May 10, 2009 in Chicagoland, Illinois
FOR OLD timers nostalgic over the old Manila Hotel, its managementâ€™s tussle with the Government Service Insurance System over alleged unpaid loans, said to have ballooned to P17 billion because of interest, seems like a mere quibble when compared to the more worrisome reality: the Old Glory is gone; all that remains of the Grand Dame is a pitiable shell of her old self â€“ an old crone going the way of history in the most dejected of exits.
Then, the OP-ED apprised us about the latest development.
But the first sacrilege committed against the Grand Dame was not the pollution but the defacement of her faÃ§ade. On the corner of the green tropical roof of the hotel facing the walls of Intramuros is her name in quite ungraceful graphics. As if that were not enough, the graphics appear again at the side of the roof fronting the Quirino Grandstand. The redundancy antedated â€“ and, perhaps, presaged â€“ the manic passion for billboard construction around Metro Manila: it reinforces the fact that much of the loss of the quality of life in the metropolis owes to crass commercialism, slapdash development, and the regulated chaos that makes up for urban planning in the otherwise overly regulated and bureaucratized regime obtaining in the Philippines.
I searched Youtube to see if there were any old photos from the grand old days of The Manila Hotel — and I found one about a “Manila Hotel Family Reunion” held at the home of Connie and John Santos at the Hacienda Heights, California, on June 30, 2007. I hope these friends don’t mind that I’m including them in my blog entry to validate what I’m talking about — the Manila Hotel’s family spirit! (Thank you in advance!)
Here is my reply to Roger’s letter to us, his Facebook friends.
I am so sad to hear about the way The Manila Hotel is being treated today. There is still hope, you know.
I am a direct witness to the rebuilding of the old Manila Hotel back to its old “glamour charm” in 1977. Although I missed the actual day of the grand reopening — when methuselah bottles of champagne were poured like water for its guests — I was an intern for my final semester (practicum student) there, a requirement for the B.S. Hotel and Restaurant Administration degree I was pursuing at UP Diliman. There were only five UP students chosen among the graduating class. We had to go through interviews like any other potential employee. All of the employees were practically new, taken from “the best of the best” from all over the hotel industry. Noemi Javier, Guia Sason, Desiree Obana, Violeta Albulario, and I were the chosen few, which meant that we had to work harder to prove that students from the University of the Philippines could handle the pressure. I remember that Mrs. Cruz from Human Resources somehow took a liking to me — maybe because I was this wide-eyed Cebuana who spoke impeccable English with an inquisitive, learning mindset.
The “old crone,” Manila Hotel, was definitely a grand lady. Do you remember the way the movie “Titanic” was filmed, as if you felt you were entering a wondrous world of delight? The Manila Hotel, in 1977, was just like that — and more. There was a revered history. Employees would share with me that, oftentimes, ghosts still haunted the old part of the hotel.
The first person who made a distinct impression on how I would evolve as a customer service professional was The Manila Hotel’s General Manager, Franz Schutzman, one of the most distinguished hoteliers in Asia. I recall that he told the practicum students that it was a standard practice for him to allow a hotel guest’s shoes to be left outside his room for overnight shoe polishing. I was totally awed by Mr. Schutzman’s presence because he was considered an icon in the hotel industry. Plucked from Singapore’s Raffles Hotel, this legendary, engaging, witty, wiry-haired older gentleman had known the likes of my literary heroes such as W. Somerset Maugham. Franz had also concocted the popular cocktail, the Singapore Sling. Thus, I knew I was directly experiencing his expectations about how a true five star hotel should be managed.
Since I came by bus from the UP Balara stop in Katipunan Road every day, I had to be awake by 4:00 am so I could catch the 5:00 am bus. The Philippines was experimenting on its first-ever Daylight Savings Time (and its only time to do it) so you can imagine how dark my early mornings were. I was a fearless young woman, bringing my clothes and make-up in a satchel bag, who endured a dusty, non-air conditioned ride to Luneta (Rizal Park). My efforts to put as little attention to myself during these rides were successful. No one bothered me inside and outside the bus.