(This story was published by The Daily Tribune on June 30, 2020.)
For 44 years, the Ali Mall in Araneta City has carved for itself a legacy that goes beyond relying on its namesake.
Those who are familiar with the mall's history would easily associate the establishment with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, whose victory in the 1975 Thrilla in Manila at the Araneta Coliseum has made sports history.
Ali Mall was constructed right after the historic match in honor of the boxing champ. It was opened to the public on June 30, 1976, with Ali personally doing the honors of inaugurating what back then was the country’s first and only integrated shopping and parking complex.
Worthy of its namesake, Ali Mall has made a pioneering heritage in Philippine shopping leisure experience, being the country’s first enclosed and fully air-conditioned mall. It housed the first mall cinemas, had the largest indoor skating rink at the time (the widely successful Skatetown), and pioneered the concept of mall food courts. Some beloved and well-known brands like Papemelroti, Blue Magic, and Rusty Lopez opened their first branch at the Ali Mall.
Many years have passed, and other malls have emerged in various parts of Metro Manila. Yet Ali Mall remains as among the preferred mall destination of shoppers.
To cope with the changing times, Ali Mall has undergone expansions and renovations. The redeveloped mall now carries a wider variety of shopping and dining choices, modernized stadium-seating cinemas, and a one-stop government and banking center. A section of the mall named Ali X (which stands for Arts, Lifestyle, and Interests Experience) at the upper ground floor is dedicated to stores that sell antiques, memorabilia, novelty goods, and other collector's items.
The mall transformation continues along with the rebranding of the Araneta Center to Araneta City in 2019. It is a transition that serves as a reminder that the area will always be the City of Firsts, a place of many first and memorable experiences in the middle of an ever-progressing metropolis.
With its heritage and distinction, Ali Mall carries a legacy of introducing a shopping experience that puts a premium on customer comfort and convenience. The mall's physical look may have changed through the years, but its soul remains the same: it will forever be a fitting backdrop to new milestones, endless possibilities, and first experiences that many more will enjoy.