The Araneta Center in Quezon City is known for two iconic landmarks—the Araneta Coliseum and Farmers Plaza. They are owned by the famous Araneta family, a staunch supporter of the unlamented Liberal Party. Both structures were constructed in the 1960s.
Many historic events have been held at the Araneta Coliseum, including the Thrilla in Manila or the third Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier world heavyweight championship boxing match held in 1975. The big dome, as the coliseum is also called, has also been the venue of many concerts.
The original name of Farmers Plaza is Farmers Market. It was called Farmers Market because the basement of the building was originally a wet market while the upper floors were allocated for stores. When the owners decided to transfer the wet market to a nearby area, Farmers Market became Farmers Plaza. The wet market at the basement was converted to a fastfood center.
By the 1970s, Farmers Plaza was a popular destination for many, especially shoppers who were on a tight budget.
Although a fire destroyed a part of Farmers Plaza in 1985, it was quickly rebuilt, and remained a popular commercial hub.
More than a decade ago, Farmers Plaza was a well-maintained building. Its hallways had sufficient lights, and its centralized air-conditioning system was fully functioning. Security guards were visible at strategic locations to discourage pickpockets and snatchers from victimizing shoppers. The escalators were in good working condition, and the restrooms weren’t so bad.
As for the fastfood center at the basement, it had sufficient air-conditioning. The many food outlets provided customers with a wide range of food choices.
Sadly, Farmers Plaza has deteriorated immensely these past few years. There is a notable reduction in lights. The air-conditioning is kept to a minimum as attested to by many areas in the building which are warm. Mall security guards are limited to the building’s half a dozen entrances. The restrooms are humid.
There is a supermarket at the basement, but it has a very limited floor area.
The corridors of Farmers Plaza do not have even a single bench which tired persons with disabilities and senior citizens can use. PWDs and senior citizens who badly need to sit down must walk all the way to the fastfood center at the basement and hope that there are vacant chairs there which they can use.
There are far less food outlets at the fastfood center at the basement, which is now called a food court. Patrons who linger beyond business hours are instructed to leave through a service exit, which is accessible only by passing through two humid corridors which have the stench of rotting food and wet trash. Although the source of the foul smell is not immediately visible inside the corridors, the floor itself feels like it has a coating of toxic mold.
Maintenance personnel of Farmers Plaza turn off the escalators 30 minutes before closing time. PWDs and senior citizens who are still down in the basement are compelled to climb, with great difficulty, the escalator to the ground floor.
Their other choice is to take the exit at the south end of the basement, but this will subsequently require them to take a long walk around the entire building, especially for PWDs and senior citizens whose rides are found on the north side of the building.
Sure, the PWDs and senior citizens can have their vehicles fetch them at the south exit of the basement, but the road in front of that exit is a pay parking lot. That means their vehicles will be charged a parking fee just to be able to pick them up at the south exit. What a racket!
In other words, nobody at Farmers Plaza cares about PWDs and senior citizens.
One can only imagine the horror should a fire break out in the basement and there are PWDs and senior citizens stranded there. With elevators and escalators turned off even before the close of business hours, the owners of Farmers Plaza can be held criminally liable for deaths and injuries.
Like Farmers Plaza, SM Megamall is not friendly to PWDs and senior citizens.
About three years ago, many of the corridors of SM Megamall had metal benches to provide temporary respite to tired shoppers, and to PWDs and senior citizens as well. Those benches are no longer there today. Anybody who needs to sit down, even for a while, will have to go to a restaurant, or to the food court at the basement.
There are no benches at SM Megamall’s main exits which PWDs and senior citizens can sit on while waiting for their rides. They have to stand up like everyone else does.
SM Megamall security guards turn off the escalators and elevators at the end of business hours, even if there are still people at the basement. PWDs and senior citizens who are still in the basement after the elevators and escalators have been turned off have no choice but to climb up the escalators to reach the first floor, not only because the elevators and escalators have been turned off, but because most of the mall’s main doors have been shuttered up as well.
On many occasions, some of the air-conditioners at the SM Megamall food court are turned off. This constitutes a threat to public health, because insufficient air-conditioning in a place where hot food is plentiful creates humidity, which in turn causes food to spoil quickly. That’s bad news for PWDs and senior citizens whose immune systems are no longer what they used to be.
Farmers Plaza, SM Megamall and similarly situated establishments will probably shape up only after they are sued in court. In the meantime, PWDs and senior citizens should take concerted action to protest against these establishments.
Other establishments which are anti-PWDs and anti-senior citizens will be the subject of discussion in subsequent articles under this column.