I was one of the lucky ones who checked in at the Marco Polo Davao a few days after it opened 20 years ago. The surrounding area was sparsely populated then, with minimal vehicular traffic. This is why I was so happy when I received an invitation to the hotel’s 20th anniversary celebration last month, and glad that the hotel has now become “the heart of Davao.”
Marco Polo Davao is an iconic landmark and an attraction, strategically located right at the center of town. It is Mindanao’s first and only premier hotel with 245 well-appointed rooms and suites. Having checked in there again recently, I am happy to say that the hotel continues to live up to its brand of elegance and warm hospitality.
My recent stay was on the Continental Club Floor which banners personalized service to the highest level, with the staff anticipating your every need, highlighting the hotel’s unique blend of Western comforts and Asian hospitality. My room had a stunning view of Mount Apo. Although I could have had my daily breakfast buffet at Cafe Marco, I preferred to have it at the Continental Club Lounge which offers a certain degree of privacy and complete exclusivity.
The 20th anniversary celebration, which was attended by President Rodrigo Duterte no less, was held at the ballroom, elegantly decorated with a touch of emerald, peacock, crystal, and silver by Davao’s most prestigious event stylist, Annie Lim. Of course, the guest list included leading personalities from business, government, diplomatic, and social circles.
During the evening festivities, Wharf Hotels Management president Dr. Jennifer Cronin congratulated the hotel’s founding chairman, Carlos Dominguez III, the country’s current Finance Secretary, “for having the bold vision and determination 20 years ago to establish an iconic, internationally acclaimed hotel.”
A symbolic gift from Wharf Hotels Management, a peacock embroidery artwork, suggestive of power and grace, was presented by Dr. Cronin to Chairman Bienvenido Tan and President Francis Ledesma, both of the hotel’s owning company Halifax Davao Hotel, Inc.
After the congratulatory messages delivered by the President and by the Finance Secretary, a raffle was conducted, with valuable prizes from Philippine Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Silk Air, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia, bundled with overnight accommodations at The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore, Pan Pacific Singapore, Marco Polo Hong Kong, Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, and Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.
It certainly was an evening to remember as guests were also treated to a musical journey from the country’s leading violist Maestro Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata, renowned concert pianist Najib Ismail, and international opera singer Mee Hai Cho. Songspell Philippines, Inc., Davao’s best musical group, performed an excerpt from The Greatest Showman, and some Broadway classics.
Another icon in Davao is actually the city’s newest tourist attraction, “iconic” because everybody I know who has visited Davao during the past two years, including myself, have made it a point to go see it and take some photos. Ever since President Duterte was elected to office, people from all walks of life are amazed at the simple lifestyle he has led all these years.
They troop to his residence located inside Doña Luisa Subdivision, a middle class residential enclave, and take pictures of his humble abode which he continues to use when he goes back to Davao on weekends. It has become a very popular tourist attraction that a police security detail now mans the entrance to the subdivision 24/7, while another one is positioned a block away from the President’s residence, requiring visitors to register and leave an identification card.
Another officer is posted right outside the front gate of the house, but this one is not so much for security reasons but to help tourists take photos beside the cardboard standee, which is a life-sized replica of the President placed right in front of his house.
When I went, I was lucky that there was no other tourist there with me, so I could take all the photos I wanted without any “photobomber” muddling the scene. However, on my way out of the subdivision, I met a van of tourists and a busload of schoolchildren on the way to the house.
And why not? If Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went out of his way to visit President Duterte’s house and stayed there for 45 minutes, ordinary Filipinos, like us, have the right to appreciate and marvel at our President’s humble abode and plain lifestyle.
It was quite a memorable visit to Davao. Of course, before I flew back home, I added other “iconic” items to my list: I brought back with me a substantial supply of Davao’s famous Malagos Cheese, Malagos Chocolates, and pomelos.
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The police stops an old guy in questionable condition at 1:00 a.m. “What are you doing out so late, sir?” asks the police officer. “I’m going to a seminar on ‘The Harmful Effects of Alcohol’,” replies the man. “Are you pulling my leg?” says the police officer, “Who would hold a seminar like that at this hour?!” The man sighs, “My wife.”
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