The Manila Hotel: 15 Highlights of Its History, Renovation, And The Historic People It Hosted

Last Updated: December 6th, 2017

The Manila Hotel as seen from Katigbak Parkway

The Manila Hotel as seen from Katigbak Parkway

 

A close look at the details of Manila Hotel's facade

A close look at the details of Manila Hotel’s facade

 

Few structures can truly attest to their place in history than Manila Hotel. With its green and white facade, this historic five-star hotel hosted some of the most important people in history including Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, The Beatles, and then Vice-President Richard Nixon.

There’s no doubt that the Manila Hotel earned its mark in history, not just with its unparalleled views of Manila’s sunset and historical landmarks, but also bearing witness to the country’s struggles and success.

 

1. The Manila Hotel was part of the master plan envisioned by renowned American architect and city planner, Daniel Hudson Burnham. Burnham’s vision was a long wide and tree-lined boulevard along the bay dominated on one end by a magnificent hotel.

Born in Henderson, New York, Burnham is credited with creating the master plans for the development of the cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C. He is also behind the design of some of the most iconic buildings including the Flatiron Building in New York, the Washington Union Station, the Ford Building in Detroit, and the Fisher Building in Chicago.

In the Philippines, Burnham worked on the design of the Provincial Capitol of Pangasinan, and the Provincial Capitol Building in Bacolod in Negros Occidental. He is also credited with creating not only the master plan for Manila but also for the City of Baguio in Benguet.

 

Daniel Burnham (image credit: Graf, John, Chicago's Parks Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p. 62., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4.)

Daniel Burnham (image credit: Graf, John, Chicago’s Parks Arcadia Publishing, 2000, p. 62., ISBN 0-7385-0716-4.)

 

2. Recommended by Burnham, W.H. Taft hired William Parsons to execute his plans for Manila. Parson’s original design was California Missionary-styled H-shaped edifice that focused on good ventilation, providing the vistas a great view of the Manila’s harbor and fabled sunset, Luneta, and the walled city of Intramuros.

Some of Parson’s work during the American occupation of the Philippines include the Paco Railway Station, Philippine General Hospital, Manila Army and Navy Club, The Mansion House in Baguio, and the Customs Office in Cebu.

 

William E. Parsons (undated and uncredited photo)

William E. Parsons (undated and uncredited photo)

 

3. Four years after construction started, Manila Hotel was inaugurated on the commemoration date of the American Independence on July 4, 1912. Over 400 guests attended the inauguration and were served American roast, Philippine lobster, and French champagne.

 

The original five-story Manila Hotel in 1912 (image credit: National Historical Commission of the Philippines)

The original five-story Manila Hotel in 1912 (image credit: National Historical Commission of the Philippines)

 

4. The hotel underwent its first renovation in 1935 when President Manuel L. Quezon commissioned renowned Filipino architect Andrés Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna, to lead the renovation.

Born in Paris, France on September 9, 1887, Andrés Luna de San Pedro is best known for building the first air-conditioned building in the Philippines, the Crystal Arcade.  

Although most of the buildings that he built were lost after World War II, some still survive to this day. This includes the Regina Building and the First United Building, both located in Escolta, the Lizares Mansion in Iloilo, and the Legarda Elementary School in Manila.

 

Andrés Luna de San Pedro in this undated and uncredited photo

Andrés Luna de San Pedro in this undated and uncredited photo

 

5. When the hotel underwent its first renovation in 1935, the top floor of the hotel was converted into an elegant penthouse built especially for General Douglas McArthur and his family. For a time, he also served as the chairman of the hotel’s board of directors.

McArthur’s favorite food served at the hotel was lapu-lapu, a grouper fish native to the Philippines, wrapped in banana leaves.

 

General Douglas McArthur - August 2, 1945 (image credit: Naval Historical Center)

General Douglas McArthur – August 2, 1945 (image credit: Naval Historical Center)

 

6. Aside from McArthur, some of the most notable people that it hosted include Ernest Hemingway, John Wayne, Michael Jackson, The Beatles, US Senator Robert Kennedy, British Prime Minister Anthony Haden, James A. Michener,  the Rockefeller brothers, and King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.

 

7. During World War II, The Manila Hotel was occupied by the Japanese High Command with its flag flown on the walls throughout the war. It was later set on fire by the Japanese during the Battle of Manila in 1945.

 

Uncredited photo of the Manila Hotel after the Battle of Manila in 1945

Uncredited photo of the Manila Hotel after the Battle of Manila in 1945

 

8. The Fiesta Pavilion of Manila Hotel hosted the Philippine Constitutional Convention on November 10, 1970. A total of 320 delegates from all over the Philippines attended the convention to rewrite the Philippine Constitution which has been in existence since the start of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935.

 

9. Under the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) was tasked to restore, renovate, and expand the hotel.

 

10. Imelda Marcos frequently visited the hotel, and during her visits, the red carpet was laid out and the air was sprayed with deodorant.

 

11. In 1986, the hotel hosted both Corazon Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos before the February 1986 Snap Elections. The political party of Marcos held its convention at the Manila Hotel, and later, Corazon Aquino delivered a speech which was considered as a turning point in her presidential campaign.

 

12. National Artists for Architecture Leandro Locsin and Ildefonso Santos in collaboration with Patricia Keller from interior design firm Dale Keller & Associates were behind the hotel’s third renovation. The renovation expanded the hotel’s capacity to 570 rooms in total with the addition of the hotel tower behind the original five-story structure.

 

The hotel tower which was recently added to the original five-story structure

The hotel tower which was recently added to the original five-story structure

 

13. The hotel is currently owned by the late Emilio Yap’s Manila Prince Hotel Corporation (51%) and Renong Berhad of Malaysia — together with ITT Sheraton (49%).

Renong Berhad originally won the bidding to purchase the Manila Hotel but the Supreme Court later nullified the sale. This, after Yap, cited the national patrimony under “Filipino-first” policy of the 1987 Constitution. Yap signed a check for Php 673.2 million and the MPHC took over the property on May 7, 1997.

 

14. All rooms and suites underwent renovations starting in 2008 in time for its centennial celebration in 2012. President Benigno Aquino III later attended the hotel’s Centennial Ball on July 4, 2012, as the guest-of-honor.

 

15. In 1999, the hotel once again gained international attention after Imelda Marcos celebrated her 70th birthday with more than 1,000 guests.

 

The Manila Hotel before (image credit: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

The Manila Hotel before (image credit: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

 

The Manila Hotel's side entrance along Bonifacio Drive

The Manila Hotel’s side entrance along Bonifacio Drive

 

 

***This article has been updated as it erroneously cited that US President John F. Kennedy visited The Manila Hotel. Thanks to Redge Tolentino for pointing it out.***

 

– The Manila Project

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Sources:

  1. The New York Times
  2. The Manila Hotel Website
  3. The Philippine Star
  4. United Press International
  5. Philippine Tatler
  6. Wikipedia
  7. Wikipilipinas
  8. Other news articles

 

 

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