In the old days, the word “tiangge” would have evoked thoughts of far-flung Baclaran or Divisoria, a shopper’s paradise but a commuter’s nightmare. Or later on Greenhills, widely acknowledged to be the cheaper alternative to shopping in malls with the tempting allure of pirated anything, from DVDs to sneakers.

A new establishment soon to open in the Ortigas commercial district is bringing the tiangge a lot closer to the mall-crazy Pinoys. Located right behind SM Megamall, St. Francis Square promises five floors of pure tiangge shopping pleasure.

Conveniently lumped alongside SM Megamall, Robinson’s Galleria and Shangri-la Mall, there is already a huge captive market of people that frequent these malls. But rather than competing with the Ortigas Big Three, St. Francis Square thinks of itself as an alternative.

“We think of St. Francis Square as an alternative to say, SM Megamall. A family, for example, can spend some time in Megamall to dine and watch a movie and then be interested to check out the tiangge we offer,” says Ed Tenedero, senior vice president of St . Francis Square.

. Francis Square will house up to 1500 stalls in five floors categorized according to merchandise sold such as clothing and apparel, shoes and bags, home decors, jewelry and fashion accessories and electronic gadgets (of course, cellphones included).

Tenedero adds they have attracted stall owners who have existing stalls in either Greenhills or Market! Market! in Fort Bonifacio. According to him, St. Francis Square charges lower by 20% to 25% in rent, which makes it more attractive for tiangge vendors to expand their business.

For the typical shopper, the real value that shopping in a tiangge offers is haggling for the lowest price possible, unlike in malls where it is quite inappropriate, if not shameful, to blurt out “Wala na bang tawad?” in front of the lovely saleslady.

Although part of its target market are hard-core tiangge lovers who troop all the way to Greenhills and even Divisoria, St. Francis Square also hopes to attract Ortigas yuppies who may want to indulge in some tiangge to cure a stressful day or do some last-minute shopping before heading for home.

. Francis Square will open this October, just in time for holiday season, which unofficially ushers in the tiangge season in the country. As a come-on, 200 balloons, each containing gift cheques of different amounts, will be flown during opening day. Those who catch or pick up these gift cheques can then use them to shop at St. Francis Square.

Ortigas denizens may recognize that what is now a soon-to-open mall used to be the St. Francis Square of old that was a haven for fine dining restaurants like Mario’s and bars like 8 th Day and Ten Years After (and for the gimik-loving people, still remember Limits Disco?).

But when these establishments began closing one by one, ASB Realty Corp., the developer of St. Francis Square, was forced to come up with a makeover. There was also competition from nearby El Pueblo, which housed a lot more bars and restaurants.

“We were then choosing between building a condominium building, making it a parking area or putting up a commercial building,” Tenedero says. What was a loss for some gimik-loving people turned out to be every bargain shopper’s gain.