Miss Universe in Manila

During the past couple of years, we’ve had a leader of Catholic Church and leaders of the countries belonging to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grace Manila, and the country as a whole with their visit. This year, we have been graced again with the holding of perhaps one of the most celebrated events that has been beloved by many Filipinos as much as any important international event. I am of course talking about the Miss Universe pageant.

This year’s Miss Universe pageant (technically, Miss Universe 2016 because of the screwed up schedule that pushed it further from the calendar year over time) is going to be held on January 30 this year. And while the Urban Roamer is by no means a beauty pageant expert, this presents an opportunity to do this special feature as we look back at the past Miss Universe pageants that have been held here in the metropolis.. Twice past to be exact. Continue reading


Grand Buffet Dining at Manila’s Grand Dame: Cafe Ilang-Ilang at Manila Hotel

It’s been a long while since the Urban Roamer has last stepped in Manila Hotel. And during that time, a lot of things have changed: a new logo, new uniforms of the staff. But the ambiance of old Manila remains alive in the hotel.

My return that day though was for a somewhat different matter, which was to fully immerse myself in a filling buffet dining experience at the hotel’s main restaurant: Cafe Ilang-Ilang.

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A Requiem for Emilio Yap

Many were saddened to hear the news of the death of Manila taipan Emilio Yap.  His name may not ring a familiar bell as that of other taipans or businessmen, but he is influential nevertheless being the chair of historic Manila-based institutions such as the Manila Bulletin, (which also includes the historic Liwayway group of publications) Manila Hotel, and Centro Escolar University. Forbes Magazine as the 13th richest in the Philippines.

Emilio Yap, courtesy of Forbes Magazine

Like many Filipino-Chinese taipans, Emilio Yap was born in Fujian Province, China. Born on September 24, 1925,  young Emilio first came to Manila actually to study, living with his grandfather who was already based in the city as a a trader. Though he had to go back to Fujian when his grandfather’s shop closed down, he returned some time later to become a trader himself. Even though it was wartime, he was doing quite well in the trading business, from starting off with selling white t-shirts, then to threads, then on to ballpens and watches.

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The Grand Dame by the Bay (Part 2)

With the many changes the Manila Hotel underwent through over the years, there is still this old world charm that it has managed to somehow retain today. This is evident the moment you step in its doors and be greeted by its iconic grand lobby.


From the lobby to the room, every inch of the hotel manages to still retain an old world charm that reminds you of what Manila was in the past.

As far as hotel dining is concerned, the Manila Hotel has managed to make its mark thankss to its Ilang-Ilang Restaurant which offers a rich buffet of dining choices from different parts of the world.

Given its long history, there are countless stories that have been told in this hotel, from the illustrious guests that made their way through the grand lobby, or even at the hotel bar, where legend tells that sometime in 1946, an American businessman Roy Farrell and a group of journalists brainstormed for a name for his new airline. It was decided then and there that its name would be…Cathay Pacific. Continue reading


The Grand Dame by the Bay (Part 1)

Each city has at least one icon of a hotel that has inextricably become part of that city’s history and heritage. And if there is one hotel in Manila that deserves that iconic tag, there is little doubt (if not none) that such honor will be granted to the so-called “Grand Dame by the Bay”: the Manila Hotel.


Perhaps no stronger case can be cited with the intertwined histories of the city and its hotel than a glance at the hotel’s history, a part of what was supposed to be a grander masterplan by American architect Daniel Burnham for Manila in 1905 as a “City Beautiful.” The land where Manila Hotel stands today is actually reclaimed land, along with what is now known today as the South Harbor, Luneta “extension,” and nearby areas along a stretch of a coastal boulevard we know today as Roxas Boulevard. Burnham saw the importance of the Manila Bay to the city. Thus, he conceptualized the reclamation and the construction of the boulevard, and important structures that would highlight Manila’s connection to its bay; Manila Hotel would serve as centerpiece for that connection. Continue reading