Chapter 15: A Place to Celebrate

For the past two to three months, together with my fiancee, Mark and my bridesmaids, Cha and Maruja, we conducted a series of initial occular visits to potential wedding reception venues. Lately, the usual marriage musings haven’t been occupying my thoughts and I’ve been thinking a lot about the big day from a more logistical perspective, particularly because I hope to reserve a venue before we reach the 12-month pre-wedding prep mark. However, the very process of even remotely considering a venue had to meet my limiting demands.

“I don’t want a hotel, tent or any venue that has the word ‘venue’ in its name,” I told my friends and family. I explained to them that  I wanted an event that would be creative and memorable: the de rigueur ballroom, where hundreds of other couples had their photo-op just wouldn’t do. Although, the idea of a nice hotel room did enter my head for the main reason that I would have to worry less about logistics.

Eh di, dapat matapilok ka! Siguradong, maalala ka nila! [You should trip on your wedding day, so they'll surely remember you],” one of my brothers suggested. He does have a bizarre point: crazy antics, flashy gimmicks and small accidents will help etch your big day in one’s memory.

But why do I worry so much about being remembered? Is it the bunso [youngest child] syndrome at play here, hence I want to be constantly noticed and to do so I must really make an impression on people? Besides, people don’t actually forget about their relative’s or close friend’s wedding day. I’ve talked about before in this post, and I still believe that our innate competitiveness, our ego, plus our desire to wow our guests, thereby resulting to laying bare our best (and insecure) selves, are all to blame.

In the meantime, I’d like to put these visits into good use  (not to mention making the travel expense worth it) by sharing with you some of the venues we’ve checked out, especially if you’re also scouting for a place to celebrate your own big days.

Please note that the rates I mention below may or may not be inclusive of other fees such as reservation, electricity, VAT etc. Hence, it’s best to call up the venue coordinators directly for complete information.


THE NATIONAL MUSEUM

Address: Padre Burgos Street, Manila

Venue Rental Rates: P100,000 – P200,000, depending on chosen venue. But these are not official rates, meaning it’s based on what our occular guide “remembered” at the moment.

Contact Information: (632) 527-0278 (632) or 527-1215, http://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph

When I think of creative venues, I think of libaries and museums. While researching possible places in the metro, I came across a Carlos Celdran article promoting the National Museum of the Philippines. Renovated by architect Lor Calma, the museum has refurbished interiors that are worthy of a revisit, since those Grade School field trips some may eons ago.

The museum is comprised of two buildings. Receptions are allowed in the Museum of the Filipino People (this is NOT the building that houses Juan Luna’s infamous painting Spolarium), which boasts of 3 venues for rent:

The Courtyard

The Courtyard at the Museum of the Filipino People.

 

The Courtyard is a large atrium that can accommodate 500 guests. Apart from being located in the National Museum of the Filipino People, it’s not aesthetically unique: the fresh, green grass, shady trees and cobblestones dominate the square, which is ideal for your requisite garden wedding. However, it also requires rather deep pockets at P180,000 to P200,000 for rent alone.

The Marble Room

A Regine Velasquez concert and Miss Earth fashion show have taken place in the grand hallway of the Marble Room.

The Marble Room is probably my favorite of the National Museum reception venues. High ceilings, imposing doors and a marble floor characterizes the hall, which can house around 150 guests.

The Marble Room boasts of high ceilings, marble floors and large doors.

 

I wouldn’t mind throwing a party at this venue but at P100,000 for rent, it’s still too expensive.

The Manila-Acapulco Room 

At the other end of this function hall is a wall of Spanish era flowers on exhibit.

I don’t remember if this function room did have an actual name but I called it such because outside of the rather bland space you can see above, there is a wall exhibit of actual, preserved flowers that were brought into the country during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

Actual flora--dried, pressed and preserved.

At P100,000 for rent, I still don’t find it enticing enough to get this room, despite the exhibit built into it.

On  my way out of the museum I told my contact, “Miss, dapat babaan niyo yung rent niyo, para ma-encourage ang mga tao mag-reception dito [You should bring your rates down so that people will be encouraged to hold their receptions here."

