|A smoggy Makati skyline viewed from my room at Marriott Manila|
Thanks to a very generous offer I got from Chase, I was able to churn a Marriott-branded credit card. The bonus was a whopping 70,000 points (which is redeemable for free stays), a free stay each year at any category 1-5 hotel anywhere in the world, a complimentary Silver Elite status, no foreign transaction fee - all these for an annual fee of $85. That fee, I reckon, is less than the cost of most lower tier Marriott hotels, many of which already cost more than a hundred bucks.
Just timely, I was staying for a night in Manila before flying back to the US. I used my free certificate for a free room, this at the Manila Marriott Hotel where the lowest nightly rate currently goes for PHP 8300 or USD 189 (including taxes). Even taxes were already included in my free certificate so this was definitely a great redemption in my book.
I was already looking forward to a very restful sleep later at the hotel while sitting on the Victory Liner bus from Baguio to Manila. The 5 hour bus journey wasn't really torturous in itself until I found myself sick in my stomach. Somewhere in Pangasinan, my gut grumbled so badly, a condition so dire that I had to ask the old man seated next to me to alert the bus conductor.
"Naiihi ka ba? (Do you want to pee?)", asked the conductor.
"Hindi po. Ang sakit na ng tiyan ko, nata-tae na ako" (No, my stomach really hurts, I feel like having a shit attack), I responded with the most appropriate facial expression.
Ten minutes later, the bus stopped right in front of a gasoline station. I
Traffic was so bad as we entered Manila. My final destination was Pasay. What was supposedly a 5-hour trip turned into 7 hours. What got me worried with the delay was that I was meeting some people at the hotel. These are Manila-based travel bloggers I so admire: Nina Fuentes, Ferdz Decena, Dong Ho and Chyng Reyes. In fact, it's only our first meeting and I wasn't about to make them wait for me.
As soon as the bus arrived in Pasay, I hurriedly left but not before thanking the bus driver and conductor for their patience. My stomach was still grumbling, but not as bad. Now here's where my blood was soon boiling: hailing a taxi. For someone laden with a backpack, a taxi ride in Manila can be game of Russian roulette. I had luggage left for storage at the NAIA 2 so I wanted to collect it first before heading to the hotel. This driver wanted PHP 300 to take me there, even when I insisted on the meter. Of course I balked, telling him to lower it to PHP150. We were already on EDSA and I wasn't happy to get off like I've done in the past on similar situations. Besides, my revolting stomach was sending alarming signals yet again. Yikes!
In the end, I agreed to pay the driver PHP 200. I got my luggage back at the airport. Getting into another taxi, up on the Departure area of NAIA 2, was a breeze this time and less toxic - in other words, the elderly gentleman turned on the meter for the short ride to the hotel. There's actually a free Marriott shuttle but they only operate hourly. At the state my stomach was kicking, I couldn't risk waiting for the next 45 minutes or so.
There's a security barricade even before a car enters Manila Marriott Hotel's driveway. As is now pretty stndard in all major hotels in Manila, a platoon of security personnel was right by the door with metal detectors and a bomb-sniffing dog. My bag was screened through an airport-style X-ray machine. It's really baffling, this state of prolonged heightened security in Manila. I'm just glad Fido didn't smell anything suspicious except perhaps for my poop-stained underwear.
|Lucky foodie: Zamboanga's prized "Curacha" was on the buffet table at Marriott Cafe|
Marriott's lobby is a picture of modernist design. Which I like. There's plenty of sitting areas around, as it should be. As soon as I handed over my Marriott card, the front desk agent acknowledged my status and thanked me for patronizing the brand. I was given a golf-view room with Makati skyline in the distance, essentially an upgrade from the ones facing the airport terminal building. Being a 2-year-old hotel, Marriott Manila shows impressive maintenance. I couldn't find anything wrong with my room, not even spots that needed to be dusted or vacuumed.
While I was already tempted to sleep on the Marriott bed, my first business was to use the bathroom. It's huge and I had the most relaxing moment using it for all the suffering I had to go through - never mind that a glass partition allows anyone on bed to see me do my business. With just half an hour to go before my fellow bloggers arrived, I took a quick but refreshing shower.
|Travel bloggers meet|
I might not have known them in person but I felt like knowing them already through their blogs - which I read. Dom, Ferdz, Nina and Chyng are some of the country's brilliant purveyors of adventures. The moment I saw them, I knew it was them. They look like your familiar friends that you instantly recognize from afar. I felt so at ease with each one of them. We had dinner at the hotel's Marriott Cafe, enjoying the food, the conversations; more eating, more talking - before we knew it, we were the last guests to leave.
It was almost 2 AM when I finally made it back to my room and into my bed. Five hours later, I had to wake up as a close friend was meeting me for breakfast. My flight was at noon. With about 19 hours of flying time ahead of me, I was looking forward to catching up on sleep. From Marriott's heavenly bed, I was now looking forward to Cathay Pacific's bed in the skies.