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Bataan is famous for being the unfortunate venue of the World War II Death March that claimed the lives of 1,000 Americans and 9,000 Filipinos. At the peninsula where the savagery of war resulted in the heroism of the Allied forces, the regional pride is palpable. Memorial markers and museums are everywhere. Locals are making sure that the past is not forgotten. In the era of globalization and galloping debt, a muted culture can easily take shape. Should the province move forward in style or is it enough to be known about an epic past?
Balanga City, a fond complexity of parochialism and cosmopolitanism. The blend of local identity and world-class aspiration is distinctively laced in the urban design. At the Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga (city plaza), The Plaza Hotel-Balanga bravely stands with rough cement finish for a facade as if oblivious of a grand opening. Upon my arrival in the city at high noon, I stared at the six-storey structure and wondered what the old world sensibility was about. I did not realize that the impressive aspect of the design would be unveiled once the electric hustle of lights begin strutting in the evening.
Seamless At The Center
I was to meet a Bataan Tourism-provided tour guide at the hotel on the second day of my "I Love Bataan!" Blog Series Tour for my full immersion of Balanga City and neighboring towns. For my check-in, I had the pleasure of meeting The Plaza Hotel's resident manager who looked Spanish in every way and seemingly not capable of speaking in Tagalog. My tour guide would inform me the next day that the guy knows how to speak the language and actually attends mass at the 18th century Balanga Cathedral that's located across the hotel. I reckon that it was enough neighborhood charm to connect the place with the bustling environment outside. It certainly was a hint of reachable opulence that I would soon spot in my booked Premier Deluxe room's upholstered corner chair and wall accents.
I happened to have loved the relaxing shower that's just one at the hotel's entire set of 34 stylishly furnished rooms. All of which have flat screen TVs that are equipped with HD Cable channels. I tested the complimentary Wi-Fi and found it to be strong and reliable. The subdued lighting worked well in complementing my mood to check my emails and perform social media duties during my stay. It was definitely a departure from the usual brightness that I've been accustomed to at some Metro Manila hotels. Somehow the upscale vibe was not lost between the warm natural light from the window and the subtle shade created against the contemporary wall paper design. Luxurious details were covered from plush bed and pillows, wall-to-wall carpeting, complimentary coffee and bottled water to bathroom essentials.
Sunrise At The Roof Deck
The best spot to catch the elusive sunrise at the highly urbanized city is at the hotel's roof deck. It's also where I had a view of the wonderful 360-degree panorama of the pulsating area. Even at 5:00 in the morning, the commercial and residential streets were already visible with locals and their routines.
My booked room was inclusive of a complimentary breakfast at the hotel's F&B facility called Cafe Kyoto. I chose to have a morning meal of the city's famous tilapia to eat what the locals are used to having. My plate of which came freshly hauled from Puerto Rivas Ibaba, the city's coastal barangay. My next breakfast at the restaurant during my third day of stay allowed me to sample the tasty tocino, my comfort viand.
The hotel can accommodate more than 200 persons at its two function rooms that are ideal for meetings, social gatherings, and corporate events.
Accessible More Than Ever
There used to be a ferry boat from Manila to Orani, Bataan, but it has long been discontinued. With the ease of the less-than-two-hour bus commute, tourists coming from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport can reach Balanga City before one can finish watching a Hollywood movie with full intermission.
If Manila has its own classic hotel named after itself, Balanga City finally has its The Plaza Hotel-Balanga, a shining slab of so-called starchitechture... a pulsating center of luxury that generates prestige and relevance in the Philippines.
The Plaza Hotel-Balanga
Book your stay at The Plaza Hotel-Balanga
Address: Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga, Balanga City, Bataan, Philippines 2100
Phone: +63(47)237-1037 or 0917 310 5083 or 0998 5411741
Check out Issue 4 of the Turista Trails E-Zine featuring Bataan and its various attractions:
• Bataan National Park
• Pasukulan Falls
• Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park
• Mount Samat
• Amanda's Marine Products
• Bataan Tourism Center