Ghost avenue, almost PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 14:38

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

 

San Jose, CA. — While Zamboanga’s all-year-round fiesta mood merrily lives on, increasing in intensity and interests each year, the avenue where the old bazaars are located is diminishing in shopping population. For many decades, from the end of World War II to the coming of the Lobregat Empire and the birth of Team Amarillo, Guardia Nacional (Mayor Climaco Avenue) was the heart of shopping, peddling, loitering and snatching. The street is revved up with parades, made more colorful with street-dancing, float parades and motorcades on special and commemorative occasions like Fiesta Pilar and Dia de Zamboanga.

Shoppers and store and hotel owners who once had a stake in old downtown Zamboanga that now has air-conditioned bazaars, coffee shops, restaurants and pawn shops have very little to be cheerful lately. While the prices of the goods they sell are competitive (mostly made in China), the average shoppers  seem to have abandoned OK Bazaar and the Shoppers’ chain of stores for the flourishing KCC Mall de Zambo whose owner is not even from Zamboanga (no discrimination intended).

Downtown Zamboanga is slowing turning into a ghost town. Mindpro has lost its customers. The usually crowded Southway, Gateway, Shop-O-Rama and Shoppers’ Central; the strip of businesses and the lone movie theater sandwiched by the fire department and a small store selling fancies, have more than seven decades been the commercial center of the city. Now, it’s slowly becoming like abandoned Colon in Cebu and dirty Escolta in Manila.

With the entry soon of SM, Robinson’s and Puregold, owned by three of the top 50 richest people in the country, Guardia Nacional will die, just like Sta. Cruz, Recto and Cariedo where all the first-class movie houses and bazaars like Good Earth in Manila were located.

In the 1960s, stores along Guardia Nacional boomed with businesses catering to locals and migrants from other regions, even East Indians and Boholanos. In its heyday in the 80s and 90s, small restos opened. Jollibee, Dunkin Donuts, Mr. Donut joined the competition.

Most of the bazaars have since been replaced (Indian Bazaar, Golden Bell, Elma Pharmacy, Acme Grocery, National Commercial, El Barato Commercial, to name a few) with shops that serve a new generation of people. Much of the old buildings are gone, some have been architecturally redesigned like OK Bazaar. At the same time, small shops run by Chinese immigrants, some of them illegals, have sprouted selling cellphones, phone cards and phony things. It was a perfect storm as small businesses in adjacent streets mushroomed, providing tough competition.

A friend of mine complains that business downtown is down. Even at the old waterfront wet market, merchants are grumbling about the cut-throat prices of commodities and meat and vegetables at KCC. How long the small businesses will survive the KCC hurricane? While buying fresh fish, meat and vegetables at the market was the mode in the past, the customer base is decreasing with each passing day. KCC has knocked them all cold.

Shoppers feel the change because of the big savings they generate by shopping at KCC. Minsang Perez is worried. Aside from his morning pals having coffee and bread in his National Bakery, his business is slowing down by the day. He doesn’t know what the future holds for his bakery — his bread and butter.