To which she replies: "Actually, ma'am, dini-discourage po sya, kaya mataas [Actually, it's discouraged to have wedding parties here that's why we have high prices].”

That surprised me, I thought. We live in a society that is criticized for our lack of support for the arts and culture. A Filipino wedding is typically large because of our equally large families. Hence, encouraging the public to have their receptions at places like the National Museum would be a great place to help people rediscover their heritage. Personally, I would market such venues to the wedding industry. I would even throw in a museum tour to go with the rental package but that’s just me.

On the same day that I visited the National Museum, I dropped by the Ayala Museum. Unfortunately, they do not allow wedding receptions at all, which was too bad because the venue is very accessible and I love the modern interiors of its lobby. With that, I gave up any hope in having a reception set in a museum.

THE MANILA HOTEL

Address: One Rizal Park 0913 Manila, Philippines

Venue Rental Rates: Wedding packages start at P187,867.50 for 150 guests. 

Contact Info: Banquet Sales Office, (632) 527-0011, (632) 270-1277

The Champagne Room

Manila is known for its bevy of historical sites and the Manila Hotel, having once housed General Douglas MacArthur (his former home is now the MacArthur suite) during the war years, is one of the city’s icons. Through writing  a series of hotel advertorials for a magazine, I discovered that they recently renovated all 500 or so rooms, which piqued by interest in finding out what this classic Filipiniana landmark had to offer.

Manila socialites and social dignitaries held parties at the Champagne room during the early 20th century.

The hotel’s banquet sales team was a very pleasant group of hassle-free folks. Polished, well-dressed and equipped with seamless English, they gave us an unhurried walk-in ocular of three venues: first up, the Champagne Room. 

The Champagne Room is by far, the prettiest venue I’ve seen. A wrought iron entrance welcomes guests and opens up to a romantic carpeted space, decorated with vintage, hand-blown lamps, warm lighting, large doors that lead to a peripheral anteroom with marble floors and floral, buttercup yellow chairs. My best friend (and maid-of-honor) Cha remembers how this historical room was also dubbed the “Jane Austen room” and  it really feels like walking into the past, when Manila Bay was cleaner, the peso-dollar rate was almost 1:1 and local society was dressed to the nines. If you’ve seen a picture of women walking the daylit streets of 1960s Cubao in their little black dresses and handbags, you’ll know what I mean.

With its beautiful, antique interiors, this reception venue doesn't need much event styling, but it does require a large budget.

But as soon as we walked into the Champagne Room, one of the guides uttered: “This can be rented at a minimum rate of P700,000 for 150 guests.”

“That’s a brand-new car!” I replied. If I include tax plus other charges, I would be the new owner of a 2010 Honda Jazz or City.

“This room has been preserved,” explained the guide. “The way it looks now is the way it has always looked.” I must say they did a good job of maintaining the romantic, vintage elements.

Between partying pre-war, high society style or driving a a 2010, gunmetal Honda, I thought neither option is worth my P700,000. Then again, I don’t even have P700,000 to spend on a single day!

Intricate, champagne lamps like this one lends distinct character.

If  I had an unlimited budget, I would definitely rent this room and let the hotel take care of the rest while I sleep away the next year and a half leading to December 2011. However, anything that comes close to a million pesos is automatically out of the question and Cha and I left the room with nothing but Champagne-colored dreams of a period style party.

The Pool Area

The new poolside of the Manila Hotel.

Next stop was the newly-renovated poolside area, which is a great alternative to the usual ballroom and features an updated modern design and lots of outdoor furniture of the woven, on-trend sort.

Beside the pool is the spa and gym. The 2nd floor deck can also be used for the reception tables and chairs. But beyond this sleek outdoor set-up, we were greeted by the less-than inviting smell of Manila Bay.

Th unfortunate thing about Manila Hotel is that it is located beside the more uhm, pungent area, where large ships are docked beside the rocky, murky waters.

Above the spa, a 2nd floor open deck may also be used for the reception.

“Aren’t you concerned about this?” I asked the staff, while looking into the depressing view of what was once Manila bay in its pristine heyday, juxtaposed against the hotel’s sleek poolside deck and modern furniture.

