A historical landmark built in 1912, the 5***** Manila Hotel is a “venue for big events and grand aspirations” as is emblazoned all over the place, including in each room over the television. As for our two nights, just before Christmas, it was not exactly a grand experience.
Unfortunately for us, we came while the hotel was under renovation which meant that the Ilang-Ilang cafeteria was more like the Bang-Bang cafeteria, as we ate amid a chorus of hammering. To boot, the food was absolutely mediocre at Bang-Bang. The other downside to the renovations was that there was no swimming pool or tennis court. Instead, we were given a voucher allowing us to go to the Pan Pacific Hotel‘s pool (5-10 minutes away).
The hotel’s large reception hall featured live music with one of the squeakiest, whiniest violins, trundling out Vienna waltzes and Christmas carols. There was also a surprising gingerbread house, large enough to host kids and made entirely of real ginger bread. Outside, Santa Claus was a regular feature.
On the entertaining side, we were witness to a steady stream of weddings (surely because we stayed Saturday and Sunday), proof enough that the hotel has its standing in the Manila community. That said, we seemed to be in Manila in prime wedding time, right before Christmas (December and June are the two high seasons for weddings). Over the same weekend, there was an ally-ally-in free wedding whereby some 270 couples were married ensemble for free as a gracious gesture by the City. And each time we went to visit a church, whether it was the Manila Cathedral or St Augustin Church, weddings were in full swing, limiting the scope of our churchly visit.
Overall, the Manila Hotel was decidedly average, even if not 5 star pricing. The final straw was that our room featured cockroaches which rendered our bill less onerous. All said, the Manila Hotel may be a landmark, but it is clearly living on its colonial laurels. Hopefully, the renovations will bring it up a notch or five.