Tearing down Aldevinco feels like old Davao is being taken away

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 January) — Dabawenyos expressed sadness when the management of the Aldevinco Shopping Center announced it had closed its doors on December 31, 2021, many of them sharing nostalgic memories of the popular tourism landmark, home to various souvenir shops for nearly six decades. 

While others say Aldevinco was not exactly closing down as tenants would just be transferred to a new location, Poblacion Market Central,  Mindanawon filmmaker Jay Rosas told MindaNews that tearing down the 56-year-old shopping center to pave way for the so-called “cosmopolitan goals” feels like a part of old Davao is being taken away.

Aldevinco, he explained, was not just any shopping center but a “cultural identifier” and, at the same time, a familiar landmark of his childhood.

Rosas said he could not help but feel nostalgic about the closure of Aldevinco, with that old and unsophisticated shopping center being forever etched in his memory as his go-to place either to look for costumes to wear for school presentations or to buy foreign currency for his travels abroad.

“Aldevinco isn’t a mall but it’s mostly souvenir stuff, no trendy brand names, a touristy landmark, a name of place you’d think of when a first-time Davao tourist would ask where to buy pasalubong or unique stuff,” he added.

He said Aldevinco had been a part of his childhood and, just like any other Dabawenyo, he had a fair share of fond memories while growing up that kids belonging to “generation Z” who expressed indifference over Aldevinco’s closing down could not resonate with. 

“In college, there’s a small resto at the back where I would eat lomi or take it back to the office I’m working at in Ateneo as an errand,” he said.

The 56-year old Aldevinco Shopping Center in Davao City, the go-to place for Mindanao souvenirs closed its doors on December 31, 2021. MIndaNews file photo by Bobby Timonera

Rosas said he would miss Aldevinco, a shopping center bereft of any commercial trappings of a bustling cosmopolitan city that once stood at the heart of downtown Davao.

“To some, it may just be a drop-off point and nothing but a waiting place for jeepney rides, that tearing it down for some fancy high-rise condo would be cosmopolitan goals… I just feel like we’re adhering to the kind of skyscraper development that we have been told is the kind that fits for everything,” he said.

Former Davao City-based reporter Boom Castillo, a graduate of mass communication at the Ateneo de Davao University, said she was sad about the closure of Aldevinco. 

“College life would not be complete” without crossing over to Aldevinco from the Roxas Avenue entrance of the university. Aldevinco is on the corner of Claro M. Rector and Roxas Avenue. Across Recto is Marco Polo Hotel which was among the earliest casaualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hotel closed in mid-June 2020. 

From Aldevinco to Poblacion 

The Aldevinco Shopping Center, a popular go-to destination for the Mindanawon arts and crafts of homegrown property developer Alcantrara and Sons Development and Investment Corporation (Alsons Dev), closed down last December 31, 2021 but its tenants have been transferred to the Poblacion Market Central along Bangoy Street where Madrazo Fruit Stand once stood, about a block away from Aldevinco.

“I understand the public is more focused on the closure kasi nga naman Aldevinco is a Davao landmark, but the last thing we want people to think is that Aldevinco is totally gone. The brand will live on sa Poblacion. It’s just a change in address, to better, upgraded facilities,” said Margarita Rey-Gross, marketing manager. 

She said 59 out of 90 Aldevinco tenants have found a new home in the Poblacion Market Central which is also run by Alsons. 

Some Aldevinco tenants and other local shops have been operating at Poblacion since December “but in a bazaar set-up for now while their stores are being renovated,.”

“We are looking at opening in March,” she said, adding the renovations would likely be done by then. 

Poblacion Market Central in Davao City, the new go-to for Mindanao souvenirs after Aldevinco Shopping Center ceased operations on 31 December 2021. Photo courtesy of Alsons

Gross said that the company’s initial plans for the Aldevinco property have been pushed back due to the pandemic but added that re-planning is still underway.

“We had initial plans for the Aldevinco property but we are currently reviewing everything considering the pandemic,” she said.

Studies for the property are still ongoing, she said.

Vertical expansion 

During the 50th anniversary of Aldevinco Shopping Center at the SMX Convention Center Davao in 2015, Tomas I. Alcantara, then chairman of Alcantara Group, told reporters that the Aldevinco property could accommodate a vertical expansion that may include a condominium and an office space as “we look forward to transforming Aldevinco Shopping Center into a structure that will complement the new and growing cityscape around it.”

“Over the years, we’ve been able to cater to an increasing number of tourists that come every year. Tourists are here and they have made Aldevinco a necessary stop before they go back home. In a way, we’re able to contribute in making Davao a destination and we hope that we will continue to be able to perform that function no matter how small in the years to come,” he said. 

Alsons Group, one of the country’s largest and most diversified Filipino-owned conglomerates, has interests in agriculture, aquaculture, mining, real estate, and power generation

The real estate projects in the city under its wing include Ladislawa Garden Village, Woodridge Park, Las Terrazas, Northcrest, Fernwood, Woodlane, Eden Ridge, and Northtown.

The company said the Poblacion Market Central is a celebration of the city’s promising art, retail, and food scene.

“Aside from your favorite Aldevinco shops, the new commercial development will also feature more retail brands, a food hall, and establishments for essential services,” Alsons said in a recent pres srelease. 

Continuing Aldevinco’s legacy 

It added that property developer Alsons Dev “aims to continue Aldevinco’s legacy of promoting local and Mindanawon culture, heritage, and identity through Poblacion Market Central.”

It said the Poblacion had its seminal debut when it hosted Mindanao Art 2021, the biggest celebration of creativity featuring the works of over 300 artists from all over the region, which attracted thousands of art enthusiasts last October.

“Through the exhibit, we have created city-wide appreciation and expanded cultural consciousness while putting food on the artists’ tables,” Mindanawon artist and Lawig Diwa Inc. president Kublai Millan said.

The Poblacion Market Central reopened its doors last December to hold its first-ever Christmas event entitled “Pasko sa Poblacion,” where a curated mix of some of Davao’s best art, retail and food brands were invited to set up pop-up shops while giving local artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs the chance to showcase their works and products.

Kublai Millan’s 73-piece exhibit entitled “Prosperity Paintings” will remain until March this year, along with the pop-up stores of Aldevinco shops, Fasta Pasta, Hootsa, Luckydog PH, MJ, Lilo & Kent Landscaping and Ornamentals/ Naye’s Garden and Green House. 

Roxas Avenue corner Claro M. Recto St. in Davao City .will no longer be the same without the Aldevinco Shopping Center, a landmark for half a century. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Tourism regional director Tanya Rabat-Tan, said Aldevinco has been the go-to place of tourists and residents for souvenirs. “It is indeed sad to see it cease operations as it has played a significant role in the city’ shistory as an iconic destination, well loved by both tourists and locals.”

But looking on the bright side, she said, Aldevinco’s tenants are moving to a  “better location” at Poblacion Market Central, “with bigger leasable space that can accommodate more homegrown brands, more local food and beverage merchants, and other allied products and services.”  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)