A look back at close to four decades of a Makati City treasure
After 38 years of making unforgettable memories and delivering distinct hospitality, a treasured institution at the corner of Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas in Makati City is soon to bid farewell to its loyal patrons from across the country and the rest of the world.
Truly a landmark hotel in the Philippines, the Mandarin Oriental Manila is on its final stretch operations before it closes its doors and moves to a new property in 2020.
“We have a high ratio of guests and patrons who frequent the hotel, so that when the announ–cement of our closing was made public, many of those guests touchingly expressed their sentiments,” shared Mandarin Oriental Manila’s much admired and well-loved director of communications, Charisse Chuidian.
“They would tell us wonderful memories they’ve had in the hotel—when they celebrated their debuts, weddings, birthdays or anniversaries. And though we are closing for now, these memories make our existence [in Makati]more meaningful.”
Be it a lavish celebration at the hotel’s grand ballroom, a fun get-together with friends at The Tivoli, or after-work drinks at Martinis, this beloved destination is part of many people’s history, and will be so to the very last day.
A look back
It was in 1976 when Mandarin Oriental Manila made its grand opening in Makati City, alongside several other hotels in the area, as the country played host to the delegates of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Since then, the Hong Kong brand hotel has maintained a stringent quality of hospitality, demanding excellence from its staff, and thereby helping streng–then Mandarin Oriental’s repute around the world.
According to Chuidian who has been with the hotel for many years, this “standard of service” had always set them apart from all the other hotels in the metropolis.
“We have always maintained a high level of service, and with this commitment to excellence, The Mandarin has happily helped elevate the standards of the hospitality industry in the Philippines,” she explained. “Once an establishment constantly exposes its guest to such quality, they will never settle for anything less, which is why I believe we have always had a high ratio of returning patrons.”
Aside from offering luxurious accommodations and dining options, The Mandarin Oriental Manila is also known for staging annual holiday celebrations, which have attracted even more supporters through the years.
To be sure, the most cherished and anticipated of these is the highly traditional Chinese New Year celebration that began in 1996—the only Lunar New Year festivity that has gained fame in the metropolis outside of Binondo.
The idea to mount such an authentic celebration of Chinese New Year came from feng shui master Paul Lau, who is credited for making the Chinese practice of harmonizing man with his environment popular in the Philippines.
“We took a chance with the idea of staging a midnight Chinese New Year celebration, and we really did not expect there would be hundreds of attendees in the first year!” recalled Chuidian. “Since then, we earned the support of the Makati City Government of annually holding a ‘prosperity parade’ from the hotel and back, which covers key areas in Makati.”
The hotel executive further recalled to The Manila Times that 70 to 80 percent of guests to these Chinese New Year parties have claimed the celebration indeed brought them luck, so they came back year after year.
As one of the oldest luxury hotels in the country, the Mandarin Oriental Manila also prides itself as the first hotel to open a luxury spa in 2001, conveniently located within the premises. Since then, other hotels followed suit but The Spa at Madarin Oriental continued to stand out from the rest what with its elegant Asian interiors and first rate wellness menu.
Food and beverage outlet Paseo Uno is also considered the first interactive kitchen where guests can openly explore the intricate details of preparing their meals. To do this, the hotel invited Michelin-rated chefs week to expose the Philippine palate to the cuisines of the world.
The Mandarin’s lady
As part of what she calls the “Mandarin Oriental Manila family” for over 22 years, Chuidian has built a solid name in the public relations industry, proudly and dignifiedly representing one of the top hotels in the country. A true “people person,” she naturally developed close ties among colleagues and guests, making the Mandarin a truly significant part of her life.
Chuidian’s role at the hotel includes conceptualizing events, creating collaterals, bringing in guests old and new, and most importantly, ensuring that the hotel is promoted and represented in the highest regard.
More than anything else, however, despite the professional fulfillment her post has given her through the years, she quickly singles out the working environment and genuine relationship among her co-workers, regardless of department, as that which made her loyal to the hotel for over two decades.
“After many years of working long hours and spending most of your days in a place that you consider your ‘home away from home’, it is but natural to feel sad that the hotel is about to close,” said everyone’s favorite lady at the Mandarin.
Although a common sentiment of sadness is shared among the hotel staff of about 400, the communications head assured The Manila Times that to the very end, everyone has been treated like family, with management providing generous severance pay, and even assistance in finding new opportunities within the industry.
“Every effort is being made by the hotel to provide opportunities for employment with sister companies, other local hotels and similar local establishments in the hospitality and service industry through the provision of job fairs and career counseling,” reported Chuidian, conscientious as ever in fulfilling her responsibilities as spokesperson of the Mandarin family. “Livelihood seminars are also being conducted for interested colleagues who may also invite one or two other family members to sit in at these workshops.”
When asked to further reminisce about her “home away from home” Chuidian generously talked about her own unforgettable Mandarin moments, including welcoming international celebrities like Jackie Chan, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campell, and even former Singaporean prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew to the property.
“The Macapagal family has always been a regular guest at the Tin Hau Chinese restaurant, and Mrs. Imelda Marcos is a frequent guest at The Tivoli. A lot of important people have stayed in our hotel, and for me it was a rare experience to witness them as normal individuals going about their daily activities,” she added.
A new beginning
With the Mandarin Oriental Manila’s lease with Ayala Land due to end in 2026, its board decided to close the hotel ahead of time and spend its income on improving the next property rather than carrying on with a deadline in the horizon.
But instead of shutting down its facilities all in one day, the management has decided to close each historic area of the hotel one at a time.
“We are doing a staggered closure. We have yet to announce when we will close exactly, but for sure it’s going to happen before the year ends,” Chiudian said.
There have been reports that the new 275-room Mandarin Oriental Manila property will rise at the Ayala Triangle, but Chuidian said she cannot confirm the speculation. What she can firmly and confidently confirm, however, is that the Mandarin Oriental will regain its stature as a top hotel in the Philippines come 2020.
Until then, she invites the friends and family that the Mandarin Oriental Manila has made over the last 38 memorable years for a final visit to their “home away from home.”