24 hours in Guam

Danee Samonte - The Philippine Star
24 hours in Guam
The Guam Premier Outlet that housed Ross, one of my favorite department store chains in L.A.

MANILA, Philippines - In this tiny island populated by a little over 180,000 natives, 30 to 35 percent are Pinoys or of Pinoy ancestry. Tagalog is spoken widely. From taxi drivers to hotel employees to shop keepers, therefore, you will get the feeling that you are just somewhere in Metro Manila.

MANILA, Philippines - One of the biggest tourist attractions in Guam, believe it or not, is Kmart! This shop is the biggest Kmart in the world and is also one of the top moneymakers for the Kmart Corp. based in Illinois. Because of its immense popularity with native Guamanians and tourists from Japan, Korea and the Philippines, it is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s the only shop I’ve shopped where there is a line to pay the cashier at 2 a.m.

My first trip to Guam was over two decades ago and I stayed there close to a week. Back then, big shops were a rarity save for Kmart. There were no malls and just a few chain restaurants like Planet Hollywood which has since gone bankrupt. Present day, there are now lots to see and places to shop including American style outlets in this tiny island populated by a little over 180,000 natives. Thirty to 35 percent are Pinoys or of Pinoy ancestry. Tagalog is spoken widely. From taxi drivers to hotel employees to shop keepers, therefore, you will get the feeling that you are just somewhere in Metro Manila. Unfortunately on this trip, I only have one day to spend.

So, many Pinoys don’t even know that Guam was once part of the Philippines during Spanish times — over three centuries of it — Guam was known as Islas los Ladrones or Island of Thieves. Whether it was a haven for thieves or not, only history can tell. When our American colonizers gave us independence in 1946, they decided to keep Guam and majority of the Marianas islands that surrounded it like Saipan as part of the US commonwealth. A bit of trivia, our second Pinoy St. Pedro Calungsod brought Christianity to Guam in June of 1668.

Here’s how I spent my 24 hours in Guam.

4:15 a.m. — Touch down Guam from a sleepy three-and-a-half-hour flight from Manila (PAL flies daily to Guam everyday). Short taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. Check in was swift and I was in my room in no time.

6:30 a.m. — After two hours of shuteye, I had light breakfast at the coffee shop then hailed a cab to Kmart. Although lots of Kmarts are closing shop in the US, Guam’s Kmart is thriving. I only brought an overnight case thinking there was nothing to shop but I was sooooo wrong. There were lots of cheap stuff and bargains I couldn’t resist and ended up buying a big suitcase to stuff what I shopped. Two hours at the gigantic store is not enough. Next trip I will allot one day just for Kmart.

10:45 a.m. — Returned to the hotel to drop the shopping bags then hailed a cab for a visit to Mall of Micronesia, Guam’s biggest mall owned by Pinoy tycoon Lucio Tan. There were two floors of 130 shops including Levi’s, Gap, Footlocker, Bench (yes, our very own Bench) and the only Macy’s store west of Hawaii. Twelve theaters, an amusement park and a sizeable food court with a good variety of outlets including Burger King, Panda Express, Denny’s, KFC, Subway, Sbarro, Taco Bell, etc. Had a quick bite at KFC then took another cab ride.

2 p.m. — Visited an outlet complex called Guam Premier Outlets that housed one of my favorite department store chains in Los Angeles and Las Vegas — Ross. I got excited and started picking some clothes but decided to return the merchandise when I saw the checkout line. Checked the other outlets like Skechers, Payless Shoes, Nine West, Anne Klein, Guess, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, BCBG and a giant Forever 21 beside the main building for some bargains.

4 p.m. — From outlet to high-end shops. Clustered together with a huge Duty Free shop at Tumon Sands Plaza were designer shops like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, Prada, etc. This is where the rich Japanese and Korean tourists with the occasional big-time Pinoy spend their fortunes. Across the shops were more shops and restaurants including Hard Rock Café.

6:30 p.m. — Back to the hotel and dressed up for the night’s big event, Al Mckay’s Earth Wind & Fire Experience dance concert at University of Guam’s air-conditioned venue-cum-gym called UOG Fieldhouse. It was a 30-minute ride from the hotel. Promoters Sammy Sotelo and Gary Sung were there busy marshalling the crowd that queued early afternoon to watch the concert. It lasted for two hours and got the predominantly Pinoy audience on their feet as soon as the show started.

After the concert, all members of the group thanked me for the tumultuous response they got from the audience.

11 p.m. — End of concert and our tummies were rumbling. Stopped by at Jack in the Box for my Swiss burger fix.

12:45 a.m. — Back at the hotel with my friends from Resorts World Manila Jen and Pie. Packed the bags and caught a couple of hours sleep.

3:45 a.m. — Wake-up call. Dressed up, checked out and headed for the airport for the early morning flight back to Manila. Helped the group check-in their luggage.

Bye-bye Guam. See you on my next shopping adventure.  Photos by Danee Samonte


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