Within the Walled City

- Lester Gopela Hallig () - December 4, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Who would have imagined that a hotel like this exists in Intramuros?

That was our first thought the moment we stepped inside The Bayleaf. See, whenever one mentions Intramuros, our thoughts automatically connect to the word “historic” for pretty obvious reasons. So when we found ourselves admiring the splendid interiors, the well-appointed suites, and the hospitable staff, we realize that The Bayleaf is writing its own history.

For starters, The Bayleaf offers 57 guestrooms consisting of 40 superior rooms, 13 deluxe rooms, three premier suites, and one Bayleaf suite. The luxurious rooms come with a spacious bathroom with rain shower, advanced proximity card door lock system, 32-inch multimedia LCD cable television, in-room safety deposit box, mini bar, and reliable in-room Wi-Fi access, among others.

These comfort creations are complemented by The Bayleaf’s equally impressive food and beverage outlets. We have dined at the flagship all-day dining restaurant 9 Spoons and found the buffet absolutely superb. At the time of our visit, 9 Spoons was offering the Ilocano favorite bag-net, a veritable masterpiece of crispness, with the skin all but peeling off from the fat. The rest of the lunch buffet convinced us that this restaurant is bound to be on everyone’s discovery lists in no time. Plus, 9 Spoons features a jaw-dropping spectacular view of Manila. The greens of the golf course refresh below. Look up and see what’s beyond the capital city’s skyline: mountains, sunset, sky, and a wide-eyed wonder of the lives of Filipinos living within that expanse. Pretty amazing, really.

Let us say right now that the hotel spells world-class all throughout. The good news is, The Bayleaf is locally owned and 100-percent Filipino.

“Our vision is to come up with a five-star product with five-star service at a three-star price,” begins The Bayleaf general manager Ed Vitug. “We want to offer guests five-star experience and amenities without having to pay five-star rates. Our buffet, for example, is a great price for P600. It is not as big as the rest but you can expect the right selection of dishes.”

Cutting the ceremonial ribbon during the recent soft-opening of The Bayleaf are (from left) Miss World first runner-up Gwendolyn Ruais, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Lorna Laurel, Cory Quirino, and The Bayleaf general manager Ed Vitug.

“Our target market is made up of corporate types, people not into high budget. So far, we have been receiving business travelers and government offices,” he adds.

The location of The Bayleaf surely plays an advantage to the equation. Indeed, the Walled City has opened up a whole range of possibilities for this fledgling hotel. Vitug remarks, “I cannot imagine another place with a better view of Manila. The Bayleaf is the place where you will appreciate Manila. Hopefully people discover us sooner so we can show them what we have to offer.”

To the lucky ones who have already enjoyed (and returned to) The Bayleaf, they swear by its F&B outlet. Aside from 9 Spoons, there is Cioccolata, a home-concept café. “It is churros café, really. Our specialty is our freshly made Churros con Chocolate, coupled with our own blended coffee drinks. We are blessed to have this outlet. I am surprised by the response, totally beyond our expectations. A lot of students from the neighboring schools here flock to Cioccolata,” Vitug says.

Noteworthy is the fact that students play a major role in The Bayleaf’s staffing. Vitug reveals, “Our business model is 30 to 40 percent students. We want to make use of the students that we have in the university beside us, the Lyceum of the Philippines University, Manila. They are trained by experiencing real-life hotel operations. The school churns out the biggest number of hotel and restaurant management students in the country. Although they are students, they are heavily trained.”

He furthers, “Our guests appreciate the practical and the essential, none of the fluffy stuff. We have highly enthusiastic people who want to prove their worth, and are willing to learn from the professionals who are just as willing to impart knowledge to them.”

Meanwhile, The Bayleaf’s banquet side has five function rooms, a ballroom, and the Terrazas, indoor and outdoor venues with attention-grabbing views of the surrounding areas. Highly recommended for meetings and events, these rooms are equipped with wireless Internet access, state-of-the-art surround system, and more.

We could not help noticing the color combinations that provide additional zing to The Bayleaf. Vitug says, “We use food colors in our designs: aubergine, tomato orange, and lime green. At first we could not imagine those colors together but when we saw them together and in effect, they came out really well.”

This very promising start surely will blossom even more in the coming years. Truth is, The Bayleaf Intramuros is just a start. Expect more branches in Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, and Manila in the future. Exciting times ahead, for sure.

Vitug says, “Since we opened, I have been super excited. I look forward to seeing the hotel every day.” With a hotel as attractive as The Bayleaf inside out, the excitement is understandable.

* * *

The Bayleaf Intramuros is located at Muralla corner Victoria Sts., Intramuros, Manila. For more information, call +63 2 3185000. Visit its website at www.thebayleaf.com.ph.

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