Luneta Hotel

The Luneta Hotel (left), and the University Club and Apartments, later known as the Shellbourne Arms Hotel and Hotel Otani. ©

Twentieth century Manila is without a doubt the golden age of the great and mighty city of the Far East. During the course of the first half of the century, the city grew not just in size, but also in population and the abundance of various architectural styles that sprung throughout. From the last century's Spanish colonial and Iberian architecture, to the then-current American neo-classical and federal styles, Manila has or had them all. Sadly, the ravages of war obliterated this once magnificent and celebrated city. 

As the 'Pearl of the Orient', Manila had to deal with tourists from around the Far East, Europe, and the Americas. With the opening of Manila to ocean liners and the introduction of air travel through the trans-Pacific Clipper planes, hospitality services had to be built, one of these hotels was the Luneta Hotel.

Luneta Hotel in its early years. © Luneta Hotel

The Luneta Hotel, built in 1917 and completed in 1918, was designed by Spanish engineer Salvador Farre, in the French Renaissance style of architecture. Located in the residential section of Ermita at the corner of Calle San Luis (now T.M. Kalaw St.) and Calle Alhambra, the six-storey edifice facing the Rizal Park, is probably the only surviving example of the French renaissance style in the Philippines. 

Ermita, the district on where the Luneta Hotel stands, was inhabited by old bahay na bato and bodegas, as Ermita has not been developed into what it was in the 1920s up to the 1940s. Ermita was where splendid mansions were built for people of importance in Manila, if not, the whole Philippine society. 

The location of the Luneta Hotel ("x" mark), and its surrounding areas in the Ermita section of the city. © Flickr/John Tewell

As part of the American architect and city planner Daniel Burnham's vision for the Philippine capital, he suggested the building of hotels and apartments facing the new Rizal Park, which was t be lined up with trees and government buildings reminiscent of those in Washington D.C. and Paris. The Luneta Hotel boasts of having been built with ornate balconies and the French style mansard roof similar to those in post-Haussmann Paris. Because it was built in the French renaissance style with elements of art nouveau architecture, the Luneta Hotel features mythical elements such as the gargoyle-- which not only meant to serve as aesthetics, but also served to keep water away from the building.  

Interior of one of the sixty rooms of the Luneta Hotel. © Nostalgia

There were originally sixty (60) rooms in the Luneta Hotel, each with its own private bathrooms, and two (2) suites. All rooms have their own telephone service. Today, the sixty rooms of the Luneta Hotel have been decreased to twenty-seven (27) rooms. The hotel also had a restaurant and a coffee shop.

Gargoyles adorn the Luneta Hotel for both aesthetical and utilitarian purposes. © Flickr/Andre Cawagas

During its early years, the Luneta Hotel was favored by merchant marine sailors and officers when they were staying in Manila because of its proximity to the Manila Harbor. In 1937, the Luneta Hotel gained international prominence when the city hosted the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress as it housed delegates for the Congress.

A damaged Luneta Hotel (left), and a burned-out University Club Apartments (right), after the liberation of Manila in 1945. © Flickr/John Tewell

The liberation of 1945 took a toll on the Luneta Hotel. During the course of the war and occupation of the Philippines, the hotel housed non-commissioned officers of the United States Army, which assumingly, was a prison used by the Japanese Imperial Army. After the Second World War, the sparkle of the Luneta Hotel was not the same as it was before. 

In 1952, the Luneta Hotel was bought by a man only written in records as Lednicky from Agustín and Rosalia Farre, in turn, sold it to Toribio Teodoro, owner of the famed Ang Tibay shoes. During the Martial Law years, the Luneta Hotel was confiscated from its owners and was given to the Kapampangan jeweller Panlilio family into its control. Another story was that the Luneta Hotel was not ill-gotten and that Panlilio family had bought the hotel from H.E. Heacock Resources, successor to the H.E. Heacock Company. The Panlilio family have been in the hospitality business due to their ownership of several five-star hotels, resorts , and transporation throughout the Philippines, namely: the now-closed Grand Boulevard Hotel (formerly the Silahis International Hotel), Philippine Village Hotel, and Grand Air International.

In 1983, the Luneta Hotel was renovated and restored to bring back its former glory. After the famed People Power Revolution in 1986, the Luneta Hotel was sequestered from the Panlilio family by the Philippine government through the Presidential Commission on Good Government as it was believed that the former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos owns the hotel, using the Panlilio family as a front. Since then, the Luneta Hotel closed its doors to the public and never to see its patrons again.

An abandoned Luneta Hotel in the hands of the Philippine government in the late 1980s. © Flickr/Elmar

In 2007, the Luneta Hotel was purchased by Beaumont Holdings, and declared that the hotel would be restored within three (3) years. In 2014, after almost seven (7) years, the Luneta Hotel was again reopened with a grand spectacle coming from heritage conservationists and locals alike.

During the re-opening of the Luneta Hotel in 2014. © Manila Coconuts


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  2. Wow this is nice. Thank you Rachelle Lopez

  3. Interesting. I really like the history of Manila. Staying in hotels give me a different vibe, a new world, a culture. It is something that makes me relax and enjoy life. I have a favorite hotel in Quezon city that never fails in rejuvenating my soul every time I book a room on it.