Popoy and Basha – do they ring a bell? “Ako na lang. Ako na lang ulit.” Not yet? Shocking!

A Filipino who had been in love, and eventually broken-hearted, had the film, One More Chance as the story of his/her life at one point or another. Every one who had craved for at least a last opportunity to straighten up his/her faults can see him/herself in the lead character, Popoy. Those who had been at the verge of begging for someone to love them again shed tears for Basha.

The movie was, and is still, a hit. Hearts were touched because maybe, just maybe, we all want that one more chance to happen.

And fortunately, it did. In fact, it can happen to anyone, to anything.

The Luneta Hotel is finally becoming the new Popoy – was abandoned, had fallen apart, and is now hopeful to redeem its previous glory.

World War II had wounded the 96-year-old hotel. American soldiers added to the damage by converting it  into their brothel, a place where they satisfy their carnal pleasures. Since then, the hotel had deteriorated.

The sophisticated six-storey establishment once stood proud along the T.M. Kalaw Street of Manila. Spanish architect-engineer Salvador Farre caused people, especially the elitists and foreigners, to become dumbfounded by the Belle Epoque design of the hotel’s facade. It used to be unique amidst the neighboring American colonial, neoclassical, and art deco architectural structures.

War veterans even claimed that the hotel served as their gleaming hope as it bravely withstood bombardments. However, as years went by, skyscrapers were built. They towered over and buried unnoticed “the only structure reminiscent of French Renaissance architecture with Filipino stylized beaux arts in the country” as described by the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture Dean John Joseph Fernandez.

Over the years, passers-by neglected the edifice. Some still stopped by, not to appreciate, but to hate. It received horrified gazes as if it was haunted, because sadly, it appeared to be. In earlier years, it never deserved that kind of stare. All the windows with broken glasses used to be spotless and studded with gems. It became far from imagination that its balconies were so inviting that one would want to stay in it and have a sip of tea. Gargoyles used to be looked up to as it guarded the walls; but as they aged, they become the antagonists.

Unlike the Luneta Park, the Luneta Hotel was not able to swing with the flow of time. Since it was declared a historical landmark by the National Historical Institute, Presidential Decree 1505 prohibits the alteration of this French-inspired structure; but thanks to this same decree, it protected the building, especially when authorities considered demolition.

In 2007, Beaumont Holdings, the new owner of the hotel, announced that they would restore the historical and once remarkable attraction. Seven years after, it is now almost ready to open its doors – ready to prove to everyone that it is indeed worthy of that second chance.

In truth, we may actually be Basha. We abandoned our Popoy – the Luneta Hotel, and now, we are finding ourselves crawling back to it.


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