Manila Hotel: A Historical Landmark

General Douglas MacArthur, the Commander of the U.S. Armed Forces Far East (USAFFE), lived at the Manila Hotel. His comfortable stay was disrupted by the Japanese when it attacked Pearl Harbor on 8 December 1941, reaching the Philippines shortly thereafter. With the Philippine defenses crumbling, Gen. MacArthur retreated to Corregidor then to Australia in 1942, where he made his famous vow: “I shall return”. He surely had a real good reason to do that, but I figure he was also thinking of his luxurious home, the Manila Hotel.

I would have done the same thing. I would have gone to hell and back. For the country. For my family. And for the mouthwatering, to-die-for Mango Cheesecake, if that was already available at that time. I mean, woe unto any man who comes between me and my Mango Cheesecake.

There’s also the delicious puto and the ensaymada, all-time favorites for simple tastes, and practically everything at the Roma Salon. We’ve heard Manila Hotel’s Cafe Ilang-Ilang serves great food as well, but it was under renovation during the time we stayed there.

Constructed in 1909 and opened in 1912, the Manila Hotel is one of the buildings that survived the bombing of Manila by the Americans during the return of Gen. MacArthur.

Why stay in an old, tired hotel when there are new ones at the same cost and class? This kind of mentality got banished the moment we stepped into the lobby and entered the room. It’s magnificent. And the renovation was not yet finished.

The lobby, which measures 125 x 25 feet, is framed by white columns. Huge chandeliers made of brass, crystal and seashells pepper the mahogany ceiling. The marble floor that bounces off light is tempered by the mahogany ceiling. Its aura exudes the history of this hotel.

The bathroom is new, sparkling clean. I spend a lot of time sitting on the bathroom throne, surely extended here because there’s a wall TV beside the bath tub. Talk about enjoying extended bubble bath while watching your favorite cable TV program!

Capiz shells highlight various areas in the room. Adding local flavor is a tiny object that caught my attention — a comb made of bamboo, giving contrast to things imported, like the soap.

The room smells new, soaked by sunlight that emanates from the huge window. The view in one wing reveals the Manila Ocean Park and the seaport, while the other wing opens to the Intramuros and the skyline of Manila City.

For history buffs, the Manila Hotel is just across Intramuros, which houses Fort Santiago, and for golf fanatics, the Intramuros Golf Course.

For those who wish to visit a centuries-old church that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, there’s the Manila Cathedral also found inside Intramuros.

The National Museum, which houses precious works of art and other items of historical significance to the Philippines, is just within walking distance.

The Manila Hotel is located across Luneta or Rizal Park and the Cory/Ninoy Aquino Shrine, and just beside the Quirino Grandstand. Kids will enjoy the Manila Ocean Park, just a few minutes away by foot, and the Museong Pambata (Children’s Museum).

And the swimming pool, of course. This summer, with the sun high above and cranking up the temperature, the swimming pool is a relaxing oasis. There’s a bubbling pool, a-la-jacuzzi, for the kids. There’s a bar that seems to break out in the middle of the water. Drink your favorite drink below waterline, while staying dry.

The Manila Hotel is also conveniently near the airports (NAIA I, NAIA II, NAIA III and the domestic airports), with around 20 minutes travel time to and fro, and it’s overlooking the Manila harbor.

The place and the staff exude the world-famous warmth and hospitality of the Filipinos. For the younger generation who doesn’t know the history of Manila Hotel, it looks unimpressive from the outside. On the other hand, it may seem intimidating for those who know the place. The Manila Hotel provides a balance of the old and the new.

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