Manila Hotel

The Manila Hotel is a 570-room, five star hotel in Manila, Philippines, located in the heart of the Manila Bay area. The Manila Hotel is the oldest premiere hotel in the Philippines, built in 1909 to rival Malacañang Palace, where the Philippine president now lives, and opened in 1912. It was built on 3.5 hectares (376,736.9 sq ft) of land along Roxas Boulevard. It was the residence of General Douglas MacArthur from 1935 to 1941. On January 17, 2008, at Number One Rizal Park, the Manila Hotel Tent City's blessing and grand opening was held at 5:00 p.m. Its conference halls seat 7,000 guests, and it will accommodate another 2,500 guests, for wedding receptions, anniversaries, conventions, and exhibitions. The hotel contains the offices of several foreign news organizations, including The New York Times. It has hosted numerous historical persons and celebrities, including authors Ernest Hemingway and James A. Michener, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, The Beatles, King of Pop Michael Jackson, Actors Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and John Wayne, publisher Henry Luce, entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, and many various world leaders.

When the United States took over the Philippine Islands from the Spanish in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, President William McKinley began Americanizing the former Spanish colony. In 1900 he appointed Judge William Howard Taft to head the Philippine Commission to evaluate the needs of the new territory. Taft, who later became the Philippines' first civilian Governor-General, decided that Manila, the capital, should be a planned town. He hired as his architect and city planner Daniel Hudson Burnham, who had built Union Station and the post office in Washington. In Manila, Mr. Burnham had in mind a long wide, tree-lined boulevard along the bay, beginning at a park area dominated by a magnificent hotel. To design the hotel Taft hired William E. Parsons, a New York architect, who envisioned an impressive, but comfortable hotel, along the lines of a California mission, but grander. The original design was an H-shaped plan that focused on well-ventilated rooms on two wings, providing grand vistas of the harbor, the Luneta, and Intramuros. The top floor was, in fact, a large viewing deck that was used for various functions, including watching the American navy steam into the harbor.

As residence of Gen. MacArthur
When the Commonwealth of the Philippines achieved semi-independent status in 1935, President Manuel L. Quezon asked General MacArthur to supervise the creation of a Philippine Army. As a general, MacArthur elected not to retire and remained on the active list as a major general, and with President Roosevelt's approval, MacArthur accepted the assignment. It was decided to house MacArthur in a suite at the Manila Hotel, then owned by the Philippine government. The hotel was on Manila Bay across the park from the Army and Navy Club, MacArthur's favorite haunt, and also conveniently near the United States embassy. Government accountants decided that the best way to handle the cost of the suite was to make MacArthur a hotel employee entitled to housing. MacArthur was given the honorary title of "General Manager." However, MacArthur ignored the figurehead status, instead taking control of hotel management while he lived there. The MacArthur Suite still exists in the hotel. It has a large formal dining room, a spacious parlor, kitchen, study which includes some of the general's books, pictures of his family and mementos of the war, plus a terrace facing Manila Bay.

World War II – present
During World War II, the hotel was occupied by Japanese troops, and the Japanese flag was flown above the walls for the entirety of the war. The hotel survived the bombing of Manila and was later reconstructed. The political party of Ferdinand Marcos held its convention at the Manila Hotel before the February 1986 presidential election, and Corazon Aquino delivered a speech at the hotel that was a turning point in the campaign. In the following two decades, Mr. Marcos's wife, Imelda, could frequently be seen at the hotel. When she visited restaurants there, a red carpet and garlands were put out and the air was sprayed with deodorant. The hotel was remodeled in 1976 and expanded to 570 rooms, as well as including executive services, language translation, a business library and color television and closed circuit movies. The hotel’s spartan interiors in simplified Mission style gave way to more lavish furnishings and, for some sections, major renovations by Paris-trained Filipino architect Andres Luna de San Pedro (son of Juan Luna). On July 6, 1986, a group of military officers loyal to deposed President Marcos took over the Manila Hotel and declared Arturo Tolentino, who was Marcos's vice presidential running mate, as President. However, they surrendered two days later. Most recently, the hotel received international attention in 1999 when Imelda Marcos, former First Lady, celebrated her 70th birthday in this prestigious hotel. More than 1,000 of Manila's elite turned up to attend.

The main lobby was designed for sitting as well as for making grand entrances. Measuring 125 feet (38 m) long by 25 feet (7.6 m) wide, the lobby is lined with white Doric columns. The floor is Philippine marble, the chandeliers are made of brass, crystal and seashells, the furniture is carved out of Philippine mahogany which is used throughout the hotel. The rooms provide exceptional views of the city, especially the gardens of Rizal Park and Intramuros. Manila Hotel is the first hotel in the Philippines to offer HBO among other television network systems for all rooms. All rooms make use of the Ving Card electronic card system for maximum security. The 570 fully renovated rooms that reflect the hotel’s storied past blend with the conveniences of a modern luxury hotel. Other amenities include traditional decor with elegant furnishings, individually controlled central air conditioning, remote-control TV with cable channels, minibars, separate bath and toilet with extension phone, and secure in-room safes. The three-bedroom MacArthur suite rents for $650 a night. The penthouse, the most expensive suite (with a private swimming pool) on the 18th floor, has a view of the Bay, of Rizal Park and the 16th-century ruins of the Spanish walled city of Intramuros, opposite the hotel. Like the Presidential Suite, which costs $900 a night, the $1,200-a-night penthouse is decorated with rare paintings, Asian antiques and Filipino crafts. The MacArthur, Presidential and Penthouse Suites provide 24-hour butler service.

Facilities and services
The hotel's guest facilities and other services include limousine and luxury car rental, a helipad on the roof deck, airport transfer and transport assistance, medical and dental clinic, a business center with Internet access, 24-hour full menu room service, a delicatessen, a barber shop and beauty salon, a florist, laundry service, a post office, an in-house shopping mall, and arrangement of sightseeing tours. The Bay Club, Manila Hotel's sports and health club, features a jacuzzi, two tennis courts, and one squash court. Guests also have access to a gym, a sauna, swimming pool with a wet bar, a game room, and an indoor golf simulator. Other health club services include a whirlpool, wet sauna, steambox, martial arts, swimming, massages, and tennis lessons. In addition to these, Manila Hotel also served as the venue for the FAMAS Awards, one of the leading award-giving body in the Philippines, for many years. From 1961 to 2002, the Manila Hotel hosted twelve incarnations of the annual awards night.

The hotel has seven restaurants and bars, covering a large portion of world cuisines. They include the Champagne Room for French cuisine, the Cowrie Grill for steaks and seafood, and Ginza, a Japanese restaurant with a wide selection of authentic Japanese food. There is also a pool bar that serves drinks and sandwiches.

Religious holidays are very special in the Philippines. It is generally 80 degrees on Christmas Day, but the streets are decorated with lights resembling snowflakes. At the Manila Hotel, where every year pine trees are flown in from Washington state, carolers stroll the lobby, and among the Yuletide delicacies in evidence are marzipan, pralines, German stollen and fruitcakes, normally unheard of in Asia. The tropical garden beside the lobby is transformed into a Nativity scene.

Building Activity

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  • Yura Zhalin
    Yura Zhalin updated a digital reference
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