Mary Gostelow steps inside Manila’s modern icon

Girlahead recounts visit to The Peninsula Manila

The Peninsula Suite Living Room, The Peninsula Manila

The Manila Hotel, designed in 1912 by William Parsons, may be the ‘Grande Dame’ of the capital of the Philippines. But when it comes to global brands, The Peninsula Manila tops the luxury list. The hotel opened in 1976 for an IMF/World Bank Conference – architects were WATG , working with designer Dale Keller. Today, it is easy to see why guests quickly become regulars and staff, at all levels, mostly stay put (“Welcome back,” say doormen and white-suited bellmen). The hotel car’s Wi-Fi has no-password, towels and Evian.

The Peninsula Manila - Facade

Premium Suite #1106 is on the top floor of the 469-key hotel. It has two adjacent spaces, both 13 by 5.5 metres. My living room has four-seat dining, the other space has a bedroom, bathroom and a walk-in closet. Apart from the honey-marbled bathroom, the entire area is carpeted in shades of striped mustard with plain mustard surrounding. The bed, with dark-brown bordered Frette linens, has on one side only a control pad for lights and temperature. Cream drapes and sheers are thankfully hand-pulled. On top of the desk is The Peninsula Manila – At A Glance, a single-sheet card to fill me in on happenings. The bathroom has a magnifying mirror (wall-set over the single, oval washbasin) and there is a deep soaking tub with washline overhead. The shower has single, hand-held sprayer. Oscar de la Renta toiletries are complemented by Peninsula-boxed necessities. Towels and fluffy robes are anonymous.

The Peninsula Manila - Lobby

I quickly unpack and head through the lobby to the ground floor gym, looking out over the L-shaped pool complex and the pool bar. Later, I hear about community ventures, such as the annual support for breast cancer and the rehousing of 75 families who were devastated during the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in what is now called The Peninsula – GK Village, Leyte.

The Peninsula Manila - Premier Suite bedroom

GM Masahisa Oba is one of the world’s top global Japanese hoteliers. He moved to Manila from The Peninsula Hong Kong. He heads a team of 650 and new recruits are attracted via social media and local headhunters (management can assess in one minute if someone will fit in). The team exudes a feeling of comfort – one manager describes it as a “koala bear syndrome”, hugging the hotel and vice versa. There is an unusual variety of employee activities, including about 75 off-duty classes, such as learning how to build LED lights.

The Peninsula Manila - Jeepney

I am taken for a ride in the hotel’s new eight-seat Jeepney, a copy of the famous 1955 Willys Jeepney owned by Sarao Motors. This one, fashioned by Alfred specialists, has tan interiors, air conditioning, Wi-Fi and a built-in coolbox for drinks. After a too-short local circuit, I transfer to the Mercedes and the excellent Ronald drives me on to the next place.

Mary Gostelow’s travelogue is www.girlahead.com

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