Experience a blend of East and West, and of old and new at these luxe business hotels in the Philippines’ capital.
It’s not one city but 17 cities, provinces and municipalities – a hot, hectic, traffic-strangled mega-metropolis of 12 million souls sandwiched between a bay and a lagoon on a volcano-, hurricane- and flood-prone island. But scratch below the surface and Manila opens up like an exotic flower. From the 400-year-old citadel, Intramuros, to the new CBD built from the ground up in a matter of years, the Philippines’ capital is a blend of East and West, of old and new, of the timelessness of the Orient and bullet-speed development. The country’s economy has grown by more than six per cent per annum over the past six years and looks on track to breach seven per cent, outpacing even China’s growth.
With a large English-speaking population and a massive service sector, Manila is positioned to take the lion’s share of foreign investment. Plus, there’s a bonus when doing business in Manila: the locals are almost supernaturally friendly. “It’s easy to overlook the things that are not good about this city because the people make you feel so good,” says Tina DiCicco of Air Juan, a helicopter operator that helps high-net-worth individuals beat the traffic by flying them to meetings around the city. “Whenever you go to a restaurant or a hotel, staff always have a smile waiting for you. It’s not just a transaction.”
￼Art-lovers will have a hard time passing up a stay at this resplendent boutique hotel. With just 32 suites and more than 1600 paintings and sculptures, the Raffles Makati is a treasure-trove of tasteful artworks, which are dotted throughout. Each suite has floor-to-ceiling windows to capture city views, hardwood floors with hand-finished rugs, a coffee machine, a generously proportioned desk and a pillow menu. Beyond the serenity of the hotel’s low-key lobby is Manila’s lively nightlife district, plus some of the city’s best designer shopping right on the doorstep.
Business facilities: A team of butlers offers round-the-clock secretarial services at the business centre or in the comfort of your room. Seven function rooms include a grand ballroom and flexible meeting rooms.
Wi-fi: Free high-speed internet throughout.
Food and wine: The parlour-like Writers Bar regularly hosts book launches and readings as well as daily afternoon tea, while the Long Bar is the place for signature cocktails and exclusive whisky labels. For dinner, Spectrum restaurant does European, Asian and local dishes in a relaxed, modern setting.
Fitness and wellbeing: There’s an outdoor swimming pool and fitness centre with the latest Technogym machines and personal trainers. Spread over 1200 square metres, Willow Stream Spa has steam rooms, relaxation lounges, mineral pools and hair and nail salons.
1 Raffles Drive, Makati Avenue, Makati City; raffles.com
The Peninsula Manila
Makati is Manila’s primary central business district, a compression point of skyscrapers and mega-malls where one million Filipinos stream in to work each day. Its landmark hotel is The Peninsula, a grande dame with a colonnaded exterior and cascading water feature that wouldn’t look out of place in ancient Rome. From the lobby, a magnificent marble staircase leads to a pair of towers with 424 rooms, 45 suites and the Peninsula Suite, a palatial two-bedroom residence frequented by heads of state and CEOs visiting Manila.
Business facilities: The Peninsula is one of the city’s most prestigious venues for events, with three ballrooms, 10 function rooms and two high-tech boardrooms. For meetings, there’s the Club Lounge or the business centre, which offers secretarial services. Wi-fi Free throughout.
Food and wine: Old Manila is a French restaurant with a private dining room for 24 people, while Spices features a pan-Asian menu and garden views. For a cocktail bar straight out of 1930s Shanghai, make your way to Salon de Ning.
Fitness and wellbeing: Birds. Tropical gardens. Sparkling water. No, it’s not one of the Philippines’ 7100 islands; it’s The Peninsula’s outdoor pool, an oasis in the city that’s open from 6am to 10pm. The gym has several cardio and weight machines and holds yoga classes, while the luxury locker rooms have saunas and spa baths.
￼Corner of Ayala and Makati avenues, Makati City; ￼manila.peninsula.com
Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila
Built as a billeting venue for delegates at the 1976 meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the 609-room Sofitel is within easy walking distance of Manila’s International Convention Center. Sited on Manila Bay with a lagoon-shaped Olympic-size pool replete with palm trees and waterfalls, it’s the only five-star hotel in the city with a resort setting.
Business facilities: In addition to the Grand Plaza Ballroom, there are 14 meeting rooms and two air-conditioned marquees to accommodate events of all types and sizes.
Wi-fi: Free and fast throughout.
Food and wine: Choose from Spiral, the hotel’s vast flagship restaurant that’s divided into 21 dining ateliers offering everything from hand-pulled Asian noodles to regional French dishes and Italian wood-fired pizzas; La Veranda, a light-filled, glass-enclosed lounge with an outdoor terrace; Le Bar, which combines a bistro, patisserie and library; Snaps Sports Bar for an upmarket take on pub food; and the Sunset Bar, a poolside venue with an à la carte grill.
Fitness and wellbeing: The spa offers ancient Filipino treatments; gym classes include yoga, Zumba and boxing; and there are nail and hair salons. There’s also a jogging trail that runs through the complex, with maps provided for guests.
￼CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City; sofitelmanila.com
Shangri-La at the Fort
A former army base, Bonifacio Global City (aka The Fort) is Manila’s little Singapore – a clean, orderly CBD with wide boulevards, beautiful parks, boutique shopping and top-shelf bars and cafés. As of March this year, The Fort also has a hotel to match. Spanning 62 floors, this Shangri-La property is a massive mixed-use complex with 576 rooms and suites, 97 serviced apartments, a retail precinct and an indoor sports centre.
Business facilities: A total of 19 multifunctional event spaces, complete with concierges and an office for event management.
Wi-fi: Free, fast connection throughout.
Food and wine: There are 15 bars and restaurants to choose from, including Canton Road for Chinese cuisine and Samba Poolside for Latin-American favourites.
Fitness and wellbeing: Set on levels five and six, the Kerry Sports Manila has 8000 square metres of fitness facilities: tennis courts, a basketball court, squash courts, a 25-metre pool, state-of-the-art gym and a tranquil day spa with 10 treatment rooms.
￼Corner of 30th Street and 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City; shangri-la.com