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Here’s The Story of Silahis/Grand Boulevard Hotel And Why It Hasn’t Been Torn Down

Even though it’s been abandoned for years.
IMAGE Wikimedia Commons
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Anyone who has ever passed through Roxas Boulevard must have seen that massive building in Manila’s Malate district. It still bears the sign of Grand Boulevard Hotel, but those of a certain age remember it as Silahis Hotel. The building has been abandoned for years, which has led many to wonder why it hasn’t been demolished yet so the area could be used for something more productive and aesthetically pleasing. 

The short answer is that property has been tied up in litigation for years, but if you want to understand why that building has been slowly rotting away, you first need to understand its history.

History of Silahis Hotel

The Silahis Hotel was built during the so-called “hotel rush” in the mid-1970s. The Philippines was hosting the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1976. It was a huge deal for the country at the time, and so the government under then-President Ferdinand Marcos fast-tracked the construction of several hotels that would fill the need for the influx of international attendees for the major financial event.

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Over a dozen hotels were built during this period, including the Century Park Sheraton, the Manila Mandarin (later called the Mandarin Oriental), the Philippine Village Hotel, the Manila Midtown Ramada, the Peninsula Manila, the Philippine Plaza (now Sofitel), and the Silahis Hotel.

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Designed by famed architect Lor Calma and located just off Rajah Sulayman Park near the Malate Church, the Silahis Hotel was a 21-story building with 600 rooms and had spectacular views of Manila Bay. It eventually became one of the top hotels in the bay area, attracting not just foreign business and leisure travelers, but partygoers from Manila’s social set. 

In fact, one of the city’s most iconic nightspots was located at the old Silahis. Stargazer, founded by nightlife king Louie Ysmael, was located at the hotel’s 19th floor. In 1978, the hotel would also become home to another entertainment hotspot when it opened the Playboy Club, which was a franchise of the original club founded by Hugh Hefner. (That club closed down in 1991).

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Silahis Hotel was owned by the Enriquez-Panlilio clan and that particular property was owned by Leandro “Biboy” Enriquez. The family owned the Sulo Hotel and Restaurant Group that also included Sulo Hotel in Quezon City. According to the book Thirty Years Later…Catching Up with the Marcos-Era Crimes by Myles Garcia, the Enriquez-Panlilio family supplied the food for most of former First Lady Imelda Marcos’s fancy events and parties. The family also owned businesses related to real estate and shipping.

As the family members allegedly benefited from their proximity to the Marcoses, so did they suffer when the dictator was deposed from power. 

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
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Sequestered by the government

After the Edsa People Power of 1986 toppled Marcos’ regime, one of the first orders of business of the newly installed government of President Corazon Aquino was the recovery of so-called “ill-gotten wealth” not just by the Marcoses, but also by their relatives, friends, and business associates, or cronies.

According to court documents, at the time of the Marcoses’ ouster, the country’s debt was over $26 billion, “and the indications were that ‘illegally acquired wealth’ of the deposed president alone, not counting that of his relatives and cronies, was in the aggregate amount of from 5 to 10 billion U.S. dollars, the bulk of it being deposited and hidden abroad.”

The government seized or sequestered many companies, properties, and assets between 1986 and 1987, including those of the Enriquezes and Panlilios—Philippine Village Hotel, Inc., Ternate Development Corporation, Fantasia Filipina Resorts, Inc., Monte Sol Development Corporation, Olas del Mar Development Corporation, Puerto Azul Ocean Villas Condominium, Philroad Construction Corporation, Sulo Dobbs, Inc., Hotel Properties, Inc., and Silahis International Hotel, Inc.

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Specific to Silahis Hotel, the family members named as respondents in the case—which included Modesto Enriquez, Trinidad Diaz Enriquez, Rebecco Panlilio, Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio, and Leandro Enriquez—were “accused of acquiring the controlling interests in the Silahis International Hotel from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), for an undervalued price, by improper means, and in conspiracy with the latter's then Vice-Chairman (Don M. Ferry).”

In July 1989, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) took over management and operations of Silahis Hotel through a management committee headed by Antonio Villanueva. “The mission order stated that the take-over was meant ‘to protect the interest of the government’ in view of ‘the state of labor/management situation,’” according to court records. 

Of course, that takeover was challenged by the Enriquez-Panlilio family, leading to a protracted legal battle that would take years. The Sandiganbayan would later lift the PCGG’s sequestration orders, which essentially handed control of Silahis Hotel and the other properties of the Enriquez-Panlilio clan back to the family. This ruling would later be upheld by the Supreme Court.

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From Silahis to Grand Boulevard Hotel

Meanwhile, the AccorHotels Group had taken over operations of the hotel and rebranded the property into the Sofitel Grand Boulevard Hotel. It stayed that way for a number of years until the contract ended and the AccorHotels Group set its sights elsewhere in the bay area—on the old Westin Philippine Plaza. In 2006, the old Westin became the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel, which still exists to this day.

As for the Grand Boulevard, it seems numerous legal complications weighed it down so much it was never fully able to reclaim its glory days. Besides the Enriquez-Panlilio clan’s tussle with the national government, it also encountered tax payment issues with the city government of Manila.

In November 2007, despite protests from the hotel and a stay order issued by a local court, Manila city officials auctioned off the hotel. In the auction that lasted for only 20 minutes, a company called Pacific Wide Realty and Development Corp. (PWRDC) bought the 6,444.10-square meter property for P106.65 million. At the time, the city government claimed Grand Boulevard Hotel owed about P106.6 million in real estate taxes plus another P70 million in unpaid mayor’s permit and business permits for a total of P176 million.

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According to the city treasurer, the hotel’s market value at the time was P538 million.

The owners challenged the auction in court, but by July 2008, the city government had taken over the hotel and padlocked the building. Grand Boulevard had drastically cut down operations since it was served notice that the city government would take over the establishment. 

But the owners did not relinquish control of the property that easily, literally “fighting City Hall” when they claimed they tried to settle its tax dues but was ignored. In January 2009, the Silahis International Hotel Inc. (SIHI) asked the Manila Regional Trial Court to declare it had redeemed its tax obligations, following the city treasurer’s refusal to accept payment. 

The case has been tied up in court for years, with the owners taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. As recently as 2015, SIHI and Pacific Hotel Corp had asked the High Court to review a lower court order that canceled the companies’ ownership titles of their properties. The companies’ motions for reconsideration at the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court had earlier been denied. 

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The most recent news about the property we could find was in 2017, when the Court of Appeals (CA) denied a petition by the owners of Grand Boulevard to embark on a corporate rehabilitation.

According to the report,  “SIHI failed to provide any document to support its claim that majority owner JP Guilds Incorporated had committed to finance the hotel’s capital and operating expenses of up to P100 million.

“The decision also noted that Grand Boulevard would need a ‘total overhaul in order to resume its operations,’ since its outstanding debt of P2 billion left it in a ‘miserable operational condition’ before it closed down.”

We can only assume that there are active cases in court related to the Grand Boulevard Hotel property, and unless these are settled with finality, we’re probably going to be seeing that massive building along Roxas Boulevard for years to come.

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About The Author
Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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