The SM Mall of Asia Expat Experience

The SM Mall of Asia Expat Experience

I’ve been writing a blog for almost seven years now. Over in Guimaras, the island province we call home, there is nothing that even remotely resembles a large super mall. We do have the Chavez Building. You could call that place a  strip mall if you’ve consumed too many bottles of Red Horse.




Now don’t get me wrong.  I like the Mayberry RFD ambiance of sleepy little Guimaras. While our local security guards may only carry three bullets, Barney only had one slug in his shirt pocket. But I do enjoy the occasional shopping adventure with my asawa outside of our province.

OK, I don’t like stopping at a shoe department while my better half looks at a dozen or so pairs of shoes and walks away without buying anything. But, for the most part, I look forward to traveling to different cities in the Philippines checking out the local malls and especially the restaurants.

While “The Preacher” proclaimed thousands of years ago that there was “nothing new under the sun,” I still  enjoy seeking out fresh shops or eateries I’ve never been to. Aren’t many of us like that? Any time a new restaurant or mall would open up back in the States, people would flock to it at first.


mall of asia globe

The huge MOA globe can be seen from blocks away




We visited the SM Mall of Asia on three different occasions during our recent trip to Manila. We had very positive dining experiences at Racks, home of the best ribs in town, and Chili’s. In fact, we enjoyed the 999 peso appetizer and two entree specials so much, we made two visits to Chili’s. For 21 bucks, it’s a super value.

And when that Chili’s special said it would feed two to three people, they were right! I found the Old Time Burger and fries to be so filling that I actually had a hard time finishing them. We had to get a doggy bag for our appetizers both times we dined there.


my lovely asawa at chili's mall of asia

My lovely wife was all smiles. Our visits to Chili’s were great culinary experiences.

Wikipedia ranks MOA as the fourth largest mall in the Philippines. Thought it lost it’s third place position to SM Seaside Cebu, I’m sure we never checked out all the outlets and restaurants available there. The place was huge and spread out. We couldn’t investigate every available shopping option in three days.

Though the Bay Walk area was recommended, we didn’t venture out outside the confines of the mall. Too hot. There was a good deal of ongoing remodeling. I’m positive there’s a lot of great new shopping venues that will be added.

We left the SM Mall of Asia early every day, around 4:30 or 5:00 pm. We didn’t want to have any trouble catching a taxi back to our hotel, the Stone House. During our visits to Cebu City we always had difficulty trying to flag down a taxi at night and decided to play it safe during this visit to Manila.



We had to stop at Dairy Queen. As a kid growing up in South Central Illinois, our local DQ, which only operated during the summer months, was a little slice of heaven.

And the fact that the owner’s of the local Dairy Queen were also my grandparent’s neighbors, didn’t hurt things, either. Who doesn’t love a free Dilly Bar for just picking up trash in the parking lot, though it only cost a nickel when I was a youngster?

A nickel is a lot of money for a kid who didn’t have his paper route yet.

When my wife came to America, the small town in Central Illinois we lived in also had a Dairy Queen. I would always get a Blizzard and purchase a MooLatte for my wife. And you can bet, I got a big honkin’ greasy Brazier Burger to go with that Blizzard.

The drive-up window, however, subscribed to “Filipino Time.” It was much quicker to get out of our Chevy Colorado and go inside for faster service.

What did we get at the DQ at Mall of Asia? Well, I got a Double Dutch Chocolate Blizzard, of course, and my wife purchased her usual MooLatte. Don’t bother going to ColdStone Creamery and paying three times as much. Dairy Queen is just alright with me.

And yes, my Blizzard was served correctly to me, upside down.



sm mall of asia

We didn’t make it to any shows at Mall of Asia Arena but would’ve love to see the upcoming WWE Live Show featuring John Cena.





One time for dinner, we visited the Subway franchise at MOA though we had a hard time finding it, even though we used the electronic directory. Note to MOA: Please install more directories. We had quite a bit of difficulty locating several businesses we wanted to check out. Thank goodness, the mall was packed with plenty of security guards who helped us out.

