These Historic Hotels Are the Oldest in the Philippines
Many heritage houses and buildings are being adapted or reused as inns or hotels in the country. Henry Hotel in Pasay and the Rizal Park Hotel, which used to be the old Army Navy Club, are popular examples. The same is true in the provinces, especially in tourist-rich areas.
What is the first hotel in the Philippines?
It's difficult to pinpoint the oldest hotel in the Philippines. Are we going by structure or by establishment? In Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, several houses that are over a century old have been turned into guest houses. The 1873 Villa Angela Heritage House, for example, was converted to an inn in 2000. The Ciudad Fernandina Hotel, which used to be the home of a Chinese Mestizo family, was built in 1758. Hotel Luna, now a hotel-museum, was constructed in 1882, but became a hotel in 2014. Similar houses-turned-hotels can be found in Batangas, Baguio, and Corregidor.
However, historic hotels that have functioned as hotels since their inception are rarer. Most of these are concentrated in Metro Manila, the seat of power during colonial times, which vacationers or diplomats visited often. Here are some hotels that stood the test of time.
What are the oldest hotels in Manila?
1| Manila Hotel
Built in 1909, The Manila Hotel opened on June 4, 1912 to commemorate the American Independence.The hotel is most known for hosting General Douglas MacArthur during his tenure as the Military Advisor of the Philippine Commonwealth from 1935 to 1941. Currently, one of its suites is named after him.
The 570-room, five-star hotel also houses the offices of prestigious organizations such as The New York Times. Aside from MacArthur, other famous people have also stayed in the hotel, including author Ernest Hemingway, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, John Wayne, and more.
The hotel was unfortunately damaged during the Battle of Manila in 1945, but was slowly reconstructed to its former glory. An expansion also took place in the ‘70s.
2| Luneta Hotel
Opened in 1918, the Luneta Hotel was inspired by European hotels and designed by Spanish architect Salvador Farre. It is an example of Beaux Art architecture, with its posh interiors of black-and-white checkerboard floors and ornate classical detailing.
It soon became the most sought-after hotel of the city’s visitors, foreign dignitaries, merchants, and sailors due to its proximity to the port. It also became famous because of its exquisite breakfasts and luncheons that appealed to its foreign clientele.
During World War II, it was used as a prison for non-commissioned U.S. officers, but luckily, it wasn’t heavily damaged during the Battle of Manila. It became a refugee center for the Red Cross.
The ownership of the hotel was transferred to a crony during the Marcos dictatorship and, after the regime was toppled, it was closed and abandoned. In 1998, it was declared as a National Historical Landmark.
In 2007, Beaumont Holdings acquired the property and a year later, with the National Historical Commission’s approval for retrofitting and reconstruction, the hotel's rehabilitation was started.
Seven years later, the historic hotel finally reopened. The original 60 rooms were converted to 27 guestrooms and suites.
3| Miramar Hotel
Manila’s jazz age manifested itself at Miramar Hotel. The five-story boutique hotel was designed in the Art Deco style, with its ziggurat shapes and exaggerated scrolls on its facade and the interiors. Built in the 1930s along Roxas Boulevard, the edifice is considered by many as an architectural gem—a poignant reminder of the glitz and glam of Old Manila. This historic hotel in Manila is a favorite of vintage lovers.
4| Rizal Park Hotel
Though not exactly a hotel, the former Army Navy Club in Manila served as lodging for American soldiers and vacationers alike. Established in 1899, the original building moved several times, from Bagumbayan to Intramuros to T.M. Kalaw Extension in 1911. The move was part of Daniel Burnham’s plan for Manila and soon, the Army Navy Club became the social center of homesick American expats. It was also used as a venue by the government to entertain dignitaries from U.S. and other Western countries.
In its heyday in the ‘30s, the Army Navy Club had 70 furnished rooms for P2 a night. There was a barbershop and a shoeshine stand, the bar offered free peanuts, crackers and cheese spread, as well as lunch, and San Miguel beer was served on tap in frosted beer mugs.
During World War II, the basement of the club was used as a bomb shelter. When the city fell to the Japanese, it was turned into a garrison by the Imperial Forces. The hotel was heavily damaged during the Battle of Manila, but it was reconstructed and rebranded after the war. From a men’s service club, more family-oriented activities were offered. However, the club never fully recovered.
Its run as a social club ended in the ‘80s and the city government took over. In 1991, it was declared a National Historical Landmark. It served as an office for various businesses, such as the City Architect's Office, and then became the Museo ng Maynila before being abandoned.
In 2014, renovation began to transform the building into a five-star hotel. In 2017, the Army Navy Club was renamed the Rizal Park Hotel, with designs and interiors that echo its former glory.