The experience was enjoyable, though definitely not perfect. I’ve broken down The Manila Hotel experience in various segments, so read on:
To book for the My Manila Tour, I sent an email to Carlos’s assistant, Lesley, who then referred me to The Manila Hotel’s representatives, Nian and Gyranne. They told me that I can reserve a room through them (by email), or through The Manila Hotel website, which is what I did.
Since I would have to provide my credit card details, I decided to reserve through the website, which was more secure than my GMail account. At first, I was a bit confused about booking online, because the only price shown was for single occupancy. But once I clicked on “book,” I found out that you had to key in the number of guests per room, and the system will automatically add an additional person charge.
It was also nice that they put the inclusions and itinerary on the site, so you know what you’re going to get out of the tour.
We drove to Manila Hotel and were greeted warmly by the valet. Did you know that valet parking comes free of charge, whether or not you’re staying the night? Pretty cool, methinks.
To check-in, we showed a printout of our reservation, and check-in went off without a hitch. We were escorted to our room on the eighth floor, where we had some down time before the Intramuros tour.
Room and Amenities
The room we got was in the new wing of The Manila Hotel, and was one of the redesigned/updated rooms. While it retained the wooden closet doors, the entertainment console, and antique-style bed, it also had modern accents, such as the mother of pearl frames on the mirrors, a Samsung flat-screen TV, an iLuv mp3 dock, and a waterproof LCD TV by the bathtub. The look was also updated by installing new wallpapers.
It was a pretty good-sized room, and provided us a view of the bay. Being a budget hostel regular, it was one of the more luxurious rooms I’ve been in. It was also newly carpeted, and the king-sized bed had a Senso Memory Foam mattress, which, for someone who has scoliosis like me, was very, very comfortable.
I discovered through the website that the bathroom was newly redesigned as well, and is decked in Italian marble. Aside from a tub, it also has a separate rain shower area, and comes with L’Occitane toiletries. I was stoked when I saw that they also provided a loofah, aside from the usual shower cap, toothbrush, and shaving kit. The bathroom also came with three sets of towels for each guest, and a bathrobe.
Other room furnishings included a safe, a set of office supplies placed in a leather case, complimentary water, a mini bar/ref, coffee-making facilities, and comfy hotel slippers. I was also surprised to find that they offer free wi-fi in the room—I’m so used to being charged for that in other hotels.
During our stay, we also got to enjoy the different facilities in The Manila Hotel. On our first night, we used our coupons for complimentary 2-for-1 cocktails at the Tap Room, which featured very classic bar design (I loved the wooden walls and wooden bar).
For my first drink, I decided to try an alcoholic one, which reminded me of a tequila sunrise, but was called something else. It was too strong for me, so I opted for a non-alcoholic one for my second, which I ended up enjoying a lot! They called it a Fruit Crush, which reminded me of a Piña Colada sans the alcohol. Malou, one of the writers, was able to obtain the recipe from the waiter, and we found out it had coconut, cream, and pineapples. It was very, very yummy.
We were then given a private tour of the MacArthur Suite—a two-bedroom extravaganza with a kitchen, dining room, living room, and an office at the top floor of the old wing of The Manila Hotel. It was decorated with MacArthur memorabilia, but upsized with modern comforts: the kitchen had a washing machine and refrigerator, while the living room and master’s bedroom were both equipped with their Samsung flatscreens.
Afterwards, we were treated to a lovely dinner by Chef Christine Zarandin at the Champagne Room. I loved the charming, Frenchy interiors of the place, which seemed to come alive when it’s filled with happy, chatty people. The food was superb (especially the lobster), but service could use more courtesy and speed. The experience was made more enjoyable by the company we had—Susie and I were exiled to a table separate from the larger group, but we were lucky enough to be joined by Tessa, Carlos’s wife, and their friend Ria.
On the second day, we woke up to a breakfast buffet at Roma, since Café Ilang-Ilang was being renovated. There was a wide selection of breakfast offerings—cereal, various kinds of bread, yogurt, typical Filipino breakfasts like tocino and lugaw, plus a few others that made it quite a good spread.
Carlos was also able to snag us private access to The Manila Hotel Archives, which was tiny room near Mabuhay Palace. As tiny as it was, it included a deluge of memories, among them old brochures, menus of the hotel’s many restaurants, clippings that featured the hotel. The walls were decorated with black and white photos of famous personalities who’ve stayed in The Manila Hotel, among them the King and Queen of Spain and Prince Charles. We also found a signed Philippine jacket by Manny Pacquiao, which sent one of our companions, Colin, quite giddy, as his son happens to love the Pinoy Boxer.
And finally, before we took off for the Imelda Tour at CCP, Susie and I decided to check out the pool area. He decided to just hang out by the lounge chairs while I took a dip in the pool. The water wasn’t as refreshing, because the pool water was warm. Being newly renovated, the pool area looked pretty inviting—it was huge, had its own kiddie pool, and it had a pool bar where you can enjoy a drink or two. The lounge chairs surrounding the pool were comfortable enough, and provided some shade if you’ve had enough of the sun.
In terms of rooms and facilities, I can say that The Manila Hotel is already on its way back to awesome. However, they really need to keep up in the service department.
The staff, while friendly and accommodating, still lack professionalism. I saw this at the reception desk while we were checking out. Our check out process went smoothly, but there was a man who was requesting for something, and he was made to wait for a long time.
He approached the reception desk while we were checking out, and the staff was clearly frazzled. When asked what was taking them so long, one of the receptionists didn’t reply, but decided to dial a number, and grumble “Please pick up the phone, pick up the phone, PICK UP THE PHONE!” That didn’t make the guest feel any better, and it even showed that they lack organization. In situations like that, I believe people should keep calm, and try to pacify the obviously irritated client instead.
There were other instances when I saw that there really is a need to train the staff. I guess, after the physical upgrades, they can concentrate on the people next.
Oh, it definitely was not cheap, but not shockingly expensive either. We paid Php 13,980.00, which already included a superior deluxe room for two, cocktails at the Tap Room, dinner at the Champagne Room, and two Carlos Celdran tours. That comes out to about Php 7,000 per person, for a weekend where you can get to know your country a little better in style. I’d say it’s worth dishing out that much moolah to pamper yourself and soak up some culture every now and then.
Even with a few chinks in the armor, though, I will still come back. It will take a lot of work, but The Manila Hotel can and will get its former glory back, and I will be there to applaud when it happens.
The Manila Hotel
Address: One Rizal Park, Manila
Phone number: (632) 5270011