Rediscovering old Manila with luxe boutique experience

The hotel’s developer Anchor Land Holdings and manager Accor Hotels kept the elegant white paint of the old building constructed by the Lopez-Araneta family and its eight-story height.

Amid the proliferation of towering glass-walled hotels in the cities, the country’s first luxury boutique hotel invites people to revisit the charm of old Manila and the evolution of Filipino culture.

Admiral Hotel Manila-MGallery stops guests at its façade with a display of a vintage car, setting an air of mystery on the type of ambience inside, especially to the young guests born many years after 1939 when the hotel was originally built.

“It is a gateway to the city’s vibrant past and present,” says Matthieu Busschaërt, the hotel’s general manager. “This luxury boutique hotel is designed to evoke Manila’s Golden Age.”

Located across the Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard in Malate, the eight-story Admiral Hotel used to be a landmark for seafarers and meeting place of the Filipino, Spanish and other foreign members of the elite classes who wanted to soak in the bay’s world-famous sunset.

“The seafarers would know that they were already in Manila because of this building was the tallest in this area back then,” says Katrina Nocom, the hotel’s assistant director for marketing communications.

Instead of a grand, crystal chandelier at the main lobby, heads turn up toward the deliberately scattered paper sheets showing the old Filipino alphabet Alibata.

“The amazing experience begins in the lobby with the eye-popping Las Paginas de la Historia (Pages of History) art installation. Reflecting local culture through the design, guestrooms capture the spirit of the Old Manila elegance coupled with modern refinement,” Busschaërt says.

Several floors up, a huge stack of white marble-like tiles lit by warm backlights also compels the eyes toward the ceiling covered by a colorful, mosaic-like image depicting traditional Filipino activities and arts, such as Tinikling dance and bayanihan.

Decor

Meanwhile, Spanish design in furniture pieces and wall decorations is retained throughout the hotel, with Filipino crafts, such as vases and baskets, displayed on bookshelves beside wall-sculpted recreations of the old Admiral Hotel.

The hotel’s developer Anchor Land Holdings and manager Accor Hotels kept the elegant white paint of the old building constructed by the Lopez-Araneta family and its eight-story height.

“Classic and contemporary Filipino-Spanish design and architecture elements have been reinterpreted into contemporary aesthetics for Instagram-ready spots and spectacular narratives and stories that make Admiral Hotel 

Manila–MGallery stand out among the five-star hotels in Manila,” Busschaërt says.

The boutique hotel has only 123 rooms, one presidential suite and six executive rooms.  The hotel started welcoming guests in July 2022.

Guests can explore the Filipino heritage, culture and arts one floor at a time. Six floors are dedicated to guest rooms.

“The theme of the second floor is festivals. Beside the door of each room is a postcard showing the festive activity along with the name of the provincial area where the festival originated,” Nocom says. “On the third floor, there are artworks related to the Philippine heroes. That’s one way of showing the Filipino heritage.”

The interior of the room exudes elegance with its earth-toned walls and furniture and are modernized with sleek, interestingly shaped golden lamps.

Secret attraction

A push on one of the hotel’s bookcases leads guests to Ruby Wong’s Godown, a speakeasy bar and Filipino-Chinese food restaurant on the lower floor of the hotel.

The old China is recreated with Ruby Wong’s cobbled tiles, Chinese lanterns and waitresses dressed in cheongsam. It also reminds guests of the rise of speakeasy bars during the Prohibition Era when the supply of alcohol was ordered illegal to prevent alcoholism among the public.

On one side of the restaurant, guests can delight in traditional Filipino-Chinese comfort food, such as dim sums and noodles. On the other side, guests can sip alcohol while grooving with the music played by Ruby’s disc jockey.

“Ruby Wong is a fictional character. She is there but you can’t see her. She can offer you free drinks,” Nocom says in jest.

From down to the top, El Atrio Lounge opens up to the catwalk table, a long table step propped up by a short flight of stairs and serves several purposes other than dining.

“Guests can dance on top. With projectors hanging from the ceiling, companies can also play videos or presentations and project them on the table as the screen. Guests can also sit on the steps to gaze at the sunset,” Nocom says.

The lounge exudes a refreshing, airy feel with a huge sun roof and glass sliding doors that allows access to a lap pool and panoramic view of the Manila Bay.

The lounge offers buffet meals through eight food stations.