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Fashion, grooming and luxury culture at Makati Shangri-La Manila

Manila Sunshine (the drink, not the typically-smiling server at Makati Shangri-La Manila)

Manila Sunshine is the Philippines’ answer to the Singapore Sling, says the ever-smiling Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez Jr. The main liquor is local Lambanlambanog, coconut-based (or use Gordon’s Gin).

Add to this pineapple juice then a shot of local Tanduay rum to give a golden topping, representing the sunshine.  Serve with a slice of fresh pineapple.  This is the recipe as designed by one of the barmen at Makati Shangri-La Manila.

And you know, the result is delicious, says the gal.  It was served by one of the totally exquisite and immaculately-clad ladies at this luxury hotel – they are dressed by Rajo Laurel, another of the Philippines’ talented dress designers.

The cocktail servers in the lobby lounge, by the way, put on later-evening over-skirts, full-length wraps with little trains.  With their uniform pearl necklaces, boy do they look chic.

A 14-piece all-female orchestra plays in the lobby lounge every afternoon

There are dozens of memorable moments in this giant hotel, which opened in Makati, at the junction of Ayala and Makati Avenues, way back in 1993.  It seems as young as ever.  Every afternoon an exquisite all-female 14-piece orchestra plays.

They walk in one by one playing, and at the end of their stint they walk out one by one, playing.  During their session they stand on a stage in front of a 30-foot high all-wall window looking into lush gardens.  The lady pianist, in the centre, wears a black morning suit with tails and next to her is an older woman, seated, with a cello.

Either side stand six women, a combination of violin and viola, and small wind instruments.  All these twelve have scarlet low-neck shawls: the six on the left have full length white dresses, the dresses of those on the right are black.

Even the hotel’s lift ladies are immaculate

Fashion is taken very seriously here. Every Thursday also sees an afternoon fashion show, interspersing somehow with the orchestra.  A designers’ collection is shown on professional models sashaying around between porcelain cups and cupcakes but the most entertaining, I am told, is watching the customers.

Local ladies dress to the nines not only to see the fashions but, themselves, to be seen. Do not come to Makati Shangri-La Manila if you look like a down and outer. Even the lift ladies, smiling so sweetly as they usher you in, are immaculate (though admittedly they do not bow deeply like their counterparts in Japan).

Flowers at the Makati Shangri-la luxury hotel, Manila

Flowers in room 2425

The hotel has 699 rooms, on 28 floors. An enormous bunch of flowers arrived, to share shelf space with a display already there.  Fortunately, room 2425 is at the junction of two slightly-opened wings, to give an overall 135-degree flow.

It was basically sandalwood and gold in colour and had all the usual Shangri-La specials, like a full office kit in the desk drawer, and a cute little fabric pouch holding feminine things that only women need.  Thoughtful touch, someone.

In-room minibar - Makati Shangri-la luxury hotel, Manila

Colour behind the minibar

It also has some wow features. There is a brilliant kaleidoscope of colour behind the minibar, where amongst other goodies I see chocolates by Raul Matias, an American physical therapist who has somehow become a world-class chocolatier here in Manila – his brand is Machiavelli.

And then, later, I am presented with yet more chocolates, a box of colourful lip-shaped kisses, made here in the hotel and sold at various outlets.

Sashimi at Inagiku…

Food time.  We are to dine in Inagiku Restaurant, which belongs to the family that has  delighted people in so many places, next to Four Seasons in Hong Kong, for instance, and Park Hyatt Beijing.

This particular branch is run by the one and only Mr Ishigawa, a comedian and master in skilled service.  He has a big smile on his shaven-headed face and somehow the voluminous sleeves of his kimono do not upset the dextrous finesse of serving a meal where each of the three of us at table eats different dishes, and drinks something different (in my case Aramasa cold sake from Akita).

Aramasa means Revolution, reflecting the fact that Akita was the only prefecture in the Tohoku region to support Japan’s Meiji Revolution.

.. is followed by sushi

The sake is made, today, using a K6 yeast first identified in 1935 in the main yeast mash.) The sashimi is brought, followed by sushi, followed by tempura and, for my friends, cook-your-own wagyu beef on little personal cooking stoves.

The interior ambience is like a tavern, a bit gemütlich (a far cry, say, from eating at the eight-seat sushi counter off the main lobby of Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, with picture windows looking over the surrounding Tokyo skyline).  It was so enjoyable I cannot wait to return.

From 2425 look down at NOLAN DING on The Peninsula roof

But it is time to head up, to lovely 2425.  I look down. Who is NOLAN DING, whose name is written so large on the flat roof below?  Oh silly me, it is NO LANDING, all written as one, on a flat part of The Peninsula’s roof – another flat area does have a marked helicopter pad on it.

There are so many signature hotels here in Makati, and all of them work flat out, business during the week and local people moving in for weekend stay-cations.  The business is finance, and other business, and lots of overseeing management looking after the growing numbers of BPOs, Business Processing Organisations – yes, call-centres to you and me – that are fast taking contracts away from India.

Not only is labour less expensive here in the Philippines but the English is English-English, not Indian-accented that can sometimes be incredibly difficult to understand if you are in South Bend IN calling about a United Airlines query.  How happy that person is to be able to talk to a customer service agent whose every word can be clearly comprehended.

One of the chic hostesses in the Horizon Club

What does makes a hotel guest really happy, by the way?  When a hotel is designed just, it seems, for YOU. Here, they can do a facial when you want, and cut it back from one-hour plus to 45 minutes, which gives you a 15-minute lightning workout in the gym.

And then the staff in the 24th floor Horizon Lounge, big smiles and fresh orange juice and great coffee.. and with more big smiles, I am ushered on my way – but please come back.