Quezon City

Overlapping Legacies: From Pantranco to Fisher Mall

The area at the corner of Quezon Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City is an overlooked but important area in the city, and in the metropolis as a whole. That is because this particular area has been home to two landmark structures that have shaped the landscape of the city.

The promise and decline of Pantranco

The development of this area began by the late 1950s when it was chosen to be the site of the new and bigger Manila terminal of the Pangasinan Transportation Company, better known by its acronym Pantranco.

1960 Pantranco terminal ad
Image courtesy of goriob via Flickr

Established in 1917, Pantranco started as a provincial operation that serviced passengers throughout Pangasinan. It eventually expanded its operations, especially after the war, thanks in part to its strategy of acquiring small or ailing bus companies in different areas. It also opened a terminal in Manila around that time, which back then was a small terminal which could no longer accommodate its growing operations by the 1950s.

On July 11, 1960, the new 12-hectare terminal opened to the public, marking a new chapter for the bus company. The terminal itself became an important hub, connecting Greater Manila (which was how the metropolis was known before at that time) not only to Pangasinan but also to Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, La Union, Ilocos Sur, and even Baguio.

Image courtesy of the Philippine Arts and Architecture Magazine via Esquire

However, Pantranco would run into financial troubles in the 1980s. Why and how the company experienced those troubles in the first place remains unclear. What was clear though was that the company tried to turn things around, which ended up in vain. Eventually, the company shut down its transport operations and the terminal was eventually closed down.

1960 July 11 New Pantranco terminal
Image courtesy of gorio72 via Flickr

But Pantranco’s problems did not end with the terminal’s closure. In fact, Pantranco was preparing to resume its operations in the early 1990s with an ambitious rehabilitation plan. Unfortunately, it faced a major stumbling block as its former employees sued the company for laying them off without being given their due separation packages. As the business was still bleeding from financial losses, the lawsuit proved to be the final nail in the coffin. By 1993, Pantranco effectively ceased operations as its franchise to operate as a transport company was no longer renewed.

On a side note, the workers eventually won their case in the Supreme Court. But the victory proved to be a pyrrhic one as Pantranco was not only no longer around to pay them but was also strapped of cash and other assets thanks to its creditors who eventually acquired them.

Enter Fisher Mall

The Pantranco terminal was left idle for years, yet its legacy managed to outlive the landmark that once stood in the area. By the 2010s however, activity in the property was buzzing again. It turned out that the property was acquired by fishing magnate Roberto del Rosario who decided to build a shopping mall in the property.

This venture would actually be Del Rosario’s first foray into retail mall development, not to mention one of those rare instances that a mall being developed is not coming from one of the existing mall conglomerates (such as SM, Robinsons, and Ayala).

The new mall was given the name “Fisher Mall”, in honor of Del Rosario’s fishing business. Palafox & Associates was tapped to design the 5-level mall while Jonathan O. Gan & Associates conceptualized its interior design. Fisher Mall formally opened to the public on January 2014 to popular acclaim, especially among the shopping public.

Structurally, Fisher Mall is one of the rare shopping malls that embraced natural light coming into the interiors, not unlike Palafox’s design for another mall, SM City Marikina.

As noted earlier, Fisher Mall made its mark as an “independent” in the metropolis’ retail scene that was dominated by the usual bigwigs. And being “independent” is something the mall has managed to live by. In fact, rather than having outside retailers handle the mall’s supermarket and department store operations, the mall itself manages the supermarket and department store, putting them under its own anchor store brand.

Overlapping legacies

Like Pantranco before it, Fisher Mall stands out as a landmark in this part of the city. But while Fisher Mall has become an icon in its own right, at the same time, the shadow of that Pantranco past hangs upon the mall, for good and for ill (if there is such). Indeed, while many are very much familiar about Fisher Mall and where it is, the area where it is located is still known as “Pantranco” by oldtimers, as well as in jeepney signages.

It can be seen as a testament to Pantranco’s contribution to the city’s development and its enduring legacy that managed to outlive the ill-fated bus company. It is a legacy that Fisher Mall has somehow managed to live with.

Acknowledgements as well to Fisher Mall, Yahoo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Manila Times

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