There’s a new lady at the Makati Shangri-La, Manila. And her name is Isabela.
From its classic signature of masculine-sounding names for ballrooms and event spaces—such as Pasay, Parañaque, Pasig, Makati, Manila, Mandaluyong and Rizal—the hotel now offers Isabela, a state-of-the-art ballroom named after Spain’s Queen Isabela, the wife of King Philip II after whom the Philippines was named.
The Isabela Ballroom is elegantly styled with mirrored coffee tables, leather-upholstered high-back couches, chrome floor lamps and a geometric-patterned blue carpet. Located at the Lower Lobby, it can be accessed through elevators or through a winding staircase that leads to its foyer.
Majestic crystal chandeliers, fashioned like cascading drops of water, decorate the ceiling. The doors, with brass handles, are luxuriously padded with stamped cowhide leather from floor to ceiling. Earth colors give the space a warm, feminine touch. The works of Filipino painter RH Lascano adorn the walls and give it a distinct, residential-space vibe.
Designed by the renowned Hong Kong-based LRF Design Ltd., Isabela also has a 22-seater dining area with its own kitchen. Across it is a 24-seater bar and cocktail section with a granite counter and Italian marble floors.
Isabela is also installed with technologically advanced features, such as touchscreen lighting, with four motorized HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) screens that drop from the ceiling with projector lifts. The VIP anteroom has a separate bathroom, shower and powder room, while a car entrance is accessible through Basement 1 Parking.
“The competition has become more aggressive, and it is our aim to keep this property where it has been since its opening in 1993—the leader and trendsetter in the Philippines,” says Alain Borgers, the new area manager and GM of Makati Shangri-La. “This, of course, would not be possible without the high-quality employees working in this hotel, and without the Shangri-La hospitality from the heart delivered to our guests.”
Borgers, a Belgian national, will also be directing the growth of Shangri-La properties in the country, including Edsa Shangri-La, Manila; Shangri-La Boracay Resort & Spa; Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa, Cebu and Traders Hotel, Manila. Before his current post, he was the general manager of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts’ first hotel in Europe, the Shangri-La Hotel Paris in France.
Borgers is no stranger to the Philippines. He first joined Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts as resident manager of Makati Shangri-La in 1994, when the space the Isabela Ballroom now occupies was the happening party place of the ’90s called Zu.
It was during that posting almost 20 years ago when he met his Filipina wife, Carmela Narciso Borgers, through friends in the city.
“She brought to me the Asian culture, the Filipino warmth. She helped me love the country. I’m very happy to be back, although I have been coming every summer because of my wife. I haven’t lost touch. I have my own apartment here,” says Borgers.
It has been 11 years since his last post in Manila, as GM of Makati Shangri-La in 1999.
“After 11 years of ‘exile’ in Indonesia, Malaysia and France, it’s nice to be back in Manila where my life started 19 years ago. For sure, it is for me and for my family the most smooth transition period I have experienced in my nomad life as a hotelier,” he says.
Borgers took over from Reto Klauser, who is now the VP and GM of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts in Malaysia.
Borgers vows to continue doing the projects left behind by Klauser, while also aiming to bring in his European experience into the Philippines. He’s personally looking at what goes into the Isabela Ballroom, for instance—the music, food and lighting, “the details and refinement I have learned during my experience in Paris,” he says.
For over two years, Borgers was involved in the planning of the Shangri-La Hotel Paris’ grand opening in 2010. That hotel is in a historic location, the former home of Prince Ronald Bonaparte. Transforming a historical building into a hotel was not an easy feat, says Borgers. The building had, for instance, about a dozen or more room categories based according to their shape, room view and size.
Borgers’ extensive experience will prove to be invaluable to Shangri-La’s properties in Philippines, including its sixth property, the Shangri-La at The Fort, which is set to open in 2015. Opening in January will be a new dining place, located where the former Red used to be. Inagiku will also see some innovations, he says.
“Our product is perfect. We just need to fine-tune it. Like a BMW, you never completely change it. It’s always an evolution. We have to fine-tune in terms of using local knowledge, decorations and whatever. But the Shangri-La philosophy and culture will be the same wherever you go. It’s the DNA of the company.”
For inquiries and event bookings, call the Events Information Center at tel. 8138888 or e-mail email@example.com.