Preparing to cut the ribbon formally opening Robinsons North Tacloban are, from left, Robina Gokongwei-Pe, Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin, Alfred Romualdez, Frederick Go, RLC ambassador Maja Salvador and Arlene Magtibay. PHOTO BY LINDA BOLIDO
New Robinsons mall a symbol of Tacloban’s recovery and rebirth
The new Robinsons North Tacloban is more than just a mall with shops, eateries and service providers. For Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC) and the host city, this second Robinsons Mall in Tacloban is an affirmation of a friendship strengthened by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
Former Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez was effusive in expressing the city’s gratitude to RLC as he welcomed the new city landmark, Robinsons North.
Romualdez, who was mayor when “Yolanda” devastated Tacloban, said Robinsons was “one of those that really helped” the city get back on its feet.
By reopening its first mall in Barangay Marasbaras as soon as it was possible, Robinsons provided hundreds of jobs. “The new mall will also create many jobs so people won’t have to leave Tacloban in search of employment,” said Romualdez, whose wife Cristina is the incumbent mayor.
“Thank you for believing in us,” he told the Robinsons group that included RLC president Frederick Go; Robina Gokongwei-Pe, president and chief operating officer of Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc. (RRHI); and Arlene Magtibay, Robinsons malls general manager.
Lollyvic Mate, owner of Pinutos (Waray for binalot) at the Food Gallery, said Robinsons helped her reopen her shop in its Marasbaras mall. She was among the first tenants of the new mall’s food court, which was still half-full when the shopping center formally opened.
Magtibay acknowledged that after Yolanda almost flattened the city, there were doubts if Tacloban could recover. But people pulled together. RLC did its part, she said, by reopening as soon as possible Robinsons Place Tacloban in Marasbaras which, like every standing structure in the city, was not spared Yolanda’s wrath.
The local government “had been very supportive and helpful.” Magtibay said RLC has a “symbiotic relationship with the local government and their (Tacloban) partners have also been very loyal.”
The new Robinsons North, dubbed as a “neighborhood mall,” was RLC’s homage to the city’s resilience and grit, “a symbol,” Magtibay said, “of Tacloban’s recovery and rebirth.”
She said RLC wanted to bring happiness to Taclobanons with this symbol of their courage and ability to overcome adversity.
Go said that following Yolanda’s devastation of Tacloban, RLC exerted every effort to reopen the supermarket, even before the rest of Robinsons Place could be rehabilitated, to address a serious food crisis.
He underscored RLC’s strong commitment to the city by citing the two malls it has opened so far. Robinsons’ presence in Tacloban was further strengthened with the opening of a Summit Hotel. A Go Hotels, in fact, has already opened. “Two malls, two hotels,” Go pointed out.
Architect Dennis Villanueva of the architectural firm LG+V said they chose to base their design on the Sangyaw festival, the annual Tacloban fiesta that honors the city’s patron saint, the Santo Niño. “The design is a celebration,” as it is a nod to the graceful San Juanico Bridge that links the islands of Leyte and Samar.
“It is simple but elegant and timeless,” Villanueva said. It also paid homage to the city’s motto, Tindog Tacloban, which inspired the recovery and rebuilding efforts.
The design also respected the fact that Tacloban lies along a typhoon path. Magtibay said less glass was used and the mall was built a few feet from ground level.
The festive motif was a salute to Taclobanons who “are doing even better now after Yolanda.”
Villanueva said his firm’s guiding principle was to blend design with the local environment.
The new mall has the RRHI establishments, including Robinsons Department Store and Robinsons Supermarket, Handyman, Robinsons Appliances, Toys R Us, and Saizen by Daiso Japan.
Magtibay said the mall also brought new players and showcased many homegrown brands. About 25 percent of mall tenants are local enterprises.
These include Kim Cordeta’s Marco Pollo, ramen house Shimanami, Pizza Republic Pick + Mix by Giuseppe Genco and Kubolicious Food House.
Blue Glamz, Jojo Quil Mesa, and Shyrell Tacja Yao-Bukhalter’s fashion place showed that Tacloban is abreast of the latest style trends through several creations during the Partners’ Night that preceded the mall’s formal opening the following day.
Robinsons North has four state-of-the-art cinemas, including one with 3D features.
The new mall sits across the New Tacloban Terminal, where buses drop off and pick up passengers going to and from other Leyte cities and towns, as well as Northern Samar and Eastern Samar.
Although the host community, Barangay Abucay, is still primarily agricultural, it has a strong growth potential that RLC hopes the new mall can boost.
With its mix of national and local brands and the diverse services it offers, Robinsons Tacloban North is expected to become another popular shopping and lifestyle destination in the revitalized city.