VALENCIA CITY -- Bukidnon is famous for its mountains and fertile land. In fact, some of the country's highest peaks are found in this highland province. And because of its altitude, the area is perfect for growing produce like coffee and pineapple.
The province is home to one of the largest pineapple plantations in the country, making this tropical fruit its top product. And this fruit became the inspiration to Bukidnon's newest mall.
From Cagayan de Oro City (CDO), traversing Sayre Highway going into Valencia City in Bukidnon, one of the first structures that greets motorists is the new Robinsons Place Valencia. Surrounded by cornfields, the new mall stands out from all the greenery.
The three-storey structure is mostly colored gray but accented by bright yellow lines and that vibrant red color of the brand. The crisscrossing lines form multiple diamond shapes, the geometric representation of a pineapple's natural pattern.
“The mall is inspired by the pineapple,” said Arlene Magtibay, Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC) senior vice president and general manager for Commercial Centers Division, during the mall's recent grand opening. “It was designed by Lichauco Guilas + Villanueva, the same architect that designed Robinsons Place Naga.”
The pineapple inspiration can be seen all throughout the mall. The pillars in the main atrium has the same yellow color and diamond pattern. The atrium's ceiling follows the same geometric shape. Public seating areas use pineapple slices-shaped round benches.
But more than taking inspiration from the fruit, the overall design is inspired by nature. The front courtyard has pockets of greens scattered in the area. There's also a beautiful koi pond as an added attraction. The columns of the portico or the covered area before the entrance, is covered with ferns, creating cylindrical vertical gardens.
“When you look at Bukidonon it's all nature, very lush, the mountains. So that's why we decided to put something that will be more nature-like,” Magtibay said.
The al fresco area of the mall that is lined with restaurants are also has garden areas. The Skypark on the third floor is beautified by garden landscaping. This area has an impressive view of the Pantaron mountain range.
And in honor of Bukidnon, RLC tapped the talent of artist Sam Penaso to create a sculpture piece inspired by Bukidnon. He created a piece that represents the seven tribes of the province—Talaandig, Higa-onon, Bukidnon, Umayamnon, Matigsalug, Manobo, and Tigwahanon.
A WELCOME INVESTMENT
This is RLC's 51st mall in the country, seventh in Mindanao, and first in Bukidnon. While Malaybalay City is the province's capital, the mall developer chose Valencia because of market potential and progressive economy.
“Although Malaybalay is the capital, it's actually Valencia that is the economic center. It's more progressive and I would think the purchasing power in Valencia would be higher because there's a lot more businesses. Malaybalay is just nearby, so by setting up here, we can still attract people from there,” Magtibay said.
During the opening, it was revealed that the city waived some tax duties for the mall. The mall doesn't need to pay real property tax and business tax for the next five years. According to Magtibay, this kind of incentive is not new but not all local government units (LGU) would give such tax incentive. It shows that Valencia's LGU is serious about attracting more investors into the city.
“It's common practice but not all. If they really want to attract investors, they have an investment code. I guess it helps if you're in a greenfield area because the cities, they don't really care anymore. For them this mall is a big thing,” she said.
“This incentive gives us savings because we don't have to pay real property tax and business tax for five years. And on the sixth year, there's still a 50-percent waiver. We would pay the full amount of taxes on the seventh year,” Magtibay added.
And the mall is bringing in much needed employment. People of Bukidnon would usually go to CDO to find jobs; but now, the mall and its tenants are opening new opportunities for the locals.
“Almost everybody here is local. The ones who used to go all the way to Cagayan de Oro to find employment, they can find it here now,” she said.
NEW SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
Before, people of Valencia would travel all the way to Cagayan de Oro City — two and a half hours away on a good day — just to watch movies and shop at national name brand stores. Now, the mall is just one jeepney or tricycle away from their houses.
Robinsons Place Valencia brings its anchor shops to the city like Robinsons Department Store, Robinsons Supermarket, Robinsons Appliances, Daiso Japan, and Handyman. The mall also opens the first cinema in the city with Robinsons Movieworld, which houses six cinemas including one with 3D capabilities.
Likewise, an integrated government-related transaction center, Lingkod Pinoy Center has opened its doors. Of course, national brands like Bench, Penshoppe, and more are also there. There are international shops like the Filipinos' favorite donut shop Dunkin' Donuts and Midio that sells Korean products. For tech products there's Techno, a tech lifestyle store that sells gadgets and accessories.
One national brand found in the mall is Gerry's Grill, a successful casual dining restaurant chain. The branch at Valencia is its 115th store in the country and 10th in Mindanao. Its famous for classic Luzon eats like sisig, crispy pata, and kare-kare. According to Gerry's Grill head of marketing Francis Villaluz, they would soon try to incorporate local food like pineapple in its menu at Valencia.
“Later we would want to incorporate local food. We're looking at pineapple flavors or incorporate the fruit in our dishes. We can incorporate pineapples in the atsara or something. It's readily available so it's not expensive, which is really important,” he said.
But the mall is not short of local and regional players. Robinsons Malls always makes sure that it gives space to local and regional businesses.
One homegrown business is Hinam-is cafe, an offshoot of the local bakeshop, Angel's Log. The pastry shop has been in business in Valencia for more than 20 years and it's famous for its specialty cakes like pineapple cheesecake and tablea cake. It also offers local coffee in its cafe.
Even local electrical and lighting supply store Kuryente Express opened shop at the mall. The growing number of homes, commercial places, and industrial buildings in Valencia is a big market for them.
Then there are the regional players like Bigby's, Boy Zugba, and Missy Bon Bon, all under Bigby's Quality Food Corp.
Originally from Cagayan de Oro City, it has been operating several brands in Visayas and Mindanao. Bigby's specializes in American and international cuisine like ribs, while Boy Zugba serves Filipino barbecue.