By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

WITH THE HOLIDAYS and the long weekends coming, now is the best time to book a staycation at InterContinental Manila hotel — after all, it is offering a 50% discount until December on its flexible weekend room rates for MasterCard cardholders. But perhaps there is a better reason: to create one last new memory of the iconic hotel before it bids its final goodbye.

InterCon, regarded as the longest operating international chain hotel in the Philippines, opened on April 11, 1969 — one of the very first buildings in Makati’s Ayala Center — and, after 46 years of service, it will finally be closing its doors.

The 332-room hotel will cease operations when the hotel management contract between Ayala Land Hotels and Resorts Corp.’s (AHRC) subsidiary and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG)  ends on Dec. 31.

In its place will rise an intermodal transport hub and mix-used development.

Prince Albert Resto
A function room at the Prince Albert Restaurant.


Designed by the National Artist Leandro Locsin, the hotel would have many tales to tell, if only its walls could talk. After all, in its four decades, Manila’s first five-star hotel has seen many guests and hosted many a celebration — and was, for a time, THE place for political gossip at its iconic Jeepney Bar.

Ayala Land Vice-President and Head of Operations for Makati Manny A. Blas himself celebrated his high school graduation at the InterCon. Many other people would hang out with their families after Sunday mass at Prince Albert, InterCon’s fine dining restaurant, and the Jeepney Bar (which at one point, featured real jeepneys).

Sometimes, on a whim and with a bit of extra money in my pocket, this writer would visit the hotel and order its most popular dessert — crepe samurai with mangoes, at P400++ a pop.

Asked what happens now to the crepe samurai, IHG area general manager Christian Pirodon said they would be giving away its secret recipe when one buys a pastry at Prince Albert sometime in December.

“We will also be having our traditional New Year’s Eve celebration [so technically the hotel will close on Jan. 1, 2016] and other nostalgic events. Last week, we received letters from patrons who shared their stories of their baptism, wedding, proposals…” said Mr. Pirodon, while smiling. He has lived in the country for the past 15 years, and stayed at the InterCon for the first few months when he moved here.

The lineup of events includes a get-together of some of the hotel’s popular chefs through the years, and other Christmas and New Year promos people should watch out for.

The customers are not the only ones feeling nostalgic — so are the hotel’s approximately 200 employees.

“They received [the news] well. They understood it. Of course, a lot were emotional because they’ve been here all their life. You cannot help but feel for InterCon,” said Mr. Pirodon who mentioned there would be job fairs for the employees.

A former longtime employee — Prince Albert restaurant director Francis Felipe — once told this writer that he had served many personalities in his 30 years of service. His favorite and most memorable experience was serving the first president of the United Nations General Assembly, Carlos P. Romulo, after whom one of Prince Albert’s function rooms was named.

“He always had his glass of champagne,” Mr. Felipe said back then. “And he would ask me to ring a bell before I serve the food.” In 1987, Mr. Felipe served Mr. Romulo his last dinner.

Jeepney Resto
The iconic Jeepney Bar with its jeepney booths.

“In five years, Makati will look different,” Mr. Blas told BusinessWorld.

The 332-room hotel will cease operations when the hotel management contract between AHRC’s subsidiary and IHG ends on Dec. 31. In its place will rise an intermodal transport hub and mix-used development.

“This is to configure to traffic,” said Mr. Blas. “You experience traffic woes, matira ang matibay, ang tagal mong mag-hihintay ng bus (It’s survival of the fittest, waiting a long time for a bus). We thought that this is something we want to provide the people where you can wait with air-condition, shops, and café. It’s a way of trying to address the problems we have.”

He said the intermodal transport hub would be a modern facility “with pre-departure areas for people [leaving and] arriving by the bus, FX, or taxi in the morning and afternoon to have a comfortable place. It would clear up the portion of EDSA where the buses are.”

Construction will start next year, and is seen to be completed in 2020. He said it will open in phases. The transport hub and retail shops will open in 2018 or 2019. Offices and hotels will open in 2020.

“Not too long from now. It’s just around the corner. Within the foreseeable future, Makati will change,” he said.

BusinessWorld stayed at the iconic hotel upon the invitation of Ayala on Oct. 23 and 24.