Les Clefs D'Or
Les Clefs D'Or

Your Key To Manila Philippines 2024 Les Clefs d’Or Award Nominee

Walk with me “Within the Walls” of Manila

Intramuros, a Spanish word that translates to “within the walls,” is a must-see tourist attraction in Manila. It is also known as the “Old City” or the “Walled City.”

The Philippines was under Spanish colonial rule for 333 years, from 1565 to 1898. The Walled City served as the economic center, transporting goods to and from different parts of the world during the Spanish era. It was built solely for the Spaniards, their government, and their families. The wealthy and most influential people resided here during that time.

Apart from its culture, the Spaniards also introduced Christianity in the Philippines. The Roman Catholic Church still plays a major role in the country. The San Agustin Church, a 416-year-old church, was rebuilt three times due to both man-made and natural disasters. Despite this, it has withstood natural disasters and is now recognized by the government and UNESCO as a historical landmark.

While many places in Manila have become a concrete jungle and a business district, Intramuros takes visitors back to the past. The government of Manila ensures the preservation of the actual architectural structures, allowing visitors to time travel back to the 1950s and visualize how Filipinos lived during the Spanish era.

When exploring Fort Santiago, tourists can rent traditional clothing^ called “Barong” (for men) and “Baro’t Saya” (for women) to fully immerse themselves during the tour.

A tour of the Old City is incomplete without trying the local food. Casa Manila has a heritage restaurant called “Barbara’s,” serving the finest Filipino-Hispanic cuisine. Before the pandemic, the restaurant was famous for its cultural music and dance performances as well as its Spanish-Filipino-inspired buffets. Their Seafood Amelie, fresh local vegetable salad, and black sago’t gulaman (a refreshing brown sugar with tapioca drink) are a must-try.

I love this area as it reminds me of the sacrifices that our fellow Filipinos fought for that brought us to where we are right now.

The place itself talks so much about the Filipino character- resilient, strong, and forgiving.

It is recommended to join a guided walking tour. The adventurous ones can explore the area by renting a bamboo bicycle* or riding a horse carriage, commonly known as “Calesa.”**

Ask a local concierge to learn and explore more.

*Bam Bike Eco Tours: Bamboo bikes located inside Casa Manila. | US$35 | 2 hours and 30 minutes.
**Calesa ride: or Horse Carriage. | US$38 per hour.
^Vestidor: traditional clothing rental, located inside Fort Santiago near Mercadillo. | US$7 per hour. The
outfits can only be worn inside the Fort Santiago.

Frances Balboa-Hu is a candidate for the 2024 Les Clefs d’Or Award. This article has been published in its original form.

Meet the Author
Frances Balboa-Hu

I began my career in the hospitality industry as a Front Desk Agent at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in June 2012. While working at the front desk, I became interested in the Chief Concierge's ability to multitask and perform various roles within the hotel with great passion and dedication. I was specifically intrigued by the story of the ‘Golden Cross Keys’ on his lapel, which led me to transfer to Fairmont Makati as a Concierge Agent in 2014. Joining the association was not easy for me as I attempted and failed twice. However, I persevered and eventually became a member of Les clefs d’Or Philippines two years later. At the same year, I was promoted to an Executive Lounge Supervisor-Concierge on the same property. In 2018, I joined the pre-opening team of Hilton Manila as a Concierge Supervisor. I eventually became the youngest female Chief Concierge in 2021. The following year, I took on a different challenge and transferred to Okada, the newest Integrated Resort in Manila. During the height of the pandemic, I had the opportunity to serve in multiple departments in my role as a Concierge. I worked as a credit assistant in the Finance Department, phone operator, kitchen helper responsible for preparing food for quarantined guests, room attendant, and transportation coordinator of the hotel. My ability to adapt to different roles showcased our team's resilience and flexibility. I am committed to giving back to the community through various initiatives. I support the Andy Pongco Day of Service and participate in hotel activities that bring positivity and smiles to communities. During my days off, my family and I conduct free bible studies for children in an informal settlers' area, hoping to bring hope and inspiration to them. In recognition of my perseverance and resilience, I was awarded Team Member of the Year for Hilton in 2019 and was part of the top 7 (among 155 candidates) Hospitality Hero Winners in Southeast Asia in 2020. My goal is to inspire and motivate young Concierges and those aspiring to be one to achieve greater things. I strongly believe that together, we can achieve anything.

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