SM: A partner for local development and a champion of homegrown brands


Property | Retail

SM’s 85th mall, SM City Sto. Tomas helps create local economic opportunities for the community as seen here against the majestic backdrop of Mt. Makiling.


PASAY CITY, Philippines, Feb. 23, 2024 – The SM group continues its commitment to spur local economic growth and homegrown brands through its property arm, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. SM Supermalls opened the doors of its 85th mall in Santo Tomas, Batangas last October 27, 2023.

Situated at the foot of the picturesque Mt. Makiling, SM City Sto. Tomas is conveniently located just south of Manila. The opening marks another milestone in the Group’s strategic development towards the regions, making it accessible to other nearby growth centers such as Laguna and Quezon, and a gateway to what the city and Batangueños can offer. This is the fourth mall in the province, following the openings of SM City Batangas, SM City Lipa, and SM Center Lemery in 2004, 2006, and 2017, respectively.

“The regions are providing a lot of growth potential for all of our businesses as we continue to expand in many underserved areas,” said Frederic C. DyBuncio, President and Chief Executive Officer of SM Investments Corporation.

Santo Tomas City Mayor Arth Jhun Marasigan shared how the opening of SM in their community has paved the way for different opportunities not only for the city itself but also for its residents.

“Many of our residents have found opportunities to open their own business within the mall and its surrounding areas,” said Mayor Marasigan. “The provision of employment brought by its opening has catered to thousands of job-seekers, most especially Tomasinos and, in turn, had an impact on the city’s economy.”

The SM Group contributes significantly to the national workforce and new developments like malls and retail stores present employment opportunities for local area residents.

Watsons Philippines, an SM Retail affiliate, has 80% of its employees coming from Santo Tomas. Tomasinos also make up a majority of the workforce of SM Supermarket as well as other SM Retail affiliates such as Sports Central Inc., Surplus, and Ace Hardware.

“SM Supermalls is committed to not just being a destination for shopping, but a pillar of community growth and development,” said Mr. Steven Tan, President of SM Supermalls. “We view ourselves as partners with the areas where we operate, helping create jobs and livelihood opportunities to spur economic progress.”

Empowering homegrown brands

Ms. Juddie Alegre of Juddie’s Bulalohan (left) poses with a customer in SM City Sto. Tomas is ready to serve their signature nilagang bulalo, sources from locally farmed beef in the province of Batangas.

Batangas resident and owner of the restaurant Kwatogs, Mr. Sherwin Libuit, notes having a space in SM City Sto. Tomas is beyond a business achievement, but an opportunity to provide an authentic experience of the delicacy that is Batangas lomi (An iconic Filipino dish reminiscent of chicken noodle soup, but made with thick egg noodles) in every bowl.

His journey with SM started at first as one of its loyal customers. He recalled fondly how he was once a regular ‘tambay’ in SM malls, then dreamt of forming a business of his own inspired by the mall’s entrepreneurial atmosphere.

(Tambay: derived from the English: standby, but the Filipino slang means being present at a place without a specific agenda)

“To me, SM isn’t merely a business partner; it’s also a silent supporter that played a crucial role in turning my modest vision into reality,” he said.

Along with Kwatogs is fellow local brand Juddie’s Bulalohan. Ms. Juddie Alegre, owner of the restaurant has had the dream to serve her signature nilagang bulalo for as long as she remembers. Part of that is having a space in a mall.

That’s why when SM City Sto. Tomas called offering her to be one of their tenants in the food court, it was a dream realized.

“Iyon po talaga ang pangarap ko,” said Ms Alegre. “Pinaganda pa po dahil kay SM po kami napunta.”

(That has been my dream. And it’s even made more special because we were able to open it in SM.)

Entrepreneurs such as Ms. Juddie and Mr. Sherwin are just two among many Tomasinos who may no longer need to go to Manila or other cities for opportunities and experiences that bring comfort, convenience, and accessibility that SM provides to its communities.

“SM City Sto. Tomas can really serve as a hub for people to relax and have fun together with their friends and loved ones,” said Mayor Marasigan.

From left to right: Customers line up in Kwatogs’s store front in SM City Tomas, while a heaping bowl of their Batangas lomi is featured on the right.