Cebu’s affordable luxury

When I was told that a new “luxury hotel” would open in downtown Cebu, I was curious to find out its exact location. Being a Cebuano, born, raised, and schooled in the Queen City of the South, I am very familiar with every nook and cranny of the city, and I know fully well that the congested downtown area no longer has any space for a “luxury hotel.”  

But, life is full of surprises. When I arrived at the hotel, I couldn’t believe what I saw. 

Cebu’s affordable luxury
Standing 20 storeys high on what used to be an old lumber yard at the corner of Sanciangko and Leon Kilat Streets, is this beautiful property, One Central Hotel. Being the tallest building among all the others in this section of the city, it definitely looks like the obvious winner among dozens of contestants in an imaginary race to progress.

The hotel has 157 well-appointed guest rooms, each with a panoramic view of the city. It has several function rooms: for intimate gatherings or for productive business meetings, and a large ballroom for grand celebrations. The relaxing infinity pool on the 19th floor offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city and of the neighboring islands. For wellness buffs, the fully equipped gym and the spa come in handy.

For those who have to store up on calories, for the energy they need to soak in all the fun that the city offers, there is the all-day dining restaurant, Cafe Tartanilla, which has a delectable buffet spread for breakfast and lunch. It also prides itself on having the longest happy hour among all other beverage outlets in the city’s downtown area. “Tartanilla” is Cebuano for “calesa.”

But what makes One Central Hotel luxurious? Its interior design, done by no less than multi-awarded architect and interior designer James Jao, a known trendsetter in eco-architecture and sustainable development. Having learned his craft from the London School of Economics where he received his Master’s Degree in City Design and Social Science, Jao used the hotel as his artist’s canvas, fusing modern aesthetics with climate-resistant, green materials.

The subdued elegance in the wall panels in the Reception Area, the awesome design of the 17-feet-long glass chandeliers in the ballroom, the very functional yet minimalistic look of the guestrooms, etc. speak volumes of the hotel owners’ preference for subtle sophistication in style and grace, a concept faithfully interpreted by Jao in every part of the hotel’s interiors.

What else gives the hotel an edge over the others in the same category? It is managed by Bluewater Hospitality Management Company, the outfit that owns and runs the very successful chain of resorts—Bluewater Maribago in Mactan, Bluewater Panglao in Bohol, and Bluewater Sumilon in Oslob.  

With Julie Alegrado-Vergara at the helm, the Bluewater resort chain has succeeded in running 90 percent occupancy even during the low season, by attracting customers from here and abroad with its uniquely Cebuano “Amuma” brand of hospitality, something guests immediately feel as soon as they enter One Central Hotel. In fact, dealing with its staff is such a pleasure, as they make you feel like you have been friends for years! “Amuma” is Cebuano for pampering or nurturing. 

Furthermore, the hotel’s convenient location gives it so many pluses, which visitors usually consider when booking their accommodations. It is right next to a big shopping mall and is just a block away from a year-round night market. It is only two blocks from historic Colon Street, the oldest street in the country.   

The seaport for vessels sailing to the rest of the country is only about five minutes away by car, and the bus terminal for passengers traveling to the southern part of the province is only a block away. Some of Cebu’s big universities are within the one-block radius of the hotel.

And the best thing about One Central Hotel is its easy-on-the-pocket rates. Regular room rates are so affordable that my friends in Cebu right away booked themselves for an overnight stay when they heard me rave about the hotel.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a few weeks’ time, One Central Hotel will start to run full and will have to turn down some bookings. I have faith in Bluewater Hospitality’s management capabilities, especially with Margie Munsayac, vice president for sales and marketing of Bluewater Resorts, calling the shots in marketing the hotel. I’m sure the owners will earn back their investment, and much, much more, in no time.  

With this much confidence in One Central Hotel’s expected speedy climb to success, I asked Steven Yu, its chairman, and chief executive officer, where and when his next hotel will open.  Although he admitted his family’s ownership of many other real estate properties in the province, he was tight-lipped on their future entrepreneurial moves. 

Cebu’s affordable luxury
As a true-blue Cebuano, I’m just happy that my home city, the Queen City of the South, has another “jewel” on her crown—and an affordable one at that!

For feedback, I’m at [email protected]

Your weekend chuckle:

The father asked his daughter if she’d seen his old newspaper. She told him that newspapers are “old school.” She said that people use tablets nowadays, and handed him her iPad. Needless to say, the fly didn’t stand a chance.

Topics: luxury hotel , One Central Hotel , Cafe Tartanilla , James Jao , Steven Yu
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