Feature Article

Guide to Exploring Old and New Cubao Stores for the Best Shopping Trip

This landmark is full of history and, of course, shopping spots!

By: Andrea Aviado | November 04, 2017
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When someone says Cubao, some of the first things that come to mind are the slow-moving traffic in EDSA along Farmers Plaza, the endless line of people waiting to get inside the MRT, and the abundant pickpockets lurking in the area—the perfect recipe to have the opposite of a great shopping experience. But long before most of us were born into the world, Cubao stores were once ideal spots to shop, relax, and drift away from reality for a while.

More than 40 years after Cubao’s heyday, ShoppersGuide paid a visit to this famous district in Quezon City to know what it has in store for the modern day shoppers and what goes further behind the place’s negative stereotype.

Remnants of the Past

If there is one landmark that would best symbolize Cubao, it would be the historic Araneta Coliseum. Aside from hosting the country’s biggest and important sports and entertainment events, this 16,000-seater event venue also initiated the transformation of the place into the shopping district that it has become today.

In the late 60s, big shopping establishments started emerging around the coliseum due to the remarkable foot traffic caused by crowd-drawing boxing and basketball matches. Though most of these have not survived Cubao’s decline, some establishments, like the ones below, have managed to succeed and continue to operate even today.

Ali Mall

Cubao stores and malls

A glimpse into some of Ali Mall’s fashion stores

Located southeast of Cubao, Ali Mall is named after boxing legend Muhammad Ali and is the country’s first fully air-conditioned mall. This four-level establishment boasts of a handful of local brands and some international ones, offering items ranging from fashion, gadgets, to furniture and appliances starting at PhP100. The mall is also filled with different service shops scattered throughout the place such as salons and repair shops.

SM Department Store

Cubao stores and malls

Several shoppers make a stop at SM Cubao’s ground floor. (Image: SM Store Cubao’s Facebook Page)

Only a footbridge away from Ali Mall is SM Store. Initially operated as a shoe store under the name Shoemart, SM transformed into a department store in the late 70s as a response to the growing retail competition in the area; the Cubao branch opened in 1978 and was the third SM department store to be built in the Philippines.

Today, it is still one of the forerunners in Cubao and one of the locals’ go-to places for various home and personal needs starting at PhP29. This four-level mall has further widened its offerings by including a supermarket located in the lower ground floor.

Farmers Plaza

Cubao stores and malls

A preview of Farmers Plaza’s first, second, and third floors (Image: @ralphierce)

Another shopping establishment which survived Cubao’s decline is Farmers Plaza. Now directly connected to MRT-3’s Cubao Station, this five-level retail center is home to hundreds of local brands which offer items ranging from fashion, electronics, gadgets, toys, furniture, and appliances. The mall’s fifth level also houses a big bazaar which offers affordable fashion finds starting at PhP60.

Farmers Market

Cubao stores and malls

The dry market section of Farmers Market (Image: Araneta Center’s website)

Just across Farmers Plaza is its dry and wet market known as Farmers Market. It is considered the cleanest market in the city, thus making it a locals’ favorite when it comes to convenient shopping. Farmers Market Cubao stores offer various products, from meat, poultry, and seafood to fruits and vegetables. Flowers are also available in the shops found at Farmers Garden which is located beside the market.

Isetann Department Store and Supermarket

Cubao stores and malls

Isetann’s façade along General Aguinaldo Avenue

Standing at the corner of Aurora Boulevard and General Aguinaldo Avenue is Isetann, whose façade is an evidence of the retail competition of the 80s. Housing items ranging from fashion, appliances, toys, to furniture, this five-level mall mostly caters to people with a tight budget. Starting at PhP15, one can already take home an ornament for his or her Christmas tree this season or score a new shawl or a pair of flip flops for only PhP40. For budget-friendly grocery shopping, Isetann also houses a supermarket found at the lower ground floor.

Cubao Expo

Cubao stores and malls

Cubao Expo under the broad daylight

For millennials who just learned about this place in social media, Cubao Expo, also known as Cubao X, sounds like an establishment formed in the early 2010s which is now making a name for itself. However, this quaint little spot has been in existence since the 1970s. Formerly known as Marikina Shoe Expo, this shopping place behind Araneta Center Bus Terminal was the go-to place of people who want to take home a cheap but durable pair of Marikina made shoes. But unlike before, the place is not only visited for its shoes now.

Cubao stores and malls

Janylin’s PhP399 sandals

For Php75, one can take home a vintage shot glass in MBS Collectibles and Gifts, one of the many vintage novelty stores found in the area, or a reliable pair of Marikina-made sandals starting at Php299 in shoe shop Janylin. Thrifty fashionistas wouldn’t be out of place as Cubao X is also home to WCHA Fashion Haus which offers quality secondhand fashion items starting at PhP75.

New Talk of the Town

With the rise of bigger shopping malls and the domination of the upscale commercial districts of Ayala and Ortigas, Cubao is also reviving its glory days with the opening of new and bigger establishments.

Parolan Bazaar

Cubao stores and malls

Parolan Bazaar in its new home beside Araneta Center Bus Terminal

In 1991, Araneta Center opened Parolan Bazaar. It features stalls selling various Christmas decors every October to December. This annual bazaar is accompanied by a giant Christmas tree within the area to give a festive vibe. This year, stalls are already up in their new home beside Araneta Center Bus Terminal and are already selling Christmas decors starting at PhP20 and more.


Cubao stores and malls

Shopwise’s entrance in front of the Araneta Center Bus Terminal

The former location of Fiesta Carnival behind Araneta Coliseum is now home to hypermarket Shopwise. Aside from being a go-to place of locals looking for grocery and household items and appliances, this supermarket’s branch in Cubao is also visited for its affordable fashion finds. Located near the entrance of the establishment are fashion stalls which sell items that start at PhP100. There are also food stalls to end a day of shopping with a happy tummy.

Gateway Mall

Cubao stores and malls

The upscale Gateway Mall’s façade at night (Image: @markkymarky)

Cubao’s youngest shopping center, Gateway Mall, is located right beside the Big Dome. Housing the biggest players in the international retail scene, this five-level mall is the go-to place of fans of international brands like H&M, Uniqlo and Forever21. Aside from its upscale stores, the place is also the home of local luxury retail enterprise, Rustan’s, which serves the fashion and home needs of the upper middle to the upper class society in the area.

Cubao may still be reclaiming its glory days, but there is one thing that will never be taken away from this place: its contribution to history that paved way to modern day shopping.

Do you have any fond memories of Cubao? Share them in the comments below.
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About Andrea Aviado
Andrea is a film and design buff who also enjoys writing, traveling, taking pictures and editing photos and videos. She likes discovering new things on one hand while learning stories of the past on the other.
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