The old Walled City of Manila was “four hundred years the flower & fruit,” rhapsodized the Manila-born National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin.
And nowhere is the past more redolent than in Intramuros, Manila, today, where history lives on in the splendid architecture of the buildings and tony restaurants, the cuisine of the late 19th century (check out “Ilustrado”), great churches, the old walls that are still standing, and even in the revolutionary rayadillo uniforms of the security guards.
The gracious living in the past (admittedly amidst revolutionary ferment then) may be seen in the courtyard and façade of the elegant budget hotel, White Knight Hotel Intramuros, which has an “historical accent,” as an executive put it.
The hotel is located near San Agustin church, “certainly the oldest church in the Philippines despite claims by other churches for this distinction” (Fathers Pedro Galende and Rene Javellana).
The hotel has a suite, an executive twin, and deluxe and standard rooms with all the amenities. You can play golf at the nearby Intramuros Golf Course, avail of the Wedding Package if you’re planning to get hitched, or listen to the live band in the café by the courtyard.
Business development officer of the hotel (as well as of his head office, Manila Parking Management) is Freddie F. Fremista, a business administration graduate of the Lyceum who also served for many years as a consular officer of the Indonesian Embassy in Manila.
“We have foreign and local clients and business-wise we concentrate our market through the Internet,” Fremista says. There are print ads in airline magazines and other publications, TV ads, and tie-ups with other hotels. Refurbished and given its present name, the hotel became well known by late 2011 and occupancy peaked by last year.
“We emphasize value for money,” the hotel executive adds. “By this we mean we see to it that the services of the hotel are appropriate and attractive. Siempre dapat maligaya sila (the guests should be happy).”
Through the head office and the hotel, Fremista launched a new parking technology in Binondo, Manila: “This is the only one in the Philippines. You will buy a Smart card from the parking attendant and then you will log it in our parking meter. This is limited only to the 3rd District of Manila.”
The price for the card was P30 but the car owners and drivers haggled (“tinawaran nila”), and brought the cost down to P20.
Another innovation is the tour around Intramuros via electric chariot. Fremista waxes enthusiastic: “This is an added attraction and it will add excitement to your stay in Intramuros. It is not an ordinary thing. You will be trained by our assistant to operate the unit before you can go around with the guide. Training takes about 10-15 minutes. There is an age limit and a weight limit (40-100 kilos).”
It is mostly the students, who are with their parents in Intramuros during weekends, who take to this ride. The cost is P1,000 per hour and P500 for 30 minutes. Each battery-operated unit, by the way, costs P350,000. The hotel at present has 10 such electric chariots, and another 10 are expected in March.
Another project in the planning stage is a mini-shuttle for 10 passengers. Years of working in the Indonesian Embassy and in the hotel business have given Fremista confidence in dealing with both foreigners and fellow Pinoys: “Kabisado ko na po yan (I can handle it). This is important in building relations, public relations, with foreigners as well as locals, important in our operations, in dealing with anybody. You are focused on the services that people need and expect.”