I ordered my usual 12-inch tuna sub on oat bran bread. Onions, lettuce, black olives and jalapenos were spread over my tuna. It was delicious.   I ordered the combo meal with chips and a cola for take-out. My wife had leftovers from Chili’s to devour.



sm moa





We do have a Krispy Kreme outlet at SM City Iloilo that we often visit. Though Krispy Kreme will never compare to the delicious Mel-O-Cream treats we enjoyed in Illinois, an Original Glazed Krispy Kreme will do in a pinch.

For our afternoon merienda , we would stop at Krispy Kreme. We wised up later, however, and located the outlet outside the main building which offered far more seating than the one we were frequenting.



my lovely asawa at sm mall of asiaMy lovely asawa poses outside for this next photo op. We scurried inside as soon as the mall opened to escape the heat.




Out of all the malls we visited in the Philippines, SM Seaside Cebu is our favorite. While we certainly enjoyed our multiple trips to the Mall of Asia in Pasay, my asawa and I both favor the SM Seaside over MOA.  Traveling through the different retail outlets in MOA was often done in warm and muggy conditions. Maybe the remodeling project was hampering the A/C but there were some shops that we immediately left as soon as we entered due to the heat.

Plus, SM Seaside Cebu seemed to be better organized and easier to get around in. Maybe the fact that SM Seaside Cebu is also in the Visayas, the general region we live in, has something to with us favoring this mall more.

We weren’t able to meet readers of Philippines Plus, like Todd or Derek, who live in the general area. If we had, I’m sure they could have guided us to some other great malls in the area.

We were glad to have made the trip to the Mall of Asia in Pasay.  It was a great experience overall.



sm mall of asia logo

20 thoughts on “The SM Mall of Asia Expat Experience

  1. Welcome to my world Dave. I can actually walk to MOA :). You are a brave man though, We rarely go there with out at least one niece, that’s the only way I am pretty sure of not getting completely lost. Racks is one of our favorites also, but we have been here going on 4 years and still have not been to all the food places. I don’t think you even saw those along the bay walk.

    How does that old WWI song go? “how are we going to keep them on the farm now that the boys have seen Paris?” lololol. Hope you had a chance to run by the casinos that are near MOA. We are just the complete opposites, I prefer to visit the tranquility of the province for a day or two, but give me the malls and restaurants etc. etc. (guess I spent to many years tromping through the bush 😉 )

    • Scott H, I didn’t realize you were that close to MOA. I would have loved to meet one of my favorite supporters.

      I guess we will have to return some day to the big city. We haven’t even been to nearby Iloilo to do any shopping this month, the first time in over seven years here. I guess the big city wore us out. 🙂

      Didn’t make it to any casinos nor the bay walk, unfortunately. Next time we visit I’ll give you a heads up and we’ll make sure we don’t use the bus/RORO to get there. Take care.

  2. I am with you Dave, about the only thing that makes going to malls bearable to me is trying to find new restaurants. Just walking around while my wife shops is not very entertaining to me, and I can not find much at malls that interest me very much usually, so I just stand outside the shop she is in and watch the girls walk by.

    I have only been to the airport in Manila, but guess we will have to go there a couple times once I move there to get paperwork processed there, so will try to go to a few places then I guess.

    By any chance did you happen to see an Arbys there, thats about my favorite fast food place here in US, but have never heard anyone say they found one there. Thats the first Chili’s I have heard about there, so hope we can find some of the places that we liked from US.

    • Bill S, I did an online search regarding Arby’s in the Philippines and from the information I gather they no longer operate in the Philippines. According to Wikipedia Arby’s closed their Philippine’s outlets in the 1990’s. If anyone has any information to the contrary, please let us know. Arby’s was one of my favorite sandwich shops back in the States.

      I love to visit the various “survivalist” or “week-end warriors” outlets available at some of these large malls, Bill. My wife and I also go the the MaxWear dept. of SM Dept. Stores to see if they have any new t-shirts for me. But for the most part, like you, I’m really interested in finding any new restaurants.

      • I had kinda came to that conclusion also. Sounds like they once had some there though, from your research . They dont seem to build many new ones here is US either for some reason, there sandwiches have gotten pretty pricey for you get, $7-8 bucks for a large sandwich but beats the hell out of a McD’s, I havent eaten there for a couple years .

