I like being surprised. And what a pleasant surprise it is when you’re prepared to take your lunch in the office and then a long-lost friend calls you to say she’s treating you for lunch…in motel row.
Xtine had excitedly told me she had stopped working at the resort and was now working at this chain of motels-turned-into-wholesome-hotels. “That’s great,” I gushed in reply. What I wasn’t prepared for was walking up the long driveway with my hair down and my shades on lest somebody accuse me of being in the “wrong” place, at noontime.
It’s funny how the very mention of the “m” word turns some people into followers of Billy Graham when in fact it has made billionaires out of the businessmen who operate them. Just take a look at the horrendous traffic in motel row on Valentine’s Day and you could deduct that some people in these beautiful islands are either homeless or just plain horny. Am no babes in the woods and I can’t tell you I haven’t been inside this most colorful place which should have the common slogan of: “If these walls could talk!” African Safari Room: Check! Japanese-inspired: Check! Vintage Car Fitted With Queen Size Bed: Check! Love Boat: Check! Jacuzzi: Check! Check! However, my most memorable sojourns to motel row were not of the bacchanalian kind. They include a press fam tour in the great Victoria Court and that one time when I checked in with my kids because we just moved into a new apartment and it was still filthy. We first went into Aliw Inn but the guard said, to my surprise, “kids are definitely not allowed inside.” Each time I drove in I had to prepare an explanation as to why I had my tots in tow until Longwood Garden had the sense to take us in for a much-needed night’s sleep.
Back to my friend Xtine. Motel row was where all these drive-inns are huddled close together and I knew this had to be the motel-turned-hotel because of its lobby. There were these lovely French windows , the receptionists’ desk and a Filipiniana-inspired coffeeshop adorned with handmade flowers. On the other hand, motels have no lobby and no coffeeshop because its clients, some of whom don’t want to be seen with their paramours, simply order room service.
Anyhoo, Xtine looked lovely and 40 pounds lighter from her no-carbs diet. She did tell me the interesting piece of news that the owners decided to stop motel-ling because they are now born-again Christians. Xtine herself is “subtly” recruiting me to be Born-Again. Am giving it some thought, especially after finding out that my local Rotary Club is just about the most boring organization there is.
On to our lunch: did I tell you motel food is one of the best there is? This one obviously still had a hangover from its previous existence. The food was simply good. We ordered seafood salad, pinaputok na tilapia, salpicao and assorted fruits which were low-cal but full of flavors. It helped that I was able to talk to the chef who was young and button-nose cute. Talking to professional chefs is always useful because they always give me precious tips for my next culinary experiments which you can’t read or find in any other book.
The seafood salad was most delectable with tender slices of scallops, squid and shrimps mixed in an oh-so-yummy vinaigrette dressing of olive oil, calamansi juice and honey. The pinaputok na tilapia was wrapped in banana leaves and paired with ensaladang talong, fried (not roasted) to perfection and topped with onions and tomatoes.
I have to admit I was impressed with the chef ( a young man of 28) who promised to offer distinctly Filipino concoctions such as bagnet salad and tinapa pate in the “boutique” hotel. “Whereas the food in Chinese cuisine, for example, is covered in sauces, what we will offer is down-home Filipino cooking which will not hide the natural flavors of the food,” said he. Sounds fascinating indeed.
Close to two hours of my extended lunch break was not enough to savor the company, the food, and the fineries of the motel-turned-hotel. I bussed Xtine, graciously turned down the invite to tour the rooms, and promised to be back soon. I will glad tell tell the name of this hotel and post more food pics when they are fully operational soon.