Thursday, December 29, 2016

LIFESTYLE | A Christmas Carol: Appreciating The Manila Hotel's Christmas decor and its old-world glory

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Love how these teddy bears look so expressive.

While driving home from Malabon on Christmas Day, we decided on a whim to drop by The Manila Hotel for some snacks. I haven't been to the hotel since my oath-taking as a CPA ages ago, and thought it was probably time to check it out once more. I know it's a very old hotel but I was also curious how it is today.

It was chaotic the moment we pulled up at the hotel entrance. There were lots and lots of people and cars moving about. It was Christmas after all. It also took a while for a valet to come for our car. But never mind because the moment we stepped in, I realized the hotel takes Christmas decorating very seriously.

A gigantic gingerbread house installation that doubled as a shop stood between the doors and the rest of the lobby. It instantly brought out the kid in me. To be fair, I think the kid in me comes alive with every Christmas installation I come across with (like the impressive winter castle of the Makati Shangri-La). But The Manila Hotel just went all out--and I mean all out--with its classic Christmas theme. I also had a blast with an impromptu OOTD session featuring a piece from Collezione C2's The Sampaguita Collection.

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Slow day. Kwittiegirl and I just sitting in front of our house, enjoying the holidays.

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Humongous! What if it were completely edible?

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Now that's how you decorate a tree!

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A Christmas village-themed stage was set up for musical performances at the lobby.

Gigantic toy soldiers stand guard as hotel guests make their way through. A massive tree also stands in the lobby, literally covered in all sorts of Yuletide trappings from balls and snowflakes to ribbons and The Manila Hotel's signature teddy bears. I think everyone else just got schooled here about how to decorate a Christmas tree. Then there's a Christmas village-themed stage set up for performances. Lovely, lovely sight to behold indeed!

I haven't heard of it before but it appears that the hotel has this tradition of setting up a Christmas village, with this year's edition promised as bigger and better. Called Parsons Street Village, it's an entire hallway decked up as a Christmas village and with all sorts of shops. There's a small theater, a photo booth, and shops that sell candies, cookies, toys, and even bags and jewelry. Clearly it's not just for children as there's also a salon and a heritage museum.

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A penguin showed me around. T'was fun walking with him.

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So adorable, isn't he? Me? I mean, he?

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The photo booth features a huge cushioned chair and a typewriter. Amazing, though, how this typewriter is able to churn out drawings and pieces of different fonts.

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Sitting by the fireplace at The Holiday Kitchen. Love the hat.

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I'm trying to do how the kids do it here.

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What a treasure! An ancient coffee machine.

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Look, a working gramophone! It's already all-digital, however. But still, I think I want one.

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Kwittiegirl playing it cute at the candy shop. The hotel has partnered with Made in Candy for this one.

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At the Toy Emporium featuring such lovable stuff from Hamley's. Though expensive, I must say their teddies are really nice, what with such expressive faces. And oh, the fireplace? It's a TV. Ssshhh!

Christmas decor aside, The Manila Hotel still has its charm. Though arguably dated, there's still much to be admired of its architecture, interiors, and furniture. Those glorious arcs, hardwood ceiling, gilded chandeliers--ah, such elegance still. I don't know how the rooms are but so far, the lobby, the hallways, and their restaurants and bars, Cafe Ilang-Ilang, The Champagne Room, and The Tap Room, are all still looking good.

The Tap Room is a smoking bar and lounge boasting of posh hardwood interiors with brass detailing. There's a mini-stage with a grand piano and cello set against a curved stained glass backdrop. We sat here while having, of all things, pansit Malabon, bibingka, and halo-halo to avoid the noisy holiday crowd at the lobby cafe.

The Champagne Room, on the other hand, is a fine dining restaurant that can also be booked for functions. According to the hostess who graciously showed us around, regular seating is at 94 pax although the place can fit a maximum of 150 guests. With rather dainty, mostly couch-style seating, the Champagne Room is reminiscent of some old-world European restaurants I see in period films. Dimly lit, the place is also adorned with decorative trees made entirely of glass crystals.

Meanwhile, Cafe Ilang-Ilang is a buffet restaurant with about 14 different stations, but it's not one big open space here where everyone sees everyone. What I like about this resto is that its seating is segmented, which somehow gives you the illusion of privacy, or at least an ounce of it. But of course there are closed out rooms that can be booked for a real private dining experience amid the openness of a buffet. Though we're not really buffet people, we'll be back to try this one out.

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Old-world elegance. Can't find that in any new hotel in the metro.

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Wanna swing? Just look at all those details in both the chandelier and the ceiling!

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Okay, I just had to do this.

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Hardwood, brass, stained glass--such handsome interiors. This is the Tap Room.

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I'm really loving the curved stained glass backdrop of the mini-stage, with grand piano and cello to boot. I just wished they placed that eyesore of a TV elsewhere.

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No one makes elevator doors like this anymore. Those drawings etched on brass? Everything nowadays is flat and boring.

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The entrance to the Champagne Room, another of The Manila Hotel's posh restaurants.

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This is how they do table for two: you're seated not in front of, but right beside, your date. As formal as formal dining goes, the table setup includes a charger plate. And let's not forget the decorative trees made of glass, shall we?

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There's a hallway right outside the Champagne Room. Still, nothing short of elegant. Imagine depositing yourself here in between courses to socialize. Yas!

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This could very well be a setting for a period film, don't you think?

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A section of Cafe Ilang-Ilang. Aren't those birdcage lamps gorgeous or what?

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One of the few enclosed spaces at the restaurant, reserved for private dining.

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Look how cute the Italian section is. And they have raclette!

I can't say much about how the service is here, though the hosts at Ilang-Ilang and the Champagne Room were quite pleasant and gracious. The waitstaff at the lobby cafe, though, weren't very snappy. I don't know if they were overwhelmed with the Christmas Day crowd but they seemed lost. Our food also took very long. As for the valet, it's almost a joke because we waited for a good 15 or so minutes before someone showed up at their booth-- with all the car keys just laying there!

Anyway, we'll still be back to experience Cafe Ilang-Ilang soon, but probably only after all this holiday madness is over.

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The Manila Hotel. It doesn't look much on the outside but it sure is a whole different world once you step inside.

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Enjoy the rest of the holidays, y'all!

The Manila Hotel's Christmas Village will only be open until January 2, so better go check it out. Bring your kids. They're open 1pm to 9pm Mondays to Fridays, and 10am to 9pm on weekends and holidays.

manila-hotel.com.ph

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