“Management is working on it,” they replied with a genuine grimace. Ah. The essential press release answer.

The Maynila Ballroom 

A grand staircase leads up the Maynila Ballroom, opening into a theater style function room that's best for very large guest lists.

The Maynila Ballroom represents everything I associate with a late 80s early 90s bongga [extravagant] wedding. Moreover it reminds me of my lone attempt at modeling: during that era, I wore floral petticoat dresses for a CDO fashion show (remember the Cubao mall that was known for its puppet shows?) in this very space. Coming back to the same ballroom in a white dress doesn’t sound so enticing though because:

1. The room is too big. It can hold 500 guests and would dwarf my ideal party of 150, and;

2. Our theme isn’t Moulin Rouge.

However, to the point of the 2nd reason raised, Cha and I both agreed that if your event theme is say, Broadway, Cirque de Soleil, the Flying Graysons or The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus then this ballroom isn’t so bad. It’s designed like a theater and the stage is large enough for vignette performances, which I personally believe would make for a pretty unique party. If I had an unlimited budget, I’d probably get some real theater actors to sing my personal favorites from The Phantom of the Opera.

I don’t remember how much this room costs exactly, but it was upwards of P300,000 (note: I’m also not sure if this is inclusive of food or not).

LE SOUFFLE: TOP OF THE CITI

Address: 34th Floor, Citibank Tower, 8741 Paseo de Roxas, Makati 

Venue Rental Rates: minimum spend of P180,000 inclusive of VAT 

Contact Info: (632) 758-5810, topoftheciti@gmail.com

During our ocular, Cha, Maruja and I opted to dine out. The 34th floor view is as breathtaking as it is vertigo-inducing.

The idea of a rooftop city wedding has always interested me. The combination of a great view, gourmet food and the chic interiors of Le Souffle: Top of the Citi fit the bill. During initial research on this venue, a lot of reviews mentioned how Le Souffle was an intimidating albeit romantic venue. Mark nor I are not romantic people but I particularly liked the idea that this restaurant was intimidating! 

Makati by Night: The view from the Top of the Citi.

Upon entering the 34th floor, guests are greeted by a decidedly modern space that spreads across horizontally. On the other side of the main restaurant is the Japanese sushi bar. There are two verandas but dining and wedding receptions are allowed in only one side. According to the coordinator, the other end is too windy.

On a regular day, the food will set you back at around P500-P1,000 a head depending on how much you order but my friends, Cha and Maruja, and I decided on an alugbati salad, mushroom in filo pastry and seafood risotto. All of us loved the salad, which was tossed together with prosciutto and  arugula. I particularly appreciated its grassy, earthy flavor  since I’m a fan of raw vegetables especially uncooked sprouts and leaves; the Mushroom appetizer was fine and the addition of a bed of salad, with its acidity, balanced the nuttiness and umay factor of the dish (I ordered it to compare to another version in another French restaurant across town, which I personally prefer for the latter’s flavorful gravy). Finally, the Risotto didn’t sit well with Maruja, who thought it tasted too Chinese, like chop suey, but Cha and I liked the dish which used brown rice instead of the usual long-grain.

The dimly-lit, sleek interiors of Le Souffle.

For wedding receptions, Le Souffle requires a minimum spend of P180,000 inclusive of VAT. The restaurant may also lend you linens in keeping with your color scheme as well as a platform for your main program. Ingress-wise, Le Souffle affords wedding coordinators the luxury of preparing the entire day since the venue is closed on weekends, hence receptions are likewise allowed only on weekends. However, expect your bill to go considerably high because of drinks, which is not factored into the menu and is charged on a per person basis. Drinks that are brought in will likewise incur steep corkages.

KASALIKASAN

Address:  De Jesus Oval, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Venue Rental Rates: P35,000 for 12 hours 

Contact Info: (632) 818-3601 local 3201 

Blink and you'll miss it: Kasalikasan is Global City's own secret garden.

