WHAT’S IT LIKE? It was touch and go sometime back for this 38-year-old property, when word spread that the owners – the Ayala family – were planning to tear it down and redevelop. Luckily, this enlightened clan of industrialists who are also known for philanthropic works, decided an institution had to be kept and maintained, delighting generations of guests, both local and foreign.
A US$6 million refurbishment followed and was completed in October 2006 after only six months, unveiling a raft of welcome improvements. “Warm contemporary” best describes the results, and it helps that the Ayala patriarch, Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala – an accomplished photographer, whose current style veers to painting-like oeuvres – has contributed choice images to hang behind the reception counter and in the executive lounge.
Since many of the staff were retained, they provide the familiarity InterCon Manila’s long-standing clientele yearns for.
WHERE IS IT? In the Makati CBD and at the start of Ayala Avenue, where all the city’s major banks and financial institutions have established their head offices. As an anchor tenant of the Ayala Center, it’s the gateway to a myriad opportunities to shop (the popular SM Shoemart department store and posh Rustan’s – once Imelda Marcos’ happy browsing grounds – are minutes away) and dine (beyond Ayala Center is Greenbelt connected by a footbridge, which leads to innovative cuisine and vibrant nightlife). On a good day without traffic, the journey from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to the hotel is about 30 minutes.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 335 guestrooms, 59 of which are suites that follow a palette of earth tones and showcase a walnut finish in the detailing. The whitewashed walls appear cool to the eye and mind exposed to Manila’s tropical climate and frenetic environment.
ROOM FACILITIES: Female travellers booked in Club Rooms on the Lady Traveller package (US$205) receive a basket filled with special amenities such as a nail kit and pumice, in-room breakfast and a foot massage among others. But the existing amenities are adequate for male tastes, never fear.
The TV is flat-screen but not yet the wall-mounted model. Satellite programming provides a bewildering menu of channels that threaten to keep one up to the wee hours, while the local channels offer relentless talk-show babble, covering every topic under the sun, from politics to showbiz, from religious issues to mundane matters. High-speed broadband access is available at US$20 for the entire day and US$10 per hour but a two-hour use nets an automatic upgrade to 24 hours.
RESTAURANTS: Despite numerous freestanding competitors, Prince Albert Rotisserie and the Jeepney Coffeeshop (alas, the set of actual jeepneys used as dining areas have long vanished and on the walls instead are fancy metalwork that are notable features of this unique Filipino transport) continue to attract a loyal crowd. Prince Albert, a well-known power lunch nook, has added a show kitchen to its main dining section. Of the three private salons, the most distinguished is the 12-seater Carlos P Romulo room, named after the country’s premier diplomat.
The Jeepney Coffeeshop pleases with its buffet spread available for lunch and dinner – and the seriously sweet of tooth shouldn’t miss the Mango Crepe Samurai, which has been a staple of the dessert station for many years. The attached deli carries various breads and pastries.
BARS: Gambrinus, off the lobby, offers live music nightly, and Sol y Sombra invites the in-house guest to sip and swim.
BUSINESS FACILITIES: Pièce de résistance is the new executive lounge (pictured) on the 14th floor. Occupying 300sqm, it boasts a wraparound view of Makati’s commercial and residential areas and on a clear day, even as far as Manila Bay and a terrace garden that breaks the concrete monotony.
The lively colours of the carpet, spacious sitting area and shelves filled with interesting coffee-table books and oriental objets d’art create a sense of coming home to an elegant residence, one that we would all like to own. Two workstations are for quick email checks and there is a boardroom for 12. The breakfast buffet is extensive.
LEISURE FACILITIES: The swimming pool, set within some mature foliage, can be seen from the small gym. Spa treatments are available.
PRICE: Internet nightly rates start from US$114.67 for a three-night stay in mid-December.
VERDICT: Refreshed surroundings, unbeatable location and well-honed service manners present a business traveller’s dream.
CONTACT: 1 Ayala Avenue, 1226 Makati City, tel 632 815 9711, www.ichotelsgroup.com
Margie T Logarta