression or keep intruders out of our country’s territory.  Just going by my rough figuring and expertise at Command and Conquer, we should at the very least have a couple hundred boats patrolling our shore lines and artillery defending areas susceptible to attacks from the sea.  (Not that it would matter if China launches a small nuclear missile at Manila.)

SM Aura Facade-6.jpg


Moving on to what is really at issue in this here blog post… SM Aura, what about it?

Well, I’ve been taking digs at the architectural design of SM Aura and I’ve been telling everybody that it is actually an improvement.

I’d quip, “From shoe box to shoe!”

And it was actually a bit funny that long-faced “Carrie Bradshaw” aka Sarah Jessica Parker came to grace the opening of SM Aura.

Inside SM Aura-9.jpg


There couldn’t have been a better choice other than the Sex and City heroine who in one episode said that if she didn’t know men, she definitely knew shoes.

For a retail and real estate empire which began as a small shop somewhere off Carriedo in Binondo, SM has come a long way.

I don’t know how the pedigreed Ayalas feel at all about a former shoe shop owner from what was formerly known as the Parian District suddenly becoming a major competitor in the real estate industry — an industry, which I may had, descendants of encomienderos feel entitled to, being landlords and all.

It’s not at all as if they hadn’t had some bad blood going between them for quite some time owing to a falling out of sorts over a business deal years ago.

The thing is, who really gives a hoot about who is supposedly more ethical between the Sys of SM and the Ayalas of Ayala corporation?

All I and millions of other “consumers” really care about is whether their malls have what I am looking for or as a real estate investor/buyer, whether their condos will be a good investment or blow up.

Going back to my visit to the SM Aura Mall with my wife and kid…  I have to say that just driving up to the building that houses the mall and residential condos gave me somewhat of a thrill — which is not something I usually feel when I go malls like Greenbelt, Robinsons, and Trinoma.

I like saying that SM Aura looks like a shoe, but really, when you’re just meters from it, the design of this enormous building can make you hear “Alleluia! Alleluia!” and that’s just from approaching in a car from down the street.  It was almost magical how driving up to SM Aura somewhat made me feel as if my car had been transformed into a  colonial viper docking into TOS Battlestar Galactica.

If ever space nomads went shopping, I’d imagine they’d do it in a building shaped like SM Aura.

jesus with penisBut enough of the gushing over architecture, one guy’s art is another one’s… well… Mideo Art collection.

Some prefer art-deco, I prefer spanking new, sleekly designed buildings that don’t look like their parts of some bat-winged jalopy.

Inside SM AuraInside SM Aura, I noticed the typically intuitive and uncluttered SM mall layout with all the usual facilities are spread in places where you’d assume they are if you are familiar with the inside of most SM Malls — which is somewhat comforting if you’re ever outside of Manila and sort of want to have a respite from shopping in market/bazaars.

With all the bad rap SM Aura was getting, I was actually expecting it would be mostly empty.  I was wrong!

There seemed to be thousands of people milling around the place.

If there’s one thing I like about malls like Greenbelt 5, it’s the fact that it’s not quite as crowded as the typical SM Mall and I can roam around without having to negotiate my way past people who plod about like tortoises.

Anyway, one feature that really interested me was the roof deck.  SM Aura, I think, is the only building in BGC that has “green” roof deck.

The thing with green roof decks or roof decks that have been turned into landscaped gardens is that it’s kind of catching on as a “green building feature” together with solar-optical fiber lighting, low velocity wind turbines, photo-voltaic glass panels, rain water collection/water recycling facilities, and such.

green roofsWhat green roof decks are supposed to do is to keep the concrete from reflecting back the sun’s heat into the atmosphere while keeping the upper floors of the building cool.  So that, theoretically, cuts back on one cause of global warming (heat reflected back and then trapped in the atmosphere) and also cuts down on the amount of energy needed to keep a building cool.  Plus, of course, the added bonus of having a roof top that actually absorbs green house gases.

The question, however, is: Is SM Aura’s green roof deck going to actually do all of that in a manner significant enough and substantial enough to make a dent in its carbon footprint?

Maybe, maybe not.  Because as far as the whole “carbon footprint” and “carbon credit” she-bang is concerned, there’s no real way of coming up with an an accurate and credible assessment.

All the green technology solutions in the world probably isn’t going to be able to hold a match stick to the REAL GREEN TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION, which is a global cataclysm that wipes out all human technology.

But as far as SM Aura’s green roof deck  is concerned, in all fairness, it’s better than most of the buildings I see at BGC or for that matter, most of the bare lots in BGC.

One of the so-called key attractions of BGC, or so it is claimed, is that it is a walkable city. But if you’ve ever tried walking just a few blocks, you’ll probably notice that it’s just too damned hot to walk around the place.


If it hasn’t occurred to you people running BGC, WE ARE IN A TROPICAL COUNTRY! The sun’s heat here has been known to drive bald and hatless people insane.

But anyway, green enough or not, the view from SM Aura’s roof deck of the BGC skyline and the curving street below is breath-taking.  It’s one of those spaces I’d probably keep in mind if ever someone needs a suggestion for a backdrop in romantic urban setting for a picture or some video project.

roof deck view from SM AuraNice really. But for that really picturesque picture or video, I’d probably make sure to set up a platform and crane for the shot — either that, or risk having your models fall off the edge.