The Beatles, King of Pop Michael Jackson, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, author Ernest Hemingway, US Pres. John F. Kennedy, and Hollywood actors John Wayne and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. are just some of the celebrities who have experienced the hospitality of The Manila Hotel, the oldest premier hotel in the country, built in 1909 to rival the “White House of the Philippines,” the Malacañang Palace. Like the Malacañang, the hotel dons a whitewashed façade, and like the palace, the hotel has witnessed many historical events unfold in its 3.5-hectare grounds. During its heyday, the hotel also housed the Asian bureau of The New York Times.
(Photo by Analie Astorga-Motilla)
Commissioned by US President William Howard Taft, The Manila Hotel boasts of having a colonial American style designed by New York architect William Parsons. It soon was renovated by the Paris-trained Filipino architect Andres de San Pedro (son of national artist Juan Luna). The hotel was designed to become the domineering figure overlooking the tree-lined esplanade of the Manila Bay. Its main lobby has 125-foot white Doric columns, Philippine marble floors, and chandeliers made of crystal, brass, and seashells. All of the hotel’s furniture is fashioned out of Philippine mahogany.
(Photo by Analie Astorga-Motilla)
History meets modernity
The hotel’s H-shaped layout focuses on two wings of well-ventilated rooms, each providing a good view of the Manila Bay, the Luneta Park, and Intramuros. In 1976, the hotel was expanded to 570 rooms, including amenities and services like language translation, a business library, more lavish furnishings, air conditioners, electronic card system, separate bath and toilet with extension phone, mini bars, wi-fi Internet access, and in-room safes. The hotel, in fact, is said to be the first hotel in the country to have installed cable TV in all of its rooms.
Among the rooms, the star is the three-bedroom MacArthur suite, where Gen. Douglas MacArthur stayed from 1935 to 1941 as commander-in-chief of the Philippine Army and as general manager of the hotel. A rent in the penthouse suite costs $650 a night, making it one of the most expensive rooms in the hotel. It includes a private swimming pool with a view of the Manila Bay and Intramuros. The suite’s formal dining room, parlor, kitchen, and study contains some of the pictures, books, and war mementos that once belonged to the famed general.
Another suite, the Presidential Suite, is a penthouse room decorated with Asian antiques, Filipino crafts, and rare paintings. Like the MacArthur suite, the penthouse suite and the Presidential suite include 24-hour butler service.
Apart from luxurious rooms, The Manila Hotel provides other facilities and services like luxury car and limousine rental, a rooftop helipad, medical and dental clinic, airport transfer and shuttle service, a business center, a florist, a beauty salon and barber shop, a 24-hour full menu room service, a delicatessen, laundry service, a post office, an in-house shopping mall, and assistance for sightseeing tours. The hotel’s fitness center, Bay Club, features two tennis courts, a jacuzzi, a gym, swimming pool with a wet bar, steam box, sauna, wet sauna, game room, whirlpool, indoor golf simulator, and a squash court. Other wellness services include massages and lessons on martial arts, tennis, and swimming.
The hotel’s seven restaurants, which cover a variety of world cuisines, include the Cowrie Grill for seafood and steaks, the Champagne Room for French delicacies, the pool bar for cocktails and sandwiches, and the Ginza for a wide selection of Japanese food.
On Christmas Day, the lobby is decorated in holiday regalia. Carolers can be seen filling the room with joyful hymns, while Yuletide delicacies, like German stolen, pralines, fruitcakes and marzipan, are given away to guests for free. Beside the lobby is a tropical garden that is dolled up to mirror the Nativity scene.
Manila Hotel Corporation
Address: One Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines
Telephone: (632) 5270011