Ayala Center Cebu will reopen today, January 18, or 12 days after it was forced to shut down its operation following the fire that gutted the Metro Ayala department store.
But a handful of stores and stalls inside the mall would not be allowed to reopen, said Cebu Holdings Inc., (CHI), which owns and operates Ayala Center Cebu.
These stores are located in the section of the mall that is connected to the six-storey Metro Ayala department store, which was destroyed in the January 5 fire that went on for three days before it was put out.
“There are parts of the main mall which connects to Metro that will be boarded up. So the stores and stalls near this area will not be able to open yet,” said lawyer Jeanette Japzon, CHI’s corporate communications manager.
The boarded up areas include the one connecting the main mall’s ground floor (near Mercury Drug) to Metro as well as the area connecting the main mall’s second floor (near Orange Brutus) to the department store.
The area on the mall’s lower ground floor, which connects to the Metro supermarket, will not be boarded up. But the Metro side will just be closed using its metal roll down doors.
The main mall has been closed since January 6 following the fire that razed the adjacent Metro department store the night before.
The fire lasted for more than 67 hours before the Bureau of Fire Protection in Central Visayas (BFP-7) declared a fire out following close to three days of unrelenting fire battling by firefighters and volunteers.
“We have finished the clean up inside the mall, and we are getting ready to welcome the community back into the mall,” Japzon said.
As of yesterday, she said they were in the process of removing the damaged portion of the Metro department store. It was expected to be completed yesterday in preparation for today’s opening.
The announcement of Ayala’s reopening was welcomed by mall goers, and tenants and merchants.
The mall’s Facebook post on its reopening gained more than 7,000 likes and was shared more than 4,400 times by netizens as of 4 p.m. yesterday.
Jay Aldeguer, president and CEO of Islands Inc., said they were happy with the announcement especially since they have been experiencing revenue losses from the mall’s closure.
“We are obviously elated by this news. We have been preparing for a possible opening before Sinulog so we are all systems go for tomorrow (today),” he said.
Islands has a standalone store in the mall and some stalls inside the now destroyed Metro department store. They also have display kiosks put up in strategic areas within the mall, especially for the Sinulog Festival, which is considered as their peak season for the entire year.
Tenants and merchants have been allowed to go in and out of the mall these past few days to do their own cleanup and systems check in their respective stores.
“We are as excited to reopen. We are glad that the safety protocols to reopen were met and in time for Sinulog,” said Dino de Leon, AVP for Vismin of Primer Group of Companies.
The group has 14 stores inside Ayala including ROX, DC, Bratpack, Grind, Delsey, Fitflop, Sneakpeek, Flight001, Herschel, Stance, Tumi, Sledgers, Restoerun, and The Travel Club.
The mall’s reopening just came three days before the Sinulog Festival Grand Parade on Jan. 21, the culmination of the 10-day faith-based festival celebrating the Feast of the Señor Sto. Niño (Child Jesus).
Thousands of domestic and foreign tourists and Cebuanos living abroad flock to Cebu to witness the Sinulog festivities, one of the country’s biggest festivals.
Like many malls in the city, Ayala, too, had its activities laid out in preparation for the Sinulog. But it was derailed by the fire.
Now that it would reopen, the mall intended to go through with its Sinulog-related activities dubbed as “Fiesta sa Ayala.”
Mall goers can then check the Sto. Niño exhibit at The Gallery area which will run from Jan. 19 to 23 and a Kapuso Fiesta activity at The Terraces on Friday afternoon.
On January 21, the mall will also be hosting “Surtidos” the 25th Anniversary Show of the Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe from Tangub City, which enjoys the distinction of having the most number of championship under its belt in the history of the Sinulog Grand Parade.
Sinanduloy has won 12 times in the Sinulog-based category, the latest was in 2017. But this year, Sinanduloy would not be joining the Sinulog Grand Parade because they would be busy with their anniversary shows.
“Sinulog dancers and drum beaters will also be going around to spread the festival atmosphere in the mall,” Japzon added.
Their grand Sinulog fireworks display dubbed “Sinulog Festival of Lights” will also push through at 9 p.m. on Jan. 21.
But the Balik Cebu welcome dinner for balikbayans (Filipinos who reside or work in foreign countries), which used to be held at The Terraces, had been transferred to the nearby City Sports Club, which is also located within the Cebu Business Park where the Ayala Center mall complex is located.