With recent renovations and modern amenities bringing it into the future, Manila Hotel at 100 still has its heart firmly in its rich, stories past

IT WAS SIX O’CLOCK in the evening in March 1997. I was 14 years old and clad in a light yellow taffeta dress that my mother made me wear for the occasion. I was in the backseat of my father’s car, on our way to the Manila Hotel. And I, a young teenager who still perfected climbing trees to attending soirées at the time, fidgeted nervously, albeit excitedly, upon seeing the imposing edifice of the Grand Dame.

Description: Manila Hotel

Manila Hotel

I remember waiting with bated breath for the doorman to open the hotel’s gilded doors. I remember the awe I felt upon seeing the grand lobby of the hotel for the first time. It felt incredible, almost surreal, to be in the middle of such surroundings. The great expanse of the lobby and the majestic chandeliers hanging from the vaulted deiling would have intimidated me, if not for the uniformed ladies who smiled at me, a scrawny teenage wearing an ill-fitting gown. I remember feeling like I was part of a something wonderful, like a heroine in an Austen love story, about to make an entrance into a lavish gathering.

I have gone to the Manila Hotel many times. But it was the memory of that night that I carried with me over the years.

It isn’t the ultra-modern amenities that the hotel now has or the meticulously decorated suites that make the Manila Hotel what it is today. And though the service provided by their staff is impeccable, it is truly more than that. It is the solemn knowledge that this beautiful hotel has been witness to many events that the world remembers in history books. It is the undeniable fact that if there ever were a national hotel for the Philippines, the Manila Hotel would be it.

Description: Manila Hotel ballroom

Manila Hotel ballroom

The rich reservoir of stories that the Manila Hotel has is prices less. It is this precious trove that the hotel passes on to every guest who steps through its doors. Dine in any of the hotel’s restaurants or spend a night in their rooms to share history with the notable personalities who have stayed at the hotel over the years: General Douglas MacArthur, Ernest Hemingway, the Beatles, Prince Charles, Neil Armstrong, Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson, US Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, and many others.

It was July 4, 1912, when the Manila Hotel opened its doors for the first time. Today, over a hundred years later, the same hotel that has survived a war, witnessed a revolution, and seen the ousting of two presidents, is paradoxically, also one of the most modern hotels in the country, thanks to the series of renovations its Executive Vice President, Enrique Y. Yap, Jr. has implemented in the past four years.

“On our centennial anniversary, it is important to note that the Manila Hotel is not just celebrating its rich history, but is also working very hard to bring the hotel into the next 100 years,” says Yap. “All of our rooms and suites were carefully renovated and modernized to reflect the perfect marriage of tradition with modern luxury.”

Description: the new Health Club and Spa

the new Health Club and Spa

True enough, the hotel’s grand lobby now gleams with energy and life. And touring around the new pool and garden area, which has the new Health Club and Spa, gives the feelings that one stands on the cusp of two different eras, where history blends seamlessly with urbanity and avant-garde opulence.

The hotel kicks off its 100th-year celebration with an exclusive Centennial Ball on the 4th of July. The country’s most notable personalities are slated to attend the event, turning the party into modern-day re-enactment of the hotel’s inaugural bash, when hundreds of elegantly attired guests were invited for a dinner of American roast, Philippines lobster, and French champagne.

On the same day this year, the Manila Hotel offers the first one hundred guests a special rate of P1,912 for an overnight stay in their Superior Deluxe Rooms, a way of thanking its guests for their unwavering support over the years.

Description: Superior Deluxe Rooms

Superior Deluxe Rooms

The hotel’s buffet restaurant, Café Ilang-Ilang, will feature historic dishes that include the favorite dishes of President Manuel L. Quezon and of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the six years that he stayed at the Manila Hotel. A sumptuous treat for those who want a taste of history and mouthwatering cuisine in one bite.

Likewise, the Taproom bar will be offering an iconic drink called the Chamberlain. Discovered by Mr. Yap through an original 1938 black-and-white print ad for Gilbey’s Gin, the attention-grabbing headline was “The Chamberlain as they mix it in Manila.” Upon reading the text, one learns that the drink was Manila Hotel’s own creation, pronouncing it to be “one of the world’s great drinks!” Poised to give the Sing Sling a run for its money, the Chamberlain is definitely a must-try.

Description: Café llang-llang

Café llang-llang

“It is a good story if it’s like Manila Hotel,” Ernest Heming way writes. With Manila Hotel’s commitment to maintain the elegance of tradition while striving to exceed the expectations of its modern clientele, indeed, the story just keeps getting better and better.

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