Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is preparing to host the prominent 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' summit next fall. All of the world's leaders from US President Barack Obama to China’s President Xi Jin-ping are expected to attend. To host such a global event, a city typically needs the appropriate accommodations for the political elite, and thanks to Manila’s newest dual hotel property: Raffles Makati and Fairmont Makati, the city fits the bill.
Though each distinct luxury brands, the two hotels are owned by the same company and share a 30-floor tower, enticing culinary options and a relaxing spa with a flawless integration of luxury hospitality. On my last visit to Manila, I enjoyed both of these outstanding new properties and have no doubt each will be ideal hosts for presidents and dignities soon to arrive.
Prior to arriving, the staff of each property graciously arranged transportation and navigation needs and walked us to the street corner one morning to ensure we were headed in the right direction to a museum. Every request, from suggestions for activities to a change of seating in a restaurant was attended to immediately and with such sincerity that it stood out. I came to admire the natural hospitality of the Filipino people as many other have too. International travel forums are filled with commentary of "Philippines Hospitality," and even the country’s tourism board purports this standard. Both the Fairmont and Raffles staff showed consistent warmth and radiant smiles that certainly furthered this international expectation.
Matching its chic cultural surroundings, both properties showcase modern and captivating designs. Bent Severn & Associates, a Singapore-based interior design firm, designed both properties and kept the contemporary appeal consistent but distinct for each hotel. The centerpiece of Raffles Makati's lobby is a cascading crystal chandelier that dangles above velvet furnishings and a massive hand-tufted oriental carpet.
Floor-to-ceiling dark wood book shelves toward the back of the lobby lead guests to the Writers Bar, an elegant nook that serves proper Afternoon Tea and Champagne. The overall look of Raffles Makati is grand but approachable elegance, like the home of a gracious, well-heeled host. The Fairmont's reception area, just across a hallway, is more modern and buzzes with a heightened energy. The caramel marble flooring, the five-foot tall white vases, and a massive red-carpeted staircase make an impressive entry.
I'm not usually enthralled to hear that a hotel's main dining option is a buffet. However, the Spectrum restaurant, shared by both properties, has altered my former disregard for buffet-style concepts. Open all-day, Spectrum is a "culinary theater" which showcases the creation of hundreds of its dishes in an open kitchen format. Local Filipino dishes, Chinese dumplings, Indian specialties, American BBQ, and French pastries are all found at the restaurant. A honeycomb abuzz with bees drips off freshly made honey, and chefs roll sushi requests from guests. A wine list the length of a Michelin star restaurant's is also on hand at the Spectrum. More importantly, the food is exceptional and in short, is hardly a standard fare buffet.
Another outstanding feature of the two hotels is the Willow Steam spa, a signature of Fairmont properties that focuses on restoring energy to every guest. This particular spa is on the 4th floor of the hotels' tower and opens to an impressive outdoor pool complete with reed canopies and a full-service bar. The spa consistently offers specials, and one that I hope becomes a permanent treatment is the Warming Candle Oil massage. Part massage, part facial, this 90-minute treatment uses hand-poured warm candle oil (not wax) to relieve tension in the body and facial muscles. It's divine and perfect after a tough workout in the spa's 928-square-foot gym with city views.
The location of Raffles and Fairmont Makati is also worth a mention. The city sparkles with mega-malls, perfectly landscaped walkways, and handfuls of galleries, theaters, and museums, and is the cultural and entertainment center of the larger metro Manila area. These enticing attractions are located just a stroll away from the hotels' tower. I always appreciate accommodations that make on-foot treks easy. Manila has never been better with the additions of the two elegant sister properties.