Bedtime Stories

No fear.

Bulagaaaa! Izzasefrays!

“Oh my God!” Take one step back. Keep mouth agape in disbelief.

Pretty much like a script in a movie but no, it was the real thing. This was exactly my reaction upon opening the door to the room I was given on this short visit to Manila. Honestly, I was expecting a simpler room, but it was a suite! (Grin. Who am I to complain?) If OMG (sans OA) would describe it, then in that instance, it would be an adjective synonymous to grand, stunning and spectacular.

Two nights with the Grand Dame, I am honored.

It is my honor & privilege.......

Back in the 80s, this "lady" was a subject of admiration from the school window across Intramuros. Five years in college and only on two occasions I got the chance to see her in her posh address (#1 Rizal Park) - once for dinner and the other for a school activity. That was it.

That night, I was on the opposite end standing on the balcony of the thirteenth floor suite (sorry, I’m not triskaidekaphobic and apparently, so is she). Gazing at the familiar Manila City Hall, I traced the path from where I get off the jeepney toting a portable drafting office to the college gates of my alma mater within the famed walls.

Sunrise over Intramuros

The scene from my Sunrise Suite’s balcony was of reminiscing the Manila university life of a Promdi, far from a Dorina or a Florida who suddenly had a stroke of luck and having the last laugh (robed, wine glass in one hand, cigarette in the other). But it was still a “if my friends could see me now” moment. Let me wallow in this blessing for a while please, enjoy my Senso mattress and listen to the bedtime stories of the Grand Dame.

Ayun! Doon ako nag-aral ng Architecture. At doon naman ako bumababa at sumasakay ng jeep. 

Manila Hotel is grand and iconic, and its rich history (with the infusion of high society galas and political intrigues) will validate this claim. Their registry lists politicians, royalties and notable personalities- General Douglas MacArthur, Ernest Hemingway, Prince Charles, US Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, The Beatles, Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson (the archive room stores the mementos)- and is growing earning it the title of Address of Prestige. Appropriate.

Royalty, personalities,  politicians & more made Manila Hotel their preferred address in Manila.

Before the hotel turns one hundred years old in 2012, it went through a remarkable transformation. Guest rooms for 500 were refurbished and equipped with modern amenities, yet retained and highlighted the elegance and sophistication of Filipino design. Large picture windows in all the rooms will afford the guests with a more breathtaking view of the historic Intramuros (from the Sunrise Suites) or the magnificent sunset across Manila Bay (from the Sunset Suite). Panoramas you can enjoy at the luxurious MacArthur or Presidential Suite with a personal butler on call 24/7. Sweet.

The Sunset Suite.

The MacArthur Suite

You rang?                                                     Now, where did I say I shall return to?               General,isdatyu?
Elegance in every detail. The Formal Dining Room of the MacArthur Suite

The private quarters of a general

and his office.

The Presidential Suite


Hello, Gracia?, make sure the RH bill gets approved.

No visitors until I finish this magazine. Tell Bush to wait at the lobby.

Now, what do I want to eat?

Filipino touches present in every room.

The bed where Michael Jackson slept.

and guess who else....

The golden faucet where water flows that bathe kings & queens.

The “new look” extends to the rest of the hotel as well. Take a gastronomic trip from Café Ilang-Ilang’s nine live cooking stations to Champagne Room’s French indulgence under crystal palm trees to the jade-laden walls of the Mabuhay Palace’s exquisite Chinese cuisine. The new sun deck is ideal to catch the sun or view it as it sets, or enjoy a five-star pampering at the spa after a calorie-busting, muscle-building session at the state-of-the-art health club. Exciting.

Gastronomic journey from the Champagne Room to Mabuhay Palace to Cafe Ilang-Ilang.

Relaxation: 5-star pampering at the Spa, catch the sun at pool deck & work out at the state-of-the-art health club.

So Bill CLinton sat here, huh? The cigar room of the Cafe Ilang-Ilang

Countless stories have been told about the impeccable Filipino hospitality and elegance of the Manila Hotel over the past century. This is the Grand Dame’s legacy. A legacy they plan to carry on to the next century as they pursue to consistently exceed the expectations of its growing modern-day clientele. The “new blood” will have their stories to tell and it will be good. Ernest Hemmingway believed so.

It is said that part of fully experiencing Manila's history is to visit and stay in this hotel, the Grand Dame of Philippine hotels. My third visit was very memorable. More than an indulgence, it was a quick trip through history that went way beyond my P3.50 jeepney ride from Muñoz to Intramuros two decades ago and admiring the Manila Hotel from a distance. And that madame, is my story.

Published in Sun Star Weekend on August 7, 2011.
(not all images in this blog were published in the newspaper issue)

And to the people who welcomed me into their "home" and making this visit a most-memorable one...

Chef Joie Candelaria and her dark chocolate surprise.

Breakfast with friends & toqueless chefs. Chef Joie Candelaria of Mabuhay Palace, Pastry Chef Rolando Macatangay & Chef Christine Zarandin.

And,  Ginny Banaag, Senior Vice-President of the Manila Hotel.

Maraming Salamat sa inyong lahat!