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Warm, cozy, nature-friendly—Davao hotel epitomizes the city’s best attributes

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One of the topmost floors of Marco Polo Davao offers a panorama of clear skies, the vast Davao Gulf in the horizon and thick patches of greenery against a dynamic cityscape. Framed by a wide glass wall in a cozy lounge, the view is proof of how the hotel takes pride in its environment.

Not only do most of the rooms and function venues offer picturesque views, furnishings and interiors come in cozy earthen colors, too. By tapping the local produce and genuine warmth of the Davaoeño staff, the five-star hotel combines luxury with some of the city’s best attributes.

Our room had modern-day comforts: flat-screen plasma with cable connection, iPod docking station, executive desk, WiFi, mood lighting, ergonomic pillows, well-equipped bath, minibar.

Sliding glass doors led to a veranda with lounge chairs on which to sit and gaze at—depending on the time of day—large fluffy clouds or star-studded parcel of sky. Bedtime is an inviting thought, courtesy of complementary mini-desserts usually delivered or left on the minibar early in the evening.

Book a room on the fourth level and gain quick access to The Deck, a recreation hub with fitness center and 25-meter pool. Two other attractions, Polo Bistro and Lazuli Spa, we recommend you do not miss.

Shield from the elements

Polo Bistro’s charm lies in the setup and cuisine. Wood-framed glass panels shield diners from the elements but give a 360-degree view of The Deck. At nighttime, the panels are detached to let in cool air and live music.

The food is excellent (a factor shared with Café Marco and Cantonese fine-dining restaurant Lotus Court, on the second and third levels, respectively). Starters include freshly baked bread, large squid rings, lightly breaded thick mozzarella sticks paired with tangy-sweet salsa. Dishes such as Three Bean Salad, Tiger King Prawns, Escalope of Salmon, Beef Medallions and Baby Back Pork Ribs create a medley of flavors.

Adjacent to the bistro, Lazuli Spa renders services that seem to have been inspired by snack-bar fare—Coffee Latté and Chocolate Scrub, Organic Rice & Ginger Rub, Cool Cucumber Wrap, Honey Body Polish, Lemongrass Sole Therapy, Fresh Mint Foot Pampering. If pressed for time, maximize an appointment by choosing a package that combines traditional massages, facials or treatments with any of the novelty services.

Lobby Lounge, one of two venues for a nightcap on the ground floor, serves up light snacks, desserts and beverage while relaxing music wafts from a grand piano.

A few steps away is Eagles, where good deals can be had almost every night. At the time of our visit, table brochures advertised buy-one, take-one drinks all week long and 50-percent off women’s beverage tab on Saturday Ladies’ Night. A quirky offer was available Wednesdays, when winning a coin-toss challenge versus the service crew meant you need not pay the bill.

Top of the game

To stay on top of the game, the 11-year-old Marco Polo continues to invest in keeping products and services fresh, said general manager Nigel Fisher. This includes renovating facilities such as Lotus Court, which had undergone a three-month reconstruction last year, and Café Marco, now being transformed into a modern, interactive buffet café-restaurant. The makeover of guest rooms begins this month.

But some of the most significant changes are not just within the Marco Polo walls.

“The name of the hotel is quite widely recognized,” said Fisher. “I use the position we have to get others publicity and attention that they would otherwise not be able to get.”

For example, the Northern Mindanao Vegetable Growers Association, whose members include ex-combatants from Bukidnon. With help from American foreign-assistance agency USAID, the group adheres to international standards in growing produce, which was introduced to the local media club in a get-together hosted weekly by Marco Polo.

Sponsoring eagles

The hotel further gets involved in the community through its support of coastal cleanups, indigenous tribal festivals, local fashion and art. The Philippine eagle sanctuary in Barangay Malagos also has an active sponsor in Marco Polo.

Davao is an ideal tourist destination, said Fisher, an Australian whose family enjoys the outdoors and has, in fact, vacationed in the city.

The typhoon-free zone is a godsend, especially to sports and adventure-seekers. No less than the World Health Organization has certified the city’s tap water clean and potable. Low crime rates have been maintained by police forces and Peace and Order Councils, which rank among the best in the country. Affordable products and tourist attractions also bring more value for money.

“It’s a delight to realize that the Davao experience is nothing like how the outside world perceives Mindanao and how the outside world perceives the troubles going on in this part of the world,” said Fisher.

“It is an example of how a city can get on in spite of the negative publicity.”

The stunning view from Marco Polo’s topmost floors is enough to give one that clearer picture.

Marco Polo Davao is at the corner of CM Recto Street in downtown Davao’s business district; tel. (63 82) 2210888; fax (63 82) 2250111; e-mail davao@marcopolohotels.com; visit www.marcopolohotels.com.


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