Historic Manila Hotel, being the oldest in the country, has been tagged with so many endearing monikers, among them—The Grand Dame, The Address of Prestige, and The True Heart of the Philippines. No doubt, the 112-year-old hotel has easily lived up to these names through the years.
A New York City architect, William Parsons, designed and built the hotel along the lines of a picturesque California Mission, but on a much grander scale. The original structure had well-ventilated rooms on two wings, providing scenic vistas of Manila Bay, Rizal Park, and Intramuros. In fact, the structure’s top floor was originally a viewing deck which was also used for various social and military functions.
In 1935, former President Manuel Quezon asked Paris-trained Andres Luna, son of painter Juan Luna, to handle the renovations of the hotel. It was at that time that the viewing deck was converted into an elegant penthouse, now known as the MacArthur Suite because it served as the residence of the famous general when he was the Military Advisor of the Commonwealth.
Since then, this luxurious penthouse suite has been the temporary home of many celebrities during their visits to the country. The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Prince Charles, former US President Bill Clinton and Hillary, singer Sammy Davis, Jr., author Ernest Hemingway, and actors John Wayne and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., among many others, all enjoyed the luxurious comforts of this historic living quarters.
This is why I enjoy my visits to the hotel. There’s just so much history attached to it that, every time I’m there, it makes me feel like I’m taking a peek at our country’s glorious past. The lobby, with its awesome chandeliers, makes for an engaging welcome to any guest. In fact, oftentimes I just stay there, have a snack, and immerse myself in the hotel’s calming ambience rich in old-fashioned flavor, while watching the country’s “who’s who” on their way to and from high-profile social events in the hotel.
Although the pandemic put a stop to all those glittering events, it did not prevent the hotel from staying connected to our society. At the height of the quarantine lockdown in March of last year, the hotel actively promoted its Mabuhay Meals Food Drive for Frontliners. It also partnered with the Rotary Club of Makati Central to donate food and personal protective equipment to the Philippine General Hospital and Manila Medical Center.
Unable to hold back its long-standing, since-pre-war-times’ annual tradition of doing a New Year’s countdown, the hotel proceeded with hosting one, but virtually because of the continuing restriction on gatherings. It was done via Zoom and featured top-rate performers Lea Salonga, Kuh Ledesma, soprano Rachelle Gerodias, Korean baritone Byeong-In Park, Richard Reynoso, and the UP Concert Chorus.
The online presentation had all the trimmings of a glittering social event, complete with amazing raffle prizes.
Anybody with a single-receipt purchase of at least P3,500 from the hotel was entitled to a raffle ticket. This applied to dining bills from any of the hotel’s food and beverage outlets, including items purchased from The Delicatessen, the Lobby Shop, and the Christmas Corner. Payment for room bookings also qualified.
The grand prize was an overnight stay at the MacArthur Suite, worth approximately P500,000. Part of the proceeds earned from this event was set aside, in partnership with Manila Bulletin’s Bag of Hope program, for displaced workers in the city of Manila.
So, this is how The Manila Hotel continues to shine as an icon of Filipino culture and tradition, where Filipino hospitality is at its best. Ernest Hemingway once described it as “the perfect representation of our country’s vitality, versatility and hospitality.” As for me, I just can’t resist The Manila Hotel’s old world charm!
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