The Great Manila Hotel Series /Manila Christmas

McGurn, William

Manila Christmas by William McGurn The Manila Hotel A lmost immediately after Douglas MacArthur issued his famous vow to return to the Philippines, a cable arrived from Washington. Gently it...

...And there is no better time to be here...
...Whether sipping Bloody Marys by poolside or simply drinking in the spectacular sunsets over Manila Bay, we find the simplest of delights transformed by that perfect Philippine mix of Latin grace and American informality...
...Nor have its charms gone unnoticed by the traveling set...
...and when we leave the hotel in the morning we do so with the knowledge that we will be back in time for cocktail hour...
...After midnight Mass at San Augustin Cathedral, built by Spanish friars more than four centuries ago, we walk back to the hotel through the dark...
...The admiral later told me that his father never returned from a bombing mission over New Britain...
...Army Forces in the Far East to stay...
...By Christmas Eve the MacArthurs would find themselves inside a dank tunnel on Corregidor huddled together with President Manuel Quezon, remnants of his William McGurn is senior editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review...
...The hotel's Annie Ringer, an old friend, comes down to greet us...
...I count more Republicans (Ike, Nixon, Reagan) than Democrats (LBJ), but the Manila has been resolutely bipartisan...
...That evening, falling off to sleep in the Manila's comforting embrace, I remember to thank the Creator for his many blessings...
...Unlike the MacArthurs, however, my wife and I face no unpleasantness this holiday season...
...Philippine banks and public offices compete for the best creche without fear of ACLU grinches closing it down...
...The hotel archives are bulging with photos of VIPs, ranging from Clare Boothe Luce and the Beatles to Douglas Fairbanks and Lea Salonga, the home-grown star of Miss Saigon...
...It was well they did...
...So much do new friends seem like old relations in the Manila, we almost forget to be homesick...
...here a young widow named Corazon Aquino announced her own bid in 1986...
...A groundskeeper shows us where to find his name: it is on the wall of remembrance...
...But my favorite moments come on Christmas Eve...
...To the contrary, the Manila's recent facelift has left it more beautiful than ever...
...Merry Christmas...
...And in between the savage Japanese shelling, they listened to the radio: to FDR pledging relief that would never arrive and Tokyo Rose promising to see the General hanged from Imperial Square...
...Certainly not the lobby, a vast colonnaded expanse of whitewash capped by a chocolate-colored, barrel-vaulted ceiling of narra (a local mahogany...
...By Philippine standards they might arguably be considered well off, with a roof over their heads (even if of corrugated tin) and an electric wire for the TV...
...We have many letters but had never before met...
...Welcome home," she says, as though we have just stepped into her living room...
...After a lazy brunch we decide to take a ride out to the American military cemetery in Makati to leave some flowers by Corporal Anderson's grave...
...They are trying their best to make their American guests feel at home...
...Trifles Make Perfection, but perfection is no trifle" ran the copy in the advertisement announcing the Manila's debut in 1912, and it remains true today...
...Built originally by Americans for Americans in California Mission style, the Manila Hotel could be nowhere but the Philippines...
...Philippine government, and a few thousand Fil-American troops...
...Thirteen months earlier, I had attended the final American withdrawal from Subic Bay, where the U.S...
...Gently it suggested that the message might come across as too personal: Would the General consider changing the "I" to "We...
...When he quit his penthouse apartment here for the rock-island of Corregidor, he left behind more than a command post...
...I read the lines cut into the marble nearby: Some there be which have no sepulchre * Their name liveth for evermore./Grant unto them 0 Lord eternal rest who sleep in unknown graves...
...Senators pass through en route to their private lounge on the second floor...
...commander in chief for the Pacific fleet, Adm...
...As we leave, her father pulls me aside to squeeze my hand and say his thanks, all the more embarrassing because of its disproportion to our efforts...
...There were few comforts...
...He left behind the only real home the MacArthurs were to know...
...F or the next few days, we glory in the luxury of lazy pleasures, sleeping late and ordering room-service breakfast...
...There are bigger and glitzier hotels inthe Philippine capital, but none that quite compare with the Manila...
...But it's not every hotel where the cab drivers remember my name and ask us when we are going to start having some babies...
...Masaharu Homma's troops landed on the other side of Luzon island...
...Quickly the room fills with friends and relatives all here to wish us a Merry Christmas...
...On December 22, realizing he'd forgotten to do any Christmas shopping, MacArthur dispatched a trusted aide, Col...
...I find them persuasive, even as I look at the palm trees swaying in the wind...
...Kelly, noted that among the things he was leaving behind in the Philippines was a father: Cpl...
...And there's usually a happy ending...
...M ore than fifty Christmases after Corregidor, I too have returned...
...are kept in line by a remarkable woman director...
...Three weeks earlierójust hours after the attack on Pearl Harboróa Japanese strike on Clark Air Base had stripped MacArthur of his air support...
...It is now well past two a.m., and an all-night prayer meeting is still going strong next door in Lunetta Park...
...Occasionally one might catch a glimpse of Imelda and her entourage on their way to lunch at the Champagne Room...
...Mine is named Joharra, and her mother quickly sits us down in front of a mound of Cheez-Whiz sandwiches and glasses filled with Coca-Cola...
...For the past few years my brother Brian and I have each sponsored a child in Quezon City, helping with their schooling...
...T his is my third Christmas in the Philippines, my wife's first...
...Robert Anderson...
...here a group of Marcos loyalists led an abortive coup in 1987...
...Underneath its huge, brassand-capiz-shell chandeliers, all of Manila passes by...
...What the War Department never quite understood was that for MacArthur it was personal...
...Inside the lobby, the parols have been turned off, the place is still, and the man cleaning the floors straightens up to offer us a good night . "It is a good story if it is like the Manila Hotel," Hemingway once said...
...CI The American Spectator December 1994 73...
...Couples find it a convenient rendezvous...
...After Makati, we get to play Santa...
...Joharra asks about Emily, my niece?he flower girl in our wedding?hose photo I sent her months ago...
...And on almost every TV station olive-skinned Filipinas who have never seen snow dress in fur-fringed red Santa suits and deliver dreamy renditions of "White Christmas...
...I would like to have blond hair too," she says somewhat wistfully, supremely innocent of her own dark beauty...
...The MacArthurs spent five happy years atop the Manila Hotel, and departed only because an advancing Japanese army made it impossible for the newly commissioned Commander of U.S...
...Sidney Huff, to pick up some gifts for his wife, Jean, and their three-year-old son, Arthur...
...Christmas 1941 was the low point...
...Everyone smiles in the Philippines, so that much we take for granted...
...the only Japanese around are friendly tourists...
...But a Manila Christmas is not without its own graces...
...Here a young Ferdinand 72 The American Spectator December 1994 Marcos was nominated for the presidency in 1964...
...The bakery beckons with rows of chocolate Santas and tables full of gingerbread houses...
...Best of all, there is the lobby, with a Christmas tree to rival the one at Rockefeller Center and dozens of parols?he paper-lantern stars Filipinos make to commemorate the one that came to rest over Bethlehem a few thousand years ago...
...That night they celebrated early...
...Just a few months back, we spent part of our honeymoon here, and it's hard to think MacArthur was treated any better on his return...
...Two weeks later, Gen...
...A front-page news story in the December 24 Manila Bulletin hails "the birth of the Prince of Peace" in its lead...
...Both girls turn out to be delightful...
...And each evening this week we are treated to an hour of carols by the Ateneo Boys Choir, whose four dozen, budding Harry Connick, Jrs...

Vol. 27 • December 1994 • No. 12


 
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