During our January trip to Bataan, we decided that if we were coming back, then we had to stay at The Plaza Hotel. It’s in the provincial capital and is one of the four main buildings surrounding the town plaza: the 18th-century Balanga Cathedral, the municipal building, and a mall (which say a lot about our priorities in this country, haha). So when P decided he wanted to return to the province for his birthday weekend, I arranged our stay at this hotel.
The hotel’s façade, heavily documented on Instagram, is impressive. Despite the three centuries of Spanish rule, we have little to show for colonial architecture, so exteriors like this are a novelty. At night, the view is even more stunning, especially in a city that seems asleep by 10 p.m. However, I also recognize how incongruous the design is, not only after having had a feel of its surroundings but also after having entered its doors. For example: how come such a majestic-looking building does not have parking facilities for its guests? And why is it that the window of the executive room looks out into the hotel staircase? There are also signs of wear and tear throughout the building—all easily dismissible—but given the ostentatious facade, expectations run high until charity sets in, and so, they are lowered.
Where it has a lot of class though is in its service. Check-in was breezy and prompt, with a professional and smart-looking front desk that moved like clockwork. Every request we made at the front desk was delivered within 5-10 minutes of our call. The room was simple and elegant: I liked the muted colors and soft lighting, plus it smelled great. There were enough electrical plugs—five if you exclude those taken up by the lamps—because I find that power sources are becoming a scarce commodity in hotels lately. Air conditioning was strong and the free WiFi was fast (I wish we brought our laptops so we could have binged on Netflix), but what I couldn’t stop raving about was the cable TV—I’ve never seen channels that crisp and sharp.
Most importantly, the bed was comfortable and the pillows were some of the best I’ve ever laid my head on; the top sheet and duvet were both tucked tightly under both end corners so they stayed in place until the next morning. I wish we could have stayed in all day!
The free breakfast meal was at Plaza Brew, a trendy and well-designed coffee shop on the ground floor that seemed serious with its craft and which wouldn’t be out of place in Katipunan. We wanted to try the well-reviewed Café Kyoto on the third floor, but it was literally a hallway with tables and chairs as it shared what is already a small space with the hotel’s reception floor.
Overall, it’s a charming, friendly, and graceful hotel that would have been easily outsized by the grand spectacle that is its façade if it didn’t turn out to be smoke and mirrors. Perhaps, there’s the silver lining and I would be glad to stay here again.
Tip: Go to the 6th floor to see a view of Balanga City. That’s the 18th century Balanga Cathedral in the center