        Didnt figure they had Zombie stores there, like here.

        Dave, if you want, buy all the T-shirts you want here, and have them sent here to my address, I will bring them to you in the container, much cheaper here to buy them. I am buying 100’s of T-shirts to give to kids there, so a few more wont matter. I can send them to you once I get them there.

        • Yep, seven or eight bucks is pretty pricey, Bill S. When I visited the States the cheapest meal I could find in the casino was a burger and fries for ten bucks. I was also surprised by the increase in prices I saw at the local Super Walmart there.

          Bill, could you please clarify the last part of your comment for me? Keep in mind that I’m an old geezer. I think it’s commendable that you’re going to pass out all of those t-shirts. I got a bunch of “free” t-shirts from local casinos last time I was in the States.

          • Dave, it sounded like you were looking for T-shirts at the SM store. I know when I am there looking for T-shirts, I cant find much of anything I like there and the sizes there do not equal American sizes. So thought if you are looking for T-shirts that fit you, you can go online and find some here in US, send them to my address and I can bring them to you, but maybe you have better luck finding them there than I do.

            I found a place here in Va. that is a close out store for most popular brands of T-shirts, like Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Gildans and all the others. They are all just left overs, or discontinued colors or styles etc. but I have to buy them by the case, so bought a few hundred of them in all kids sizes and will include them in packages we are giving to kids there for Christmas where my wife grew up. Only problem is its very doubtful the container will be there before Christmas so may be spring before we get the packages all put together for the kids, but dont think they will mind when they get them. Would like to find a deal on backpacks also, but $15.00 ea. is the cheapest I have found so far, and that gets into to much money.

            I only have this one time I will be sending a container, so want to get as much there in it as I can, cause at $14,000 per container for shipping and clearing customs I wont be sending but one. If there are any small items you may want from US, let me know, I just dont know how much if any extra room there may be in the container til I start packing it, even though I am sending the largest size container they have available. I am sending a lot of furniture and recliners since furniture quality sucks there from what I have seen, and a $600 LazyBoy recliner here costs about $2,000 there that I have found.Am also sending some machinery and about 30 boxes of my tools, cause I cant find anything like them there. Let me know if you might want something from here, just buy it online and send it to me, or if thats not possible (think I remember you saying you dont have a CC card from here) we can work it out some other way.

            • OK, Bill S, thanks for the clarification. I sincerely appreciate your offer regarding the t-shirts but I’ve been able to find large, American-sized clothing at the MaxWear Dept. in Men’s Wear in any SM Dept. Store I’ve been to. MaxWear has sizes 2X,3X and 4X for shirts and at reasonable prices, at sale for around 4 US Dollars at times. Thanks, again.

              Bill, I don’t buy anything online. Yes, I don’t have a credit card and that may be inconvenient at times esp. if I want to buy Cebu Pacific tickets online. But with Cebu Pacific, I’m able to purchase my e-ticket and pay it at any one of numerous outlets nearby. That’s what I did with our tickets for our Palawan trip in September. Yes, not as easy as using a credit card but that’s just how I do it.

              You’re smart to bring your furniture with you. We purchased a cheap sleeper couch from the Home Stores of SM and springs broke on the thing almost immediately. We’ve found a much better class of furniture at Mandaue Foam and purchased a quality leather couch and dining room table and chairs from there.

              You’ve made quite a wise investment in bringing your stuff over in a container. Though you’re paying $14,000 upfront, you’ll be saving money in the long run. Looks like you’re going to play Santa Claus once your container arrives.

              Well, Bill, again, thanks for the offer. Captain Tom brought over some needed supplies for us in February and Randy K is going to be bringing some items over later in the year. Good luck on the move and take care.

  3. Dave,

    Our favorite mall’s would be Alabang Town Center, Robinson’s Malate and Glorietta. They have that 2 for $20 deal at Chili’s in the US also. At MOA i don’t care for the mall being in both inside and outside.