Kasalikasan is one of those venues that in my opinion, looks much different in actuality as compared to its pictures. The garden was much smaller than I expected. Yet the size of this outdoor gathering place is just enough for 200. Nestled in a easy-to-miss spot in Bonifacio Global City, amidst the business district’s condominium row, Kasalikasan is an amphitheater-style space with a circular floor area. 

The amphitheater steps are covered in grass and moss.

During late afternoons, the perfectly-groomed neighborhood dogs are walked by their “nannies” around the area. Inside Kasalikasan, trees lend extra shade and coolness to the space and serves as a counterpoint to the crimson brick tiles. Rain should not be a problem because the Bonifacio Art Foundation (BAFI), which manages the venue, only allows dry season bookings, from December through April.

Behind Kasalikasan are Global City's upper crust row of condominiums.

Its small size, organic character and overall tranquility–loud bands are not allowed, which is a bummer, since Mark and I are bent on having live entertainment for the guests–makes the venue great for intimate gatherings of the less rowdy sort: the idea of loud, inebriated guests don’t quite mix with the wholesome earthiness of Kasalikasan. 

TOP SHELF AT FULLY BOOKED 

Address:  Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Venue Rental Rates: P45,000.00

Contact Info:  (632) 858-7000

A bookstore seems like the perfect setting for a book-themed wedding and Fully Booked’s Top Shelf, a function room at the 5-floor store in Global City, can certainly deliver a creative, on-spot venue. 

A grainy, camera phone shot of Top Shelf at Fully Booked.

However, when I visited Top Shelf with Mark, my fiancee did not feel convinced, even though I personally liked it. The floor itself is fairly plain and will require some degree of event styling. Top Shelf has an unusual T-shape, white walls, grey tiles and a small verandah with a view of the busy stores of Bonifacio High Street as well as the Serendra condominiums on the other side.

A small balcony where guests can take a breather while waiting for the party to start. On the other hand, they can always shop for books during the cocktail hour.

For a  top floor venue, the view isn’t anything special and has nothing on Le Souffle’s 34th floor city-lit spectacle; but knowing that your reception is taking place amidst four floors full of books offers interest, not to mention, easy escape activities for bored guests or restless kids who would like to check out the children’s section. 

KAPITAN MOY

Address:  J. Rizal Street, Marikina City (across Our Lady of the Abandoned Church)

Venue Rental Rates: P15,000.00

Contact Info: (632) 646-2360 ; http://www.marikina.gov.ph/pages/kapitan.html

Classic, colonial-era elements makes Kapitan Moy fit or a Filipiniana wedding.

Marikina City is the bastion of shoemaking in the Philippines and at the residence of Don Laureano “Kapitan Moy” Guevarra, the city’s first pair of shoes were created in 1887 at the mezannine of the former ilustrado‘s [nobleman] bahay-na-bato [stone house].

The spacious interiors of this historic ancestral home was at different times a residence, school, American tribunal and headquarters of the Japanese occupation.

Mark truly fell in love with the antique, Filipiniana elements–classic chandeliers, polished wood floors, capiz windows, embroidered curtains–of Kapitan Moy; and it will certainly be loved by the wedding photographer’s camera.The large structure is perfectly maintained and can host a party of up to 500 people. 

The historic structure is located along a row of colonial homes.

I was also impressed by its Old World architecture and historicity but I wish it was more accessible. Our church will be in Greenhills, San Juan and although Marikina isn’t necessarily far from the ceremony venue, it will take a few directions, a map and a little travel time to get there. Moreover, parking poses a big problem because the narrow streets offer limited space. On top of that, the wedding will take place on a Sunday and churchgoers across the street will be our main competition for parking. However, Kapitan Moy is several hundred thousands of pesos more affordable than the Champagne Room, even though both places have their roots in Philippine upper-class society.

At the end of the day, the venue that Mark and I chooses will have to satisfy everybody. However, wedding-related decisions are one of the most difficult because there are several parties to please. I may have been exposed to the events industry but I’d have to admit it’s nothing like proposing potential venues to corporate clients. Finding a place to celebrate is a journey that we’re still traversing and hopefully we’ll find that halfway point where we can be pleased with our choice as much as the rest of the family and our friends will be.

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