The façade of the new Taal Vista Hotel retains the original Tudor architectural style.
Taal Vista Hotel: Here for always
JVM Francisco (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Taal Vista Hotel, together with the Manila Hotel, are the grand dames of the Philippine tourism industry. Both hotels were built during the American colonial period and are considered the oldest hotels in the country.

This year, Taal Vista Hotel is celebrating its 80th anniversary. Its long history is as colorful as that of Tagaytay, shaped by the geography of the place and the political history of the region.

A deluxe room in the newly-renovated Mountain Wing.

The hotel’s story began in 1936 when newly-elected Commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon expressed his desire to develop Tagaytay as a tourism destination. The cool climate plus the spectacular view of Taal Volcano in the middle of Taal Lake made a perfect combination as a top tourism draw. The only thing lacking at that time was a lodging place for a weekend getaway. Quezon ordered the Manila Hotel Company to build a lodge and golf course along the ridge of Taal Lake. Three years later, on October 7, 1939, the Taal Vista Lodge opened its doors to the public as the prime lodging and recreational establishment in Tagaytay.

Grand ballroom set up for a function.

As a child, my fondest memories of Tagaytay are visits to Taal Vista Lodge. It offered the best vantage point for a family photo with the panoramic view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano in the background. After the obligatory photo session, it was time for lunch at the coffee shop, followed by horseback riding at the vacant lot beside the lodge. Merienda was the famed halo-halo or ice cream in a buco shell.

Guests at the bar of the Lodge circa 1940.

Since then, the ownership of Taal Vista Lodge changed hands from the government to the Resorts Hotel Corporation, to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). The hotel holds a special place in the heart of the late Henry Sy Sr., who used to visit Taal Vista Lodge and just sit on the ridge overlooking the lake. So in 1988 when DBP put the hotel on the block, Sy made a substantial offer and acquired it through SM Investments Corp. (SMIC).

To meet the growing need for hotel rooms in Tagaytay, SMIC decided to close down Taal Vista Lodge in 1999 for renovation and expansion. Sy requested his daughter Elizabeth to oversee the work and subsequently appointed her to head SM’s hotel business interests as president of SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. On March 27, 2003, the lodge reopened as Taal Vista Hotel with a new wing to accommodate more conference facilities and amenities for business and leisure activities.

Al fresco dining with a spectacular view at The Veranda.

Elizabeth recalls the time her dad acquired the hotel, “Taal Vista Lodge was a 49-year-old property which had seen better days.  However, keenly aware of the priceless natural surroundings of the property with decades of rich history, we saw the opportunity of bringing the property back to its glory days and preserving its value as a tourism destination of choice for Filipinos and foreign visitors alike.”  

Today, the 80-year-old grand dame of Tagaytay appears more like a millennial lass appropriately attuned with the times. “Taal Vista Hotel remains as the premier place to stay in Tagaytay due to the unrivaled views of the lake, location of the hotel and the beautiful grounds and surrounds,” says Richard Gamlin, the hotel’s general manager.

Bulalo and...

“We have so much to offer to kids and the young at heart. With an excellent mix of room types and views, including our newly renovated Mountain Wing and Ridge rooms, our facilities are first class and we have a room type for everyone. We have two excellent restaurants offering the best in Filipino foods as well as great seasonal, locally sourced and organic dishes,” he adds.

Nowadays, I always make it a point to stay at Taal Vista Hotel whenever I’m in Tagaytay. The historic allure of the place coupled with the scrumptious cuisine at Taza restaurant are magnets that draw me to the place time and again. And with the 80th anniversary celebration at hand, I guess my visits will become more frequent.

...balbacua  are favorites at The Veranda.

“The Sy family, especially, is very aware of the importance that Taal Vista Hotel has in the hearts of many Filipinos, so we’ve been tasked with making the 80th anniversary a very special event,” Gamlin reveals.

“With that in mind we are preparing to host a number of events throughout the year, including a music festival with some outstanding local talents over an extended weekend. We are also looking at a celebration of the local film industry by showing some great movies from the 1930s to the present on the Ridge. Also, we will be returning to the roots of Filipino cuisine by having some guest chefs recreate historical dishes with a modern twist,” he says.

The original Taal Vista Lodge circa 1940.

In the end, beyond these exciting festivities, it is the celebration of individual memories most of us have had within the halls and grounds of Taal Vista Hotel that create the lasting legacy of this grand dame. It does retain a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos – then, now and for always.

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