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Secret places


By Jullie Y. Daza

  • ALL THOSE BRANCHES, twigs, and leaves, they belong to only ONE tree, a balete that according to legend is at least a century old.

  • AN UNDISCOVERED WALKWAY drips with vines and their flowers.

  • Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s memorabilia in a seldom-visited museum.

  • A RECENT PAINTING captures the look of old Intramuros.

  • a conference hall good for 2,500, where a fairy-tale wedding was held just weeks ago. It’s not being talked about, because the newlyweds want to keep it that way. Their guests’ lips are sealed!

  • WHERE TO RELAX: Chef Sun Bing knows.

  • NO WHITEWASHING of secrets in the laundry, where tons of bed and food/beverage linens go through the wringer every hour.

  • NO WHITEWASHING of secrets in the laundry, where tons of bed and food/beverage linens go through the wringer every hour.

    A hotel is a public place, a building built to accommodate social beings and their social needs and events. Who’d guess that it could also host a variety of secret places unknown to the general public?

    Checking into this five-star hotel for a weekend vacation or hungry for a meal in its coffee shop, who’d  think that a beehive of activity is going on beyond the eyes and ears of the typical guest? It’s the laundry room, tucked out of sight and hearing in one of the lower floors, but a familiar drop-off point to those who have discovered its secret as one of the best laundry shops in Manila. Best for service, fast for the few hours it takes to deliver, swak for its affordable rates, and you don’t have to be staying in the hotel to avail of its services. Your winter jacket needs a thorough cleaning? Send it to the hotel! You want your evening gown clean and smelling good before you pack it away? The staff have the experience to do the job, no need to worry.

    The 42-year-old laundry room, according to its supervisor who has been with the hotel for 22 years, is equipped with three 250 kg washing machines, six tumble dryers, one drycleaning machine, one flatwork ironer for bed and food and beverage linens. In short, enough equipment to service “up to a maximum of 100 percent occupancy, back to back, provided all machines are working.” Supervisor Odette Pineda assures that “we operate only international brands and we follow international care-labeling guidelines.” That’s a five-star guarantee.

    Going down from the laundry in the service elevator to the lobby lounge and from there to the basement, the visitor who wants to uncover the secrets of the past will run into two types of guests: 1) the lady or gentleman who needs a haircut or manicure; and 2) the student of history (perhaps a Filipino or American war veteran, or a balikbayan on a sentimental tour) who wants to brush up on the history of the city and the hotel. This is the museum that contains the memorabilia of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the hotel’s most famous resident, and a near-priceless collection of black-and-white pictures of old Manila. The Heritage Museum is only one year old, not too young to be the inspiration for The Raffles’ own museum.

    Right next to the museum is the salon, unisex, brightly lighted and vainly mirrored. A place to relax, look good, and kill time if you must.

    When it’s time to resurface and continue the hunt for secret places, a surprise awaits out in the open, right alongside Manila Bay. This is quite a secret, hiding in plain sight. Despite its size, not many hotel visitors have seen or gone into the Tent City, so called because of its size; it can accommodate 2,500 guests. (Another secret: There’s room in this hotel’s conference halls to fit a total of 7,000 guests.) However, the juiciest secret is about a grand but thoroughly romantic wedding that was held in the Tent City very recently, uniting two A-list families from Makati and Cebu. A canopy of fairie lights turned the reception into a fairy land perfumed with the bloom of thousands of sampaguita buds, even in the ladies’ rooms.

    The next time you dine at the hotel, attend a wedding reception, drop off a garment for drycleaning, stay for a weekend, check out its ballrooms and function halls, you may want to linger, meander and uncover more of The Manila Hotel’s secret places.

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