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A home in the mountains

Two decades of cozy luxury

Images by ART STA. ANA

Images by ART STA. ANA

I was already home, the door shut behind me when I realized that I left my wallet in the van that brought us from Baguio back to Manila. My jaw dropped to the floor.

So I called The Manor Hotel, told them of my predicament, and waited for a return call. A few days later, I picked up my wallet at the hotel’s Manila office, all of my membership and discount cards still inside. Even the P40 that were my life savings remained untouched. It felt like Christmas, not just because it was only a couple of weeks before this highly-anticipated day of titas telling you that you got fat or asking you why you were still single, but because I felt the care. The Manor Hotel inside Camp John Hay in Baguio City does live by the code “The Art of Caring,” and really, the idea of a “home away from home” feels just a little more real, just a little more special on its beautiful grounds.

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A Hotel Inside the Camp

The hotel opened in 2000 inside what used to be a US military rest and recreation grounds, and what was once the Officers’ clubhouse was transformed into a one-of-a-kind hotel. The layout remains practically unchanged. The hotel has that incomparable cabin feel, with wood and earth colors serving as the primary motif. The lobby leads to an open-air restaurant, Le Chef at The Manor, which in turn opens up to a sprawling garden area abloom with pine trees and sloping down to the forest below, as the hotel is located 5,000 feet above sea-level. The rooms are spacious—the smallest ones can accommodate a small party. No airconditioning was installed in any of the units. Only the ceiling fans and the open windows provide ventilation, as the whole hotel takes advantage of the cold climate of its location all year round.

Le Chef is by itself an attraction, with its rotating a la carte menus that include anything from succulent braised US beef to sinigang salmon belly to roasted prawn salad. The restaurant is managed by the amazing Billy King, rockstar chef of Le Souffle fame. With him at the helm, the restaurant is the best fine-dining restaurant in Baguio City. A bar is also located adjacent to the restaurant, where I indulged in glass after glass of Macallan, Martell, Amarula, and Johnny Walker until late night, as well as the Le Chef Delicatessen, which makes the freshest bread in the mountain city.

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Celebrations up the Mountains

Baguio City is among the most visited places in the country. There’s almost always something going on in the city, whether the Christmas season, the Panagbenga Festival, or the arrival of summer. On any of these occasions, The Manor is a favorite of those visiting the summer capital of the Philippines not just for the superior amenities, world class cuisine, or the nearby outlet stores, but because it always brings something unique to these celebrations.

An example would be the hotel’s Christmas Light Show, a new tradition (as contradictory as that phrase sounds) that can be found in the gardens of The Manor every Christmas. Only on its third year last year, it is now one of the most anticipated events in Baguio. Every December, a couple of weeks before Christmas Day, lights envelope the garden and every night, the lights “dance” to popular Christmas songs blaring out for spectators to enjoy.

ONE OF A KIND The Manor Hotel lives by the code, ‘The Art of Caring,’ from the amenities to the services, from the food to the entertaiment, guests always will always feel at home.

ONE OF A KIND The Manor Hotel lives by the code, ‘The Art of Caring,’ from the amenities to the services, from the food to the entertaiment, guests always will always feel at home.

“When we started this three years ago, we received good feedback. I thought we should do this every year to make the holidays really special,” said the hotel’s general manager Ramon Cabrera, himself a four-decade veteran in the hospitality business.

Indeed, there seems to be an aura of attention and thoughtfulness everywhere, with every little detail showing a deliberate extra step to make the guests feel as comfortable as possible. The whole place feels as serene as the space between pine trees, some few minutes away from now metropolitan Baguio. There might not be another place where you can feel more at home. Take it from me, that guy who lost his wallet. What would’ve been a disaster turned out to be a discovery of the true meaning of what it means to be taken care of, to relax completely, and cast all worries away. It may be 250 kilometers away from Manila, but The Manor will always be a second home to me. And now that the Flower Festival is just a few weeks away this February, I’m more than excited to see how the hotel and its management and staff will go out on a limb to make each guest, myself included, feel as though life were a bed of roses (without the thorns).

www.campjohnhay.ph