Saying goodbye to Sofitel

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
Saying goodbye to Sofitel
Clockwise, from above left: Ann Tan Kim by the staircase at Sofitel’s famous Spiral; ensaymada from Galette Patisserie Chocolaterie; Hawaiian pizza at Cocos restaurant by the poolside; and more pastries on display at the Galette Patisserie by the hotel lobby.

In exactly a week, Sofitel Philippine Plaza will close its doors after nearly 50 years as one of our country’s most luxurious hotels. When news outlets reported months ago that the hotel would close on July 1, I — like so many others — hoped to visit the beloved hotel one last time. My mom, journalist Jullie Yap Daza, called one day to say that she was having lunch at the Sofitel one Saturday in May, and that I was welcome to join her. Sadly, though, I was unable to.

Since then, I have been hoping for another opportunity to visit Sofitel, but no such luck. With time running out, I asked my brother Paul to write this piece. I couldn’t do it because I am out of town on the day this article is due. Here is Paul’s ode to the Sofitel, where he shares not just his memories of the Philippine Plaza, but also those of friends, officemates, and one of our 60-something titas, who visited the hotel for the very first time earlier this month. Read on:     

At my sister Pat-P’s request, I am penning this piece about the Sofitel, one of my favorite places. When mom and I arrived at the Sofitel for lunch a month ago, we both felt very nostalgic, especially since the last time we were there was before the worldwide lockdown of March 2020. After we cleared security on our way to Spiral, I caught a glimpse of the pool and remembered how much I enjoyed swimming there decades ago, when the hotel was known as the Westin Philippine Plaza. The pool was like a theme park experience, because it isn’t a plain rectangular pool, but a lagoon-shaped pond that snakes around, has slides, and even a mini-island in the center. It’s laid out so that you can even hide from family members behind a bend, or enjoy the mini waterfall as its sprinkly water cascades and massages your shoulders.     

At Spiral, we were led to a private room so that mom could chat with our gracious host, Steve Peña Sy, president of the company that owns Sofitel Philippines. And though he ordered the must-haves like foie gras, roast beef, peking duck, and lobster, he told us that we could go out to the ateliers/food stations and get whatever else we wanted. I used the privilege mainly in the Asian area, indulging my love for soup and seafoods by sampling the Tom Yum Goong, sushi, sashimi, tempura, sukiyaki, and chicken mami. The only food I got from the Churrasco Atelier was a bit of lamb. Though everything was truly delectable, the experience was made even more precious by the luxurious ambience and the fact that the meal was probably the last one we would enjoy at Spiral.

Since I’m not a foodie like Pat-P, it’s not the Spiral buffet that I will most miss about this splendidly beautiful hotel, but rather, the way the hotel would dress herself up during the Christmas season. In the late ‘80s, when the hotel was called the Westin Philippine Plaza, my family and friends would always try to visit during the ber months, just to see how the Christmas tree was decorated. How wonderful it was that though the tree seemed taller every year, its tip would never be tall enough to hit the hotel’s famed high ceiling.

All this nostalgia triggered by the Sofitel’s coming closure prompted me to ask friends and relatives to share their favorite Sofitel memory or say what they will miss most about the place. Perhaps the most surprising answer came from Millie, our intern who recently graduated from senior high school, who looked puzzled by the question and replied, ‘I don’t know…I’ve never been there.’

Thankfully, I had better luck when I asked older folk to share their Sofitel memories.  

Meyanne, 34: “I used to work as a freelancer several years ago, and I dabbled in TV acting as well. Although I only had one project with this giant network, it was a memorable experience for me. They held their trade launch in Sofitel that year, showcasing all their projects. The Sofitel team was very chill all throughout the event… they were so proactive whenever last-minute changes would happen, and I remember being very impressed by that. Of course, Spiral will be greatly missed by many. We had numerous family gatherings and celebrations there.”

Franz, 40s: “My earliest memory of Sofitel, or the Philippine Plaza as it was known back then, was when my mom was helping run a fashion show for Essilor in the ballroom in the late ‘80s when I was around 10 years old. The rehearsals were late at night so I got to run around the ballroom and lobby area with barely any other guests around. And many years later, my brother got married on the beachfront and they were one of the few parties allowed to have their reception at Spiral. It was when the extension was new and it created such a unique experience from any other wedding I’ve attended.”

Greg, 50s: “There was that once-in-a-lifetime weekend in the late ‘80s when our family stayed in the Imperial Suite, which back then cost P100,000 a night (it now costs P330,000 a night). Everything about it was luxurious…the bathroom, the living room, the kitchen… the suite was bigger than our house. I remember my friends coming over and how we took zany pictures in various parts of the suite, posing like we were the cast of a Hollywood soap about filthy-rich gazillionaires like Dallas or Dynasty. The Imperial Suite was decorated in a very Filipino, tropical way, and we took turns sitting on this beautiful rattan chair surrounded by leafy plants and acting like royalty. That night is a favorite college memory and probably the only time in my life when I felt like I was living in an episode of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’”

I will end this piece with the narration and photos of my Tita Ann Tan-Kim (mom’s cousin), who is a 60-something balikbayan retiree who came home several years ago. Tita Ann had never visited the Sofitel before and finally did so earlier this month:

“Jullie’s article about Sofitel inspired me to check it out before it closes. I was very curious about Spiral which I’ve heard so much about, especially its 21 (really?) food stations. It was crowded when I was there because it was a weekend & also because people wanted to experience dining there before it closed. Spiral is also famous for people posing by the spiral staircase so I wanted such a photo of myself to memorialize my visit.

“A bonus for me was the live music of three young musicians who were playing by the staircase. They (violinist, pianist and a cellist or bassist) even played Taylor Swift’s Romeo & Juliet song! I enjoyed listening to their playlist, which was a reflection of their age and not the usual boring elevator music.

“Because my small appetite did not justify the expensive cost of the Spiral buffet, I ended up having lunch at Cocos restaurant by the poolside. Good thing they serve kiddie-size pizza though I could not finish it either. It was one of the best, if not the best, Hawaiian pizza I have had. They did not scrimp on the bacon and the pineapple was fresh and did not come from a can!

“Before  leaving, I made sure to buy a couple of the Sofitel’s popular ensaymadas from Galette Patisserie Chocolaterie by the lobby. It was an enjoyable Saturday adventure.”

(Thank you for the good times, Sofitel Philippine Plaza! I hope I am lucky enough to visit you again before July 1.)

vuukle comment



  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with