CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES | Philippine Plaza Hotel

The photos above were taken during our stay in December 2009. The ones below are from The Architecture of Leandro V. Locsin (1977). (I rather like the ’70s look compared to what we stayed in, but I’d recommend the Sofitel [formerly Westin] Philippine Plaza Hotel if you’re staying in Manila, especially if you’re interested in exploring the CCP Complex). I always feel a certain frisson when I stay there and think this was once Imelda’s property.

Here are some relevant paragraphs on the hotel from Waltzing with a Dictator by Raymond Bonner:

While struggling not to upset Marcos, the U.S. officials displayed what most charitably can be described as insensitivity and arrogance in meeting the opposition leaders. The meeting was scheduled for [Vice President Walter] Mondale’s suite in the Philippine Plaza Hotel. The hotel was owned by Imelda Marcos, though her ownership was hidden. It was one of fourteen first-class hotels rushed to completion in 1976 so that Manila and the Marcoses could be hosts for the annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Most of these hotels were owned by Marcos’s cronies, and they were financed with government loans and government guarantees to banks. At least $75 million for the Philippine Plaza came from the Government Services Insurance System, which handled government employee pensions. All the hotels were appropriate to Hong Kong, London, or New York but were an ostentatious waste in the Philippines. Altogether the government spent at least $500 million on the hotels, compared with $13.3 million in the same year for public housing, desperately needed in a country where the per capita income was less than $400 a year and where at least half the population lived in hovels. Within months the hotels were largely vacant, the owners couldn’t pay on their loans, and Marcos, with a stroke of his dictatorial pen, rescheduled the loans, to avoid government foreclosure.

Located behind her Cultural Center, Imelda Marcos’s Philippine Plaza, with its balconies looking over Manila Bay, was the largest (730 rooms) of the crony hotels, and the most expensive. Because of kickbacks and windfall profits from the rushed construction, the cost per room was at least $100,000, making it at the time the most expensive hotel ever built anywhere in the world. The lobby is massive; an escalator descends to a pond stocked with fish; outside, rocks have been fashioned into falls to carry water into the pool, which has a floating bar in the center.

– Raymond Bonner. Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy. New York: Times Books, 1987 : 243

And here are some photos of “the most expensive hotel ever built anywhere in the world” as it appeared int the 1970s:


The Philippine Plaza reaches out toward the sea on the shore of the (then) recently reclaimed land that cuts dramatically into Manila Bay. The hotel is so oriented as to give its … rooms a singular view of the bay or Metro Manila itself, and of the gentle curve of Roxas Boulevard. Given its tropical setting, [the hotel] was conceived as a high-quality, modern, informal resort hotel with an atmosphere suggesting the Filipino propensity for celebration.

– Nicholas Polites, The Architecture of Leandro V. Locsin (1977)

Imelda’s hotel. How she must have hated having her assets seized.

How she must have felt a twinge of something or another when she returned in 2009 to celebrate her 80th:

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BTW, the hotel grounds, resort pool, and gardens were designed by another National Artist, Ildefonso P. Santos:

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