Outside Metro Manila, florist-decorator Tony Rodriguez rents a small home where he and his artisans work like Santa and his elves.
They produce fiberglass Christmas trees, figurines and ornaments, signature elements of Rodriguez’s style.
For many years, he has been decking hotel lobbies and living rooms with lights, garlands, wreaths and holiday images. Hotels in fact have won awards for the holiday decor.
This year, Marco Polo Ortigas has been one of his challenging projects. He was given only a week’s notice to dress it up.
The project is special. It’s the country’s first sky hotel, which starts from the lobby lounge on the 24th floor to the entertainment club and tapas-sushi bar on the 45th. Visitors embark on an upward journey to experience the hotel’s offerings.
The Christmas décor theme is a nod to Marco Polo, the Venetian traveler who chronicled his voyages to Asia, then terra incognita to Europeans.
Guests are invited to look at Rodriguez’s interpretations of the song “12 Days of Christmas” that are rendered on the different floors.
Rodriguez capitalized on the sleek look and dramatic touches of the interiors designed by the Canadian-based Glyph Design Group, and on the commanding views from the top floors.
He made sure that his décor was literal enough to be understood by the guests, while complementing the interiors.
Even given the short time frame, Rodriguez didn’t scale down and used gewgaws from retail stores.
“The ornaments must be customized because the hotel showed me the design pegs,” he explains. “When I saw the lobby, I felt it was so unique. Since it’s the only lobby in the sky, the décor must be equally different.”
A unique design element is the canopy on the elevator foyer. One of the floors featured a ceiling treatment covered with metal pipes. They evoked memories of the cutwork designs on the ventanillas, the sliding panels beneath the windows, popular in ancestral homes in his native Bacolod.
He decided that wooden cutworks would be the main motif throughout the hotel.
A friend from Bacolod produced the wooden cutwork figures that were enhanced with gold and glitter to invite people to touch them.
“You can’t find them anywhere,” says Rodriguez.
At the Arrival Lobby, fiberglass pyramids with cutout calling birds greet the guests. Wooden cutworks of turtle doves are entwined on dangling faux fir tree branches in the coffee-shop deli.
The function rooms are discreetly adorned with Christmas trees embellished with cut-outs of geese.
Cutouts of swan are poised on a garden of faux peonies and gold berries on the foyer of the pool and spa.
When guests check in at the 24th floor Connect Lounge, they are greeted by the sight of a red sleigh sprayed with snowflakes.
The piece de resistance is the Christmas tree, which is decked with wooden cutouts of all the characters in the song—the dancers, the pied pipers, the chickens and geese.
The tree is crowned with the silhouette of a partridge.
Instead of gifts under the tree, Rodriguez lined the bottom with aluminum lamps, the old-fashioned illumination of travelers.
Suspended décor being his signature, Rodriguez created resin Harlequin dolls, dressed by a well-known designer, splitting in the air in a background of golden rings. These are the Leaping Lords in the all-day dining restaurant.
Climax of the visual journey are the vignettes of fiberglass pipers on the 44th floor and drummers at Vu’s Sky Bar and Lounge.
Francis de Leon, director for communications, explains that it’s the only purpose-built Marco Polo five-star hotel in the country.
Owner Samuel Po, the self-made billionaire who made his fortune on baby and adult diapers and feminine napkins, worked closely with the principals on everything, from the design conceptualization and construction.
Decorating a new hotel inspires Rodriguez. “I love the interiors. Celadon is one of the color themes. It’s said to be the luckiest of the stones. Everything is so refined. From the pillows to the uniforms, everything seems to blend with the environment. Even the employee entrance at the back is pleasant. Decorating Marco Polo has been a journey for me as much as it is for the guest,” says Rodriguez.