This post continues where pt.1 left off- after lunch, we crossed the bridge from Casa Lubao to the Hotel de Oriente, checking out the statue of Lola Basyang along the way.
Lola Basyang (Grandmother Basyang) is the Mother Goose figure of Filipino stories, an elderly woman who tells stories to her grandchildren. However in reality, Lola Basyang was not a grandmother; Severino Reyes, editor of the magazine Liwayway, adopted the nom de plume because a grandmother figure was seen as more appealing to the public than that of a man telling stories.
But this post will be about the building on the other side of the water, the majestic Hotel de Oriente.
The original Hotel de Oriente was the grande dame of hotels in its time. Among the first buildings to be equipped with telephone lines, if Malacañang was #1 on the switchboard, #2 was the Hotel de Oriente. Located near the church of Binondo, the Plaza Calderon de la Barca, and fronting the Estero de Reina and San Fernando Bridge, it was truly a beautiful spot. [source] Jose Rizal himself stayed in No. 22.
The hotel was completely destroyed by bombs during the wars. Nothing survived except pictures of the exterior, and written accounts from visitors. Today, on the old site stands a gloomy grey office building like many others in Manila.
The new Hotel de Oriente in Las Casas is no longer a hotel, but a convention center and venue for functions. The team working on this massive undertaking had to start entirely from scratch.
The doors offer a hint of what is within- the woodwork has its own natural sheen. Let’s go inside!
Upon entering, I was momentarily speechless. There is such love and care in all the details. The very pillars and floors are lush works of marquetry and parquetry. There were few other visitors at the time, and with the light streaming in from the high windows, everything had an unearthly stillness.
On the first floor, the centerpiece is the Spoliarium, done entirely in inlaid wood. Off to the side is a little gallery.
On the second floor, you will be able to better appreciate the large carved figures on the walls.
There are also several chairs that seem to have been placed in the perfect spots to take pictures in. Ahem. You can go right ahead and sit, I did ask the guard beforehand.
From the second floor, you can access the main floor of the Manila Hall, which is their function room. I believe this is where the Bataan leg of the APEC Summit was held in 2015.
The artwork everywhere is well worth a closer look. The detail is elaborate, at the same time unvarnished wood has a certain rustic charm. I believe the delicate balance between these two is what makes the interior of the Hotel de Oriente so striking.
There’s one more floor left, let’s go! Further up and further in!
From the topmost staircase landing, you can get the best view of the artwork on the ceiling. The sunlight streaming through the windows is dazzling.
From here, you can enter the upper balcony of Manila Hall. Everything looks different from this angle! None of the hall lights were lit during this time of day, instead there were floodlights in the corners, buzzing faintly.
But wait a minute. There is the faintest hint of a cold breeze here, where there are no windows. Could it be… no…
… yes! Air-conditioning! Along the left side of the balcony there is a little gallery where you can chill for a while. On display are samples of the artwork on display, with information on the recreation process. There’s also a curtained-off section which I believe is a small screening theater.
This was a really enjoyable experience. Even if you don’t get the full Heritage Tour, paying a little extra to see the Hotel de Oriente is a must. It is an amazing tribute to Filipino craftsmanship.
The third and last post in the series features the afternoon river cruise on the Umagol River!