The Manila Hotel embraces ilang-ilang for a Filipino Christmas

Sonny Coloma; Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, director of The Manila Hotel; Manila Vice Mayor Yul Servo Nieto; Nigeria Ambassador Folakemi Akinleye; Basilio Yap, chairman of The Manila Hotel; U.S. Ambassador MaryKay Carlson; Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan; Atty. Joey Lina, president of The Manila Hotel; DoT NCR Regional Director Sharlene Zabala-Batin; Miss Philippines Air 2023 Kerri Reilly; Dr. Emilio Yap III, vice chairman of The Manila Hotel; and The Manila Hotel Pinoy Santa Claus.

The legendary Manila Hotel magically transformed into a sight to behold — and more — this holiday season, for grandiosely tucked among its imposing white iconic lobby pillars was the majestic 20-feet Christmas tree, which unfailingly attracts the attention and admiration of VVIPs, esteemed diplomats, popular celebrities, persons of distinguished accomplishments and the curious public in general.

Faithfully committed to an all-Filipino year-end celebration, the fabled property has adopted for its celebratory theme the ilang-ilang, with the scientific name Cananga odorata — the official flower of the Manila Hotel.

Native to the Philippines, it is notable for its essential oils which exudes a captivating floral scent, which cements itself as a mainstay in the perfume and fragrance industries.

Much like its essence, its likeness now permeates through the entire area via motifs focused on bringing out the beauty of this flora.

The towering Yuletide Tree is primarily adorned by oversized
ilang-ilang flowers of compressed recycled paper, lavishly sprayed with gold.

There were also holiday balls in various sizes modeled from local vines and hardened creepers.

Instead of the usual hollies and mistletoes, desiccated mango leaves were utilized. To add the usual colorful touch, huge red ribbons were supplemented.

In true Filipino fashion, the ever-present parol of our childhood memories, of natural abaca fibers sourced from resourceful farmers, found its way into the medley of accessories. And finally, an embroidery took the form of a star perched at the very top.

The gentleman of the old-school responsible for this genuinely Filipino look is none other than Rachy Cuna, the creative and social director of the Manila Hotel, whose fertile mind never seems to run out of ideas.

At the recent Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, an elite selection of 12 notable individuals composed of diplomatic envoys, Manila City Hall and national government officials, hotel executives and even a Pinoy Santa Claus dressed in a barong, all simultaneously pressed the buttons, which brought the holiday tree aglow.

For this year, the Manila Hotel has chosen the House of Refuge — a halfway home which gives shelter and provides the basic needs of street children — as the beneficiary of its Corporate Social Responsibility projects.

In appreciation of their patrons and everyone involved in the charitable initiative, the children performed dance numbers, while they showcased their talents.

To add to the festivities, the Office of the President Chorale — straight out of Malacañang Palace — serenaded attendees with a series of traditional Tagalog Christmas carols.

The Manila Hotel president Atty. Joey Lina welcomed guests with a heartwarming speech, while City of Manila Mayor Maria Sheilah “Honey” Lacuna Pangan shared an inspirational talk and holiday remarks to Manilans and the rest of the country.

What followed was a cocktail reception at the always-lovely and favorite spot for relaxation Roma Salon. VVIPs and patrons partook in an assortment of classic Philippine delicacies in what is one of the most photographed rooms at the hotel.

As the evening winded down, I took a leisurely stroll around the all-too-familiar nooks and crannies of my youth, where I gladly noticed were ornately decorated and in-theme with the festive season.

Even the restaurants carried ilang-ilang flowers, while each table contained coconut flowers shaped into little Christmas trees as the centerpiece.

I could almost swear I could still smell the aromatic scent of the flower of choice, wherever I stood.

Now before the lobby, lit golden aglow by polished-to-a-t chandeliers and huge laminated cascading Capiz balls, it still harkens back to my favorite ad of yesteryears: There are a dozen incredible places to visit in Asia. One of them is a hotel — The Manila Hotel.