In Photos: A Look Back at the Plaza and the Pen, Two Luxury Manila Hotels That Are Celebrating 45 Years in 2021 - Lifestyle Asia

Sofitel Philippine Plaza and Peninsula Manila, two five-star hospitality batch mates, have survived a lot over the decades and continues to weather the current pandemic. 

It’s been 45 years since Metro Manila’s “hotel boom,” when 14 properties were opened in time for the 1976 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Manila.

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The hospitality landscape has been through a lot in the decades since that year—not the least of which is the current global health crisis that presented roadblocks and challenges for the entire industry.

That’s why a 45th anniversary is even more significant. Not only does it mean it has managed to survive the crisis, it also gives others within the industry hope that it can be done and that there is something to look forward to.

Here are two hotels that are celebrating 45 years this year. 

Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila 

First called The Philippine Plaza, the 600-plus-roomed Pasay-based hotel was designed by Leandro V. Locsin & Partners. 

The Plaza sits facing the bay within the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex
An overhead view of the swimming pool area and the island bar

The firm also took on many of the buildings within the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex where the Plaza stands as well as its now-defunct batchmates Intercontinental Manila and the Mandarin Oriental. 

Prior to AccorHotel’s taking over its management, the property used to be handled by Starwood
A look at the lower ground level which now houses Spiral

Raul R. Locsin, who was chief architect of the project when it was being constructed, explained in 2014 that the “original theme of the hotel was contemporary Filipino as reflected with the Tinalak-inspired patterns in the guest room interiors.”

AccorHotels took over the management of the hotel in 2006 from the Starwood Group, and rebranded a year later as the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. 

The Grand Plaza Ballroom before it was rennovated in 2014
This length of lobby floor connects everything from the function rooms to the Spiral underneath it

In the last decade, the hotel underwent a redesign project that included its Grand Plaza Ballroom, its main dining destination Spiral, and Le Spa, all in time for the 2015 APEC Summit. Most recently, it was the site of the filing of candidacy for the 2022 Philippine Presidential Elections.

In celebration of its 45th birthday this month, Spiral and its  al fresco dining spot The Food Truck return after being sidelined by quarantine restrictions. Both outlets will offer a “Book for 4, Dine for 5” deal until the end of October. 

The comfortable couches at the lobby is a longtime staple
From left: Spiral’s Cheese Room; the Asian Atelier

For more information, visit SofitelManila.com.

The Peninsula Manila 

The sizable property at the corner of Makati and Ayala Avenues was the franchise of the Peninsula brand outside of Hong Kong. It was brought to life by Philippine Carpet Manufacturing Corporations PL Lim and La Tondeña’s Charlie Palanca.

The Pen’s fountain before it was rebuilt in 1994 to what we know it today
Music plays from the balcony that overlooks the famous Pen lobby

Gabriel Formoso designed the hotel, along with its Makati neighbors Asian Institute of Management and the Lepanto building along Paseo de Roxas, and the Pacific Star Building along Buendia. 

Its trademark fountain, which connected both wings of the hotel, was built in 1994 during a renovation effort. Other elements, from Napoleon Abueva’s sunburst art on the ceiling of the lobby to the marble staircases and balcony in awe of it below have come to define the hotel over the years.   

A pageboy goes around the lobby lounge
Old Manila has seen many transformations over the years

A rebel siege and military encounter upended that lobby in 2007, costing around P50 million in damages. Thankfully, the hotel rose from that incident and only afternoon tea and more genteel pursuits dominate memories about it. 

For this year’s celebrations, general manager Masahisa Oba asked the hotel’s executive chef Xavier Castello and his team to come up with an extensive menu featuring classic favorites and new flavors.

A fleet of luxury cars on standby is an image that has come to be associated with the Pen
Luxury boutiques line the second floor, which now house The Conservatory

Its prices reflect the spirit of the anniversary, taking on either the hotel’s age or the year of its birth: P45, P197.60, P450, and P1,976.60. This includes everything from Spices’ Nasi Goreng to Avocado Toast at the Lobby Lounge to treats from the Pen Boutique.

The Pen stands across other Makati landmarks including the Makati Stock Exchange Building
Strawberry Tarts from the Pen Boutique; Nasi Goreng from Spices

For more information, visit Peninsula.com.

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