Thursday, May 10, 2007

Our Father, who art in Shangri-la...

I'm no mall rat, but given my current job and the nature of our business, the total number of hours I've clocked in at malls and department stores across the country (and beyond) has reached a figure that rivals the daily caloric intake of Nicole Richie. There are weeks when I am so sick of conducting store visits, I'm tempted to pick fights with the security guards inspecting bags at the entrance, just to see if they'll deny me access. But occasionally, on the weekends, I like indulging in a little retail therapy, preferably in a mall where none of our 6 brands are present... or at the very least a mall with just 1 or 2 brands.

For that reason, Shangri-la Plaza is one of my favorite places to shop. While both Arrow and Ep Espada are inside Rustan's, out in the mall, I don't have to worry about work. It's also not as crowded as Megamall or Gateway, is more accessible than Glorietta or Greenbelt, has more shops than the Power Plant and the Podium, has clean restrooms, and has several coffee places where one can put down her shopping bags and rest her weary feet. In short, of all the malls in Metro Manila, it's where I feel least stressed.

However, I detest being in Shang on a Sunday afternoon, because they hold Mass in the second floor atrium by the fountains. Before I hear enraged outcries against the non-practicing Catholic heretic, allow me to explain myself. Here's the scenario: Mall personnel break out the Monobloc chairs and set up the table from where the priest will read the Gospel and deliver his homily, and by 6PM, the so-called faithful flock to the center of the mall to listen to the word of God. Meanwhile, Ailee, loaded down with Sinequanone and Aerosole shopping bags, emerges from Rustan's, and finds this holy horde blocking her direct path to Marks & Spencer. Ailee then has to squeeze her way through the crowd, inadvertently hitting people with her purchases, muttering "excuse me" and "sorry", head down in mortification, while being subjected to the superciliously sanctimonious glares of people supposedly deep in prayerful reflection. And it is only upon emerging on the other side of the congregation that it dawns on Ailee:

Why the hell should I be made to feel guilty for SHOPPING in a MALL? These people are the trespassers, not me! A mall was built precisely for the purpose I'm there, to blow my money on overpriced merchandise I don't really need. I have every right to be there, and no one should make me feel bad for disturbing religious rituals being held in a place of commerce! If people want to commune with God, they should go to a freakin' CHURCH! That's what THOSE structures were built for!
I know they say God is everywhere, but does He really spend Sundays picking out a cashmere cardigan from Zara? And how dare this pious party judge me for spending the Sabbath searching for the perfect lip gloss, when they're too lazy to haul their self-righteous asses to the nearest church, opting to squeeze Mass in between watching Spiderman 3 and dinner at Cibo?? At least I don't pretend to be a saint, unlike the huffy woman too busy giving me the eye that she forgets to recite the responsorial Psalm.

I can understand why malls would want to hold Mass inside their premises (to keep the mob and their wallets right where they are), but I don't understand why the Church would allow it. Don't they disallow garden and beach weddings for the very reason that it destroys the solemnity of the sacrament? Shouldn't that logic follow for Mass? Or is the Catholic Church this desperate to hold on to the already disintegrating faiths of their followers that they've adopted a "if Muhammad won't come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Muhammad" attitude?

Maybe I will burn in hell for not attending Mass every Sunday, not to mention speaking ill of the devout, but it riles me when I get ostracized for doing something perfectly harmless, and being made to feel apologetic for it. Honestly, I don't even care where these people choose to hold Mass (basketball courts, movie theaters, public libraries, Internet cafes, wherever!), as long as I get to shop in peace, without having an invisible scarlet letter slapped on me by acrimonious apostles of the big Mall Rat upstairs.