Eating in vertical neighborhoods

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Condominiums have become a visible marker of a changing urban landscape and contemporary culture in Metro Manila, a mega city of about 11.7 million people and the capital region of the Philippines. A condominium is typically a high-or medium-rise building consisting of several floors and residential units in different configurations of studio and one-, two-or three-bedroom ensembles. In Metro Manila, these vertical neighborhoods are distinct in at least two ways. First, condominiums are usually built for the middle and upper classes: according to World Bank (2013) estimates, the demand for condominium units comes from socio-economic groups which have disposable monthly incomes of at least PhP 30,000 (USD 652) and which comprise about 20 per cent of households in Metro Manila. Other costs which restrict condominium living to these classes are the high cost of the parking lot rental or purchase, and the monthly association dues for building management and maintenance which, depending on the types of amenities and the overall state of the property, can amount to a significant financial burden (Ang 2009). Second, the condominium makes it possible for many people to live closer to the workplace and to leisure places. The attractiveness of condominiums, especially those with shopping malls at their podiums, is not least connected to the rise of the malls and the chronic traffic problem in the mega city. Ever since Crystal Arcade, the first mall in Metro Manila, opened in Binondo in 1932, and especially after World War II, Metro Manilans have enthusiastically taken to the malls. Being fully air-conditioned, malls offer a cool, clean, exciting and novel retail and entertainment environment, while the surrounding public parks, sidewalks, playgrounds and open spaces gradually fell victim to commercial development, infrastructure projects, neglect and squatters. With no viable alternatives left to go to, quite apart from being increasingly hemmed in by ever-worsening gridlocked traffic, building offices, malls and condominiums in unison provided an obvious and convenient solution for both problems.