MANILA (UCAN): Malling, or hanging around shopping malls is a popular pastime in The Philippines, and the proliferation of Sunday Masses being celebrated in shopping malls is proving to be extremely popular, leaving some wondering about the future of parish churches.
“We find it convenient,” a 53-year-old father of five, Miguel Espiño, says, adding that he believes that “wherever there are two or more people gathered in the name of God, he would listen.”
Every Sunday, Espiño and his family dress up before setting off to the shopping mall for Mass, believing that they should be presentable for the occasion.
The family goes to the mall four hours before Mass and Espino’s wife, Sarah, does the weekly grocery shopping, while his daughters do their girly thing at the beauty salon.
At least 30 minutes before the Mass, the Espiño family go to the chapel in the mall.
Cora Timbolan, a 36-year-old graphic designer, says the air-conditioning in the mall is better than in any Catholic church around Manila.
Plus, she says it is convenient to attend Mass in the mall because it is easier to park the car and in the city with the worst traffic in the world, this is a big consideration.
“I work from Monday to Saturday and I have only got Sunday for myself, my friends, and God. I cannot afford to be stuck in traffic,” she says.
The archbishop of Manila, Luis Cardinal Tagle, says that the celebration of the Eucharist outside churches has been allowed, especially in schools, to give students an opportunity to attend Mass.
“It is always a true celebration even in a simple quiet corner where people converge,” the cardinal says. “We recognise that Filipinos spend their time in malls during Sundays, that’s why the Church reaches out to the faithful by holding Masses in these places,” he adds.
But he said that the celebration should be in a decent place, like a chapel or a quiet room where people can gather.
Others, however, say people should give more effort and time to attend Mass in a church.
“We cannot give our 100 per cent attention to the celebration if we are in a mall,” Ligaya Almacin, a 66-year-old catechist who teaches religion in a local school, says.
She believes the mall is a place for commerce not for prayer and reckons people attend Masses in malls as an excuse not to go to church.
However, Almacin wants to bring the mall to the church, saying that if people want to attend Mass and shop at the same time, stalls and boutiques should be set up inside churches.
“Going to Mass nowadays is just like going to a party or a fashion show where you can wear whatever you want,” Almacin says, while accusing malls of selling a decadent culture.
Many Filipinos, like the Espiños and Timbolan families have become part of what has been termed a growing mall culture in The Philippines.
Jorge Mojarro, a Spaniard who is doing doctoral research in The Philippines, described malls in Manila as cathedrals of consumption that fill the gap in government basic services, like pedestrian-friendly streets or parking.
Some studies note that Philippine malls influence the expectations of people who model their goals in life and their values on the glitzy venues.
“Mall shopping has become a way for people to affirm themselves, express certain preferences and enhance some dubious values like the display of social status,” Mojarro wrote in an article published in 2015.
A man, who gave his name as Miguel, pointed out that the shopping mall, aside from the house, is the only place where the family spends time together.
“We are already taken over by a culture of consumerism and materialism,” he says.
“It is a challenge for the Church to encourage and persuade Catholics to live by a Eucharistic lifestyle and not by the material things they see in malls,” he adds.
Cardinal Tagle says that the important thing is to provide people with quite places to pray so they can communicate with God in the midst of a noisy city and, after all, the Mall of Asia was Pope Francis’ choice of venue when he went to meet the rank and file.
For the malls themselves, anything that draws a crowd is good for business, so as long as the Church cooperates, the practice is likely to continue.