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My memories of Sogo Hotel the once paradise of Robin Padilla and Mariel Rodriguez

 

Sogo Hotel has always been a fascinating sight with its flaming red building with a streak of yellow and black. From afar, it’s like a sore thumb among high rises especially in the metropolis. What makes it more intriguing is its logo of an Oriental-inspired art work of a Japanese woman playfully half-peeping behind a giant yellow hand fan, again in blazing red background, stamped on any of its flyer or leaflet or any promo material or painted on every façade, wall, reception desk and other parts of the establishment.

I was wondering why the hotel has a Japanese influence when its owners are Filipinos I happened to meet one of them in one of my speaking engagements at the Makati Rotary Club in a Makati City meeting place.

At first, the hotel was generally perceived by the public as a one-star or even a non-star accommodation and lightheartedly a short time tryst on kinky sex ---  an impression shared with other hotels or motels built ahead of them in the Pasig or Sta. Mesa or Caloocan hub. Unfortunately, these types of halfway houses have gained or sent wrong notion and signal about hotel management, patronage and hospitality among people.

Perhaps because the way these hotels and motels are portrayed in media or in the domesticated realms are distorted like in reel scenes where an illicit love affair of two people ordinarily end up in a drive-in hotel in Pasig or Sta. Mesa. It has affected the judgment of people that a motel is a place for sinners and the wayward being depicted in the movies or TV shows. In the middle or lower class neighborhood, people teasingly describe sweet twosome bound for a cheap thrill in a motel. In fact, going to a “biglang liko” (sudden turn, a euphemism for checking in a motel) is just a leisurely way of spending a night away with someone, family or not. Of course, the metering up in a minor hotel has been used and abused by thugs and sluts.

I remember a loving couple, the husband had just arrived from his overseas work and he asked his wife to spend a night in a hotel in Sta. Mesa instead of billeting in expensive five-star hotels the love they would share would mean more than its numeric attribution. For how it is different from a plush hotel when love is the main quotient.  

Strictly speaking, though, motel isn’t a sex den. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition defines it as “an establishment which provides lodging and parking lot and in which the rooms are usually accessible from an outdoor parking are.”

Motel, as a word and as a place, in the Filipino psyche has acquired different contexts and meanings all these years. Just two years ago, I remember, we were meeting in an editorial room with the publication’s manager, editors and marketers when a female marketing staff dropped the name of Sogo Hotel as one of its prospective sponsors or advertisers and if approved there would be monetary exchange and vouchers as ex-deal perks.

Many in the room broke into guffaws but the female marketer had remained very serious in her advertising proposal.     

Sogo Hotel was one of the first inns that had spearheaded the influx in the city and the suburban halfway places for tourists, local and foreign, promenaders, travelers etc. in the burgeoning hotel and restaurant business in the 1990s. As a matter of course, before the decade there was a scarce of lodging houses in Metro Manila. It set a trend. It blazed a trail.     

Gradually, it has evolved into something wholesome but its own making because I still remember young actress Barbie Forteza had told reporters that there was a time her whole family had to spend a night in Sogo Hotel because of time constraints.

You see, Barbie lived and still lives in Biñan, Laguna, a far-off town from Quezon City, in GMA Network where she worked and still works. Forteza had an early morning call time for a shoot she must be on time and getting to the TV station from the south of Manila would mean ages. What the Fortezas decided was to check in at Sogo Hotel for convenience.

When couple Robin Padilla and Mariel Rodriguez was signed by the hotel to be its celebrity endorsers, it added to the clientele shift of the company and still retained its traditional market.

“Dahil mahal kita, gusto ko sa Sogo ka” has been the battle cry of the men to the women from Robin to Mariel, from the current guy model endorser to his beloved.

Initially, I was part of the promo scheme of the Padilla-Rodriguez tandem. I had already laid out the ad and promo plan by enumerating the possible multimedia outlets and the corresponding responsibilities that would go with promotional campaign advertising.

One of the most admirable programs of Sogo Hotel is its outreach project supporting indigent communities in the country. It is one of the features of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) any business venture is expected to deliver and one which is viewed as a place for leisure and enjoyment it is one move to add dimension and color to its objectives.

Everything was already in place and I was ready to embark on my journey. It was a challenge. It was hope. It was work.

But the hotel suddenly changed plans.

Despite the blueprint being nipped in the bud, I still helped in the writing of the hotel as I established a link with it. It was still a challenge and a protection.

Hotel Sogo was Robin and Mariel’s paradise as they had been taken care of by its people. The couple was very cooperative with their clients as contract artists like requests of coming to the opening of a new branch and some personal appearances. It was a symbiotic relation, a very wonderful alliance like any link it has connected to many media agencies.

In every tabloid or broadsheet and now broadcast media, the hotel has vented its newest pitch and it is noticeable that in every party, like Christmas gig among multimedia outlets, gift certificates flood the floor.

It was indeed generous of the company to have given us the roof to realize the making of a documentary film about Manuel Luis Quezon, the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth and his creation of the dream city, the Quezon City.

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