Gaisano opens 17th mall amid Sendong wrath

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/20 Dec) – More than a thousand Surigaonons stormed the opening of the Gaisano Mall despite the heavy rains and winds brought by typhoon Sendong Friday last week.

Elsewhere in the region, strong winds battered Hinatuan in Surigao del Sur as public storm signal number 2 was raised in the two provinces of Surigao, Agusan, and the rest of Mindanao.

The Gaisano Capital Group finally opened its first shopping mall in Surigao with construction still 60 percent complete.

Nilo S. Miranda, II operations manager for the Gaisano Capital Group of Companies that also owns the Gaisano retail outlets in the cities of Pagadian and Ozamiz, said they opened the Surigao branch in time for the holiday peak season. The supermarket and department stores opened at 1:30 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than the 2 p.m. schedule.

Miranda said they had to open earlier because people were already milling outside the mall amid the raging storm outside.

This is the 17th branch of the Gaisano Capital Group of Companies which has branches in Cebu (Gaisano South), Mactan, Danao, Iloilo, Manila and several others in Visayas and Luzon.

The two-storey Gaisano mall is expected to be completed by late January or February 2012 with the entry of giant brands as its tenants, Miranda said.

Traffic snarled along the highway about 11 a.m. when the motorcade passed by the city’s major streets.

Ms. Melrose Llamera, an elementary school principal from Dinagat Island, said Gaisano’s presence “is an answer to my prayers.” She relished the comfort that the retail giant offers the locals while doing grocery and shopping because with the local malls “we have to sweat and line up in long queues before we can even pay.”

Llamera owns a small sari-sari store in Brgy. Osmeña in Dinagat and she thinks that prices are relatively competitive compared to the existing stores here like the Absolute Essentials and Palma. “Naa may diperensya gamay ra pero ok ra gihapon kay bugnaw man didto,” (There might be a small difference, but it’s ok because it’s cold at Gaisano.”)

Aling Leonida Fazon, who is a coffee and milk vendor in the local wet market here, shares similar observations but said she already did her last grocery in Palma Store on Thursday. She said she will start buying her goods on Monday to start her “new route” in her shopping activity, which includes coffee, sugar and canned milk.

No cinema yet

Facebook users in a local group called Surigaonon Ako expressed their excitement with the opening of the “mall,” a first in Surigao but added the absence of a cinema is a little discouraging.

Miranda, however, assuaged locals saying construction of a cinema arcade is already in the pipeline and is targeted for construction on the second and third quarter of next year. The arcade expects to have two to three cinemas to be built, he said.

The Akoers group, as they call themselves, is a local organization of Surigaonons which is composed mostly overseas kababayans, said Antonio Villareal, the group’s president. The same group is also looking at leading a consumer group here that will vent out local consumer concerns, including the perennial “loose change” policy of certain stores which gives candies instead of coins.

But Miranda said the mall’s entry should not be to the detriment of the local and existing stores in Surigao, saying the city and the province still have a huge market. “You have to see that even our positioning is not within the city, we are in fact very far,” he said.

He pointed out that there is still an untapped market from outlying islands and provinces that will remain a big potential for growth. “We are here to grow the economy,” Miranda added, likening their entry as an impetus for growth for other businesses.

Meantime, Miranda assured Surigaonons their presence will not create flooding problems in the future. “I think this is a misconception because even before we started construction, we already submitted all the requirements needed prior to the approval of our permit and this includes the drainage system. You can even see outside the huge culverts that we are putting in place,” he said.

“We did our drainage system which then goes to the public drainage system. It will be up to the local government how they will handle its drainage,” he added.

Miranda also clarified earlier reports that applicants were told to strip off their clothes, saying it could have been misconstrued by some applicants who underwent a general physical exam.

The supermarket is 1,700 square meters in floor size. The total floor area for the entire shopping center is more than 10,000 square meters. (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)