This 2010 Christmas season, I thought it would be appropriate that The Urban Roamer’s Journal pay tribute to what was once one of the premier, if not THE premier, Christmas destinations in Metro Manila: the commercial business district of Cubao in Quezon City.
On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to experience memorable Christmases past in Cubao in its past glory and be dismayed by its decline over the years, but at the same time hopeful for some future memorable Christmases to be witnessed in Cubao in the midst of its bid to recapture its old glory.
Long before malls became the premier shopping destination, it was the department stores who were considered the apex for the shopper. Back then, competition among department stores was thriving, cutthroat as some might consider. No other example of that competition was witnessed in those days than in the commercial district of Cubao in Quezon City.
Even as the advent of malls in the area with Ali Mall and Farmers Plaza by the 1980’s, the department stores at the time were still kings. But for many shoppers like my family, one department store stood out among the rest: the C.O.D. Department Store.
It began life in 1948 as a small department store located along what was then the bustling commercial district of Santa Cruz along the famed Avenida Rizal or Rizal Avenue. Given its small space and the cutthroat competition among department stores in the area, Manila C.O.D. to shoppers back then was “just one of those,” perceived as nothing different to offer compared to the bigger department stores of Avenida.
Christmas season of 1957 changed Manila C.O.D.’s fortunes to become a formidable retail destination, thanks to a shopping gimmick that would become a beloved tradition: the moving Christmas displays. Since then, there was no turning back for its growth. But the changing urban landscape of downtown Manila threatened its business. So in 1966, C.O.D. made a bold move of relocating its main department store to then somewhat-barren Cubao, while keeping the Avenida store as a branch. This made C.O.D. the first department store in the then-young Araneta Center which until that time only had its 6-year old coliseum as its landmark.
With an area 10x larger than its old store with 5 levels of shopping goodness, it now boasted a wider array of merchandise that was unparalleled at the time. It also meant grander Christmas display shows that were now being held at the upper level of the building. This roamer has been fortunate to have wonderful childhood memories of C.O.D. not only of its Christmas displays but also of the wide range of items on sale, especially the toys.
By the 1990’s, C.O.D.’s existence was under threat once more, not to mention the whole landscape of Cubao from changing urban landscape and lifestyle brought about by bigger malls, the multi-chain ones especially. Sadly, there was no getting out this time for the once-beloved department store. In 2002, in the midst of an overall decline of Cubao and in the department store concept, C.O.D. itself closed down for good.
Its beloved Christmas displays eventually found a new home in Greenhills; the landmark of sorts that is its building though is another story. It was first rented out to supermarket chain Puregold though it only utilized the ground level of the building, giving a still empty feeling to what was once a shopping mecca of sorts. Then Puregold itself moved out a few months ago to a new location, which also happened to be the site of another once-famous department store: Uniwide Cubao, whose story is also interesting by itself.
As of this writing, the old building of C.O.D. now lies languishing in the shadows of a high-rise residential being built right across it. Only time can tell if the C.O.D. building itself would give way to some new high-rise project. Whatever will be its fate, its contribution to the urban landscape of Cubao and Metro Manila as a whole will never be forgotten by generations of shoppers who have roamed around and bought stuff from this iconic store.
Acknowledgments also to the Philippine Daily Inquirer and to Rod Samonte for the additional information especially for the above map I made.
© The Urban Roamer