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[Re]collection

By Joseph Aalmer Pedrajas
Images by Noel Pabalate and Manny Llanes

A Harrison Plaza mall is the last seen located in Pasay City is being close and demolish. (dec.29,2019) (photo by mannyllanes)

The glory of the old Harrison Plaza (HP) might have faded. But never the memories it left people it had served. Before Harrison closed its doors on Dec. 31 after operating for 43 years, a group of senior citizens gathered for the last time to reminisce their happy days inside the mall during their early years.

Dito ko napanood sila Imelda Papin, kumanta siya dito. Pati si Amy Perez, dalaga pa sya noon,” 65-year-old Efren Avila said when The Manila Bulletin chanced upon him sitting at a bench inside the mall. Avila was part of a group of some 15 senior citizens who shared the same hobby: frequent the shop to wind down. It was through this that their friendship was built, he intimates.

Naging pamilyar na ‘yung mukha ng bawat isa. Hanggang sa naging magka-kausap na at naging magkaka-ibigan,” explained 61-year-old Lito Salvador, another member of the group.

When Harrison was opened in 1976, it became one of the favorite places for many as it was the “first modern and air-conditioned mall” in the country.

Shoppers walk inside Harrison Plaza in Pasay City on the day before it schedueld to be closed down on the last day of the year Dec 31, 2019. The 43 year old mall is the Philippines’ first modern shopping center. (Mark Balmores)

Photo of the mall interior a few days before its closure

Also tagged as the “first one-stop shopping mall,” it featured a cinema, several amusement rides, various eateries and shops, a carnival, and a jai alai front on site, among others.

Madalas ako pumupunta sa sinehan noon,” Avila said, adding that it was the same cinema where he was in an almost life and death situation.

Mga 1980 yun, kakapasok ko pa lang ng sinehan, ang daming tao kasi pelikula ni Bruce Willis. Tapos biglang may sumigaw,” he remembered, “Sabi ‘sunog! sunog!Nagtakbuhan lahat ng mga tao. Nagtalunan sa upuan.”

Located near the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on Harrison Avenue in Malate, the mall was accessible for both residents of Manila and Pasay cities, allowing it to be frequented by many.

In a Facebook comment, Conny Lacoste said that she “loves Harrison” for its good memories after she used to spend time there after school.

A Harrison Plaza mall is the last seen located in Pasay City is being close and demolish. (dec.29,2019) (photo by mannyllanes)

A Harrison Plaza mall in Pasay

Malapit sa school namin. Good memories were there. Nilibre ako ng English teacher kong si Ms. Julieta Munoz,” she said.

Ma’am, kung saan ka na…I would want to meet you at ako na manglilibre sayo,” she added.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Villares would usually eat at one of the eateries at HP “after training at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.” He continued, “One of the movie houses [there] was where I had a date with one of my girlfriends.”

Pearl Pimentel shared Villares’ hobby of going to the shop to eat, saying, “For almost four years, during my son’s college days in De La Salle University, I remember the 10 noodles resto…[and] the best Pad Thai.”

Shops including Queen’s Supermart, Yamaha School of Music and Technics, Snapshack, Sea Beauty Fish Treats, and Byrons would also remain memorable for Joel Mariano, Chito Valderrama, and Evelyn Trinidad.

“[It was at] Sea Beauty Fish Treats where my college friends and I would buy snacks before going to a theater and watch a movie,” Valderrama said.

Based on accounts of Harrison’s long time shoppers, the mall was also a witness to many love stories.

“My husband and I and our three growing children, in the ‘70s, made many pleasant memories [there] together. We lived in Malate then, so we frequented the place almost every week,” Ciony Valencia Balbin said. “If my husband were still alive today, he would have felt very sad too.”

Hideliza Ramos Mendoza furthered: “Harrison Plaza was my best pasyalan when I was younger. My husband and I used to date there. We had memories there and so sad it ends.”

In a letter dated Nov. 14, 2019 obtained by The Manila Bulletin, Erik Martel, mall manager, issued a memorandum informing “all tenants that Harrison Plaza Shopping Complex will cease to operate by December 31, 2019.” He added that the mall would be “turned over to the new owners.”

A notice saying that a store will be closed starting Dec 31 is seen at one of the store inside Harrison Plaza a day before it schedueld to be closed down on the last day of the year Dec 31, 2019. The 43 year old mall is the Philippines’ first modern shopping center. (Mark Balmores)

A notice saying that a store will be closed starting Dec 31 is seen at one of the store inside Harrison Plaza a day before it scheduled to close down

Several reports said that SM Prime Holdings Inc. was able to purchase the seven-hectare lot from the Martel family, who owns HP, which would then be converted it into a mixed-use development.

Long time tenants, including Freddie Luna Cruz—descendant of Filipino artist Juna Luna who owns a paintings shop—and long time patrons were affected.

Noong opening ng mall, andito na ako. Ito ang unang-unang mall so this is almost 43 years old na ngayon pero 50 years ang contract nito,” Cruz said.

When reports about Harrison’s impending closure circulated, Cruz’ customer would pop into his store to ask, “Saan na po kayo lilipat?”

But his response—like several other tenants—was always: “Hindi ko pa alam eh.”

Danilo Que, 67, who was also part of the senior citizens’ group expressed sadness that they would have to part ways following the closure as they would no longer have a place where they could spend their time freely with each other.

Nakakalungkot din. Magkakawatak watak na kami,” he said. “Kanina nga, yung paborito kong kainan, sarado na pala (It’s sad. This is going to break us apart. Just earlier today, I found out my favorite eating place is closed).”



Source: Manila Bulletin

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