Thronged with local and foreign tourists even on weekdays, the sprawling Luneta or Rizal Park is surrounded by other attractions like the urban park of Intramuros and the baywalk of the city harbor. Scoping the area in a day isn't exactly smart if you don't live just across it where a few residential apartments still stand. A hotel stay is the most fitting base for a tour of this formerly grassy expanse of Manila that once was the site for numerous executions of subversive Filipinos in the Spanish colonial period.
Fully Restored In 2014
Its present restored state of elegance makes every guest relive the grandeur of old Manila when the city's elite, foreign dignitaries, and respectable merchant marine officers used to grace its opulent lobby. Having recently been re-opened to the public after ceasing operations when former President Corazon Aquino came into power, it's now in full operation. Breathing from the country's industrial era detritus, its scaffolding were finally removed in 2013, three years after Beaumont Holdings sought the assistance of the National Heritage Commission to bring it back to life.
As with all my hotel stays, I always manage to look beyond the palpable. Although Luneta Hotel's intricate interior design impressed me, I also got a speakeasy vibe that I initially questioned but regarded as silly until I obtained my welcome drink at the bar of Cafe Yano, the hotel's F&B facility. The bartender mused that the building formerly had smaller rooms which I dismissed as the character of most hotels in Paris where it culled inspiration from long before the term boutique was even coined. Upon further research, I determined that the now 27-room hotel once served as a brothel for American G.I.s in the liberation of Manila during World War II when it still had more partitions for lodging. Now with bigger guestrooms, each floor only has its narrow hallways as a present reminder of its scandalous past.
"I determined that the now 27-room hotel once served as a brothel for American G.I.s in the liberation of Manila during World War II when it still had more partitions for lodging."
|Breakfast of Tapang Tagalog|
Sparkle and Drama
At night, the lobby sparkles in high-shine splendor with its polished marble floors, elegant sofa frames, and lavish embossed ceiling tiles. The opulence of the Baroque-style chandelier creates instantaneous drama against the hallway and stairway carpeting. Such copious luxury in a not-so-massive space translates well as a convenient choice over neighboring rickety inns that are nothing but vintage to a fault.
Belle Epoque Influences
Luneta Hotel was envisioned by its Spanish architect and engineer Salvador Farre to be a model of the Belle Epoque influences that thrived in Europe toward the end of World War I in 1918, the same year the structure was erected. It was finally completed the year after.
Stepping into my booked Deluxe Room was a delight since I don't normally get to stay in one that mimics a cathedral. Its stained glass features that crown the doily-inspired window cornice stand out beautifully against the ceiling's ambient lighting. With faint light coming from the outside, the whole wall looked spectacular from the plush queen-sized bed.
"Stepping into my booked Deluxe Room was a delight since I don't normally get to stay in one that mimics a cathedral."
The mini-refrigerator was fully stacked with snacks and drinks that I didn't have to run down to the 7-11 or Family Mart next door for supplies. The room was also equipped with modern facilities such as a flat screen TV and access to Wi-Fi. Female guests will adore the fancy dresser.
|Deluxe Room bathroom|
The room's light marble bathroom offered me a spacious walk-in shower with plenty of large soft towels and in-house toiletries. I felt relieved that it was not hideously painted in dark hues which would have easily drained it of its luxurious space.
For my complimentary breakfast the next day, I had Tapang Tagalog over other meal options to imbibe the old city ambiance.
Haunted Or Not?
Contrary to whispers about ghosts, the hotel is not haunted. It may be rich in history and can reasonably be a site for visitations of the spectral kind, but I was able to have a restful sleep during my stay. And, believe me, I've been to modern hotels that have no reputation for being creepy but turned out to be notoriously haunted instead.
With numerous modern structures rising in Metro Manila, the past can easily be forgotten. What's more daunting is the fact that Luneta Hotel can simply lose its new lease in life if not patronized by Filipinos themselves.
Official website of Luneta Hotel
Address: 414 T.M. Kalaw Street, Manila, Philippines 1000
Phone: (02) 875-8921 to 29