    • Thanks for the info, Papa Duck. Yep, I agree, Papa Duck. We didn’t like the fact that MOA had outlets inside and out, either. Made it very hot in the afternoon getting around to those outside locations. The new SM Seaside Cebu has a much better set-up in our new opinion.

      Haven’t been to Glorietta since I purchased my wedding ring for Melinda back in 2000. 🙂

  4. I always stay in Pasay and got to the MOA when i am down in Manila for VA appointments. I do like some of the other malls that I have been to better but usually go to MOA out of convenience when I am in town.

  5. I am shocked and appalled that so many men find shopping a hellish experience.It’s time we all got in touch with our feminine side.Shopping: the bond that unites all women everywhere regardless of race,color,creed etc,Ain’t it just grand?On the other hand,Bill is right.It does give us a legitimate reason to watch girls,who are also shopping.Of course, we only watch the girls to find out where the bargains are,and there are always plenty of those.Joe.

    • I hope Scott H doesn’t find that his “mentor” is somewhat tarnished again by enjoying shopping, Joe. I have to admit I do.

      As a single guy back in the States, I discovered the best place to do some girl watching. I would sometimes post myself outside the women’s restroom at my favorite redneck bar. The ladies would always travel at least in pairs when entering. 🙂

  6. I love MOA but I do have to admit it is REALLY spread out and a lot of the walking to different shops can actually be outside between the buildings. Yes, they are doing a lot of remodeling so I am sure there were things you were not able to see as the last time I was there we could not see them also.

    I believe the large ice skating rink is not around at this point and the huge food court was NOT running when I was last there. For me and Ruby we really love the boardwalk by the bay at night and riding a few of the rides.

    Again, I do agree that a lot of the BEST shops and restaurants are actually outside the main buildings so when it is really hot it is not comfortable walking around looking for things. And… that really doesn’t seem to bother the filipinos but it the heat can suck the life out of you pretty fast. Every time I am at a mall here in the Manila area I am shocked at how many people are at the malls. Malls are the great meeting place for filipinos.

    There is one mall I really really like, and that is Market Market (commonly called Market2 here) in Taguig. One of my favorites. Ruby and I will for sure have to check out the mall in Cebu.

    And Dave, I cannot tell you how disappointed I was when I realized I had missed your trip to Manila. I have been so busy I lost track of time and was not paying attention. Ruby and I would have loved to meet you and the wife.

    One more thing, directories in malls. I have never understood why malls in the Philippines don’t have better directories. IN fact many seem to have almost NO directories. It would make it so much easier because, for those that have not been to malls here in the Philippines, these malls are HUGE and trying to find places can literally take hours without a directory or getting good directions from someone. And we all know how filipinos give directions – “It’s up there and to the left.” LOL.

    • I know we didn’t get to see MOA at it’s best, Todd, what with all the construction going on. But all in all, it was a quite enjoyable visit in Manila. And of course, it would have been more enjoyable if we could have met Ruby and you along with some other readers. At this point, we don’t know when we will return to Manila. I can handle all my immigration issues in nearby Iloilo and my U.S. passport is good for another three years, though I have no plans to travel outside of the Philippines at this time.

      Glad to hear your online businesses are going strong. You’re living proof that an expat can make a living in the Philippines. Good for you.

      We would have loved to visit more of the businesses available inside and outside of MOA but again, the directories were far and few between (like trash receptacles.) I even went to the information desk to ask for a hard copy of a directory but they only had ONE copy available, their copy. At SM Seaside Cebu we were given a copy and map of the mall as soon as we entered.

      Hope to see you guys soon. Take care.

  7. Good day.In regard to your comments about cell phones,yeah I agree.I remember back in the sixties when Bell tried marketing phones to teenage girls.The commercial called it the “alone phone,for when the family’s home”.Two phones in the house!Nixon was right: the commies are taking over!Now everyone has a phone with her all the time,and she’s too busy pressing buttons to see where she’s walking.Joe.

    • I remember those ads, Joe. I believe Ma Bell, the company I retired from, was pushing “Princess Phones.” We had three boys in the family and the one landline worked just fine. Life was much simpler then. I wonder how much “progress” we have really made. 🙂

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