By Ronnel Domingo Inquirer DAVAO CITY, Philippines--Marco Polo Hotels Management Ltd. is expanding its facilities here with a convention center and additional rooms as Mindanao's largest city attracts the growing interest of convention organizers and business executives on leisure travel. Stanley Lau, general manager of Marco Polo Davao, said in an interview the company had not yet set a definite amount to invest but that this was "easily more than P300 million." "We are still in talks with building designers, but the owners -- the Dominguez family through Halifax Capital Resources Inc. -- have given instructions toward expansion as soon as possible," Lau said. "Money is not an issue." He said the priority is to build a convention center that could accommodate 1, 000 people at a time and possibly 100 additional rooms. Marco Polo Davao's existing 18-story building has 245 rooms and a ballroom that is big enough for 500 people. Lau, a native of Hong Kong where MPHML is based, said the planned new building would rise on a vacant lot at the back of the hotel. "Our priority is a new and larger convention venue and its design would determine the number of the additional rooms," he said. The veteran hotelier said between 70 percent and 80 percent of Marco Polo Davao's existing rooms were occupied, which "are quite healthy numbers." At the same time, Lau said the firm has been spending on sprucing up the nine-year-old hotel, including the repainting of the exterior areas as well as the refurbishing of the rooms. "We have been doing this little by little [over] the past two years, starting with the topmost floors," he said. Further, Marco Polo expects to finish work on a P50-million recreation complex on its fourth floor by yearend. Having been soft-launched in August during the local Kadayawan festival, the complex called The Deck comprises a restaurant, a function room, a spa and a fitness center that includes a 25-meter swimming pool. "All of these are part of our efforts to offer amenities that would provide the pampering and indulgence that our market wants," Lau said. "This is also a strong statement from us about the opportunities that we see as Davao City starts to realize its potential as big tourist drawer," he said.
Recently in Davao Category
By Rosa Villanueva Inquirer SIX months after graduating from college, something totally unexpected happened: I burned out. I was not only having problems with my boss, I was also unhappy working with preschoolers. It got so bad that my boss not only refused to sign my regularization papers, she also suggested that I take a week off. An entire week? What was I supposed to do? I had never had a week off since I entered college! I was a shiftee who, in spite of having 30 or more units from her old course uncredited to her second course, managed to graduate on time. This meant that when I wasn’t in a class or doing something for a class, I was enrolling in one. This, coupled with parents who’d rather work than go on vacation, meant I had no idea what to do with a week off from work. My mom then suggested an out-of-town trip through the Super Ferry. At the time, my family had just started selling Super Ferry tickets, but no one had actually experienced riding one. She thought it would be nice if someone from our family could actually verify how the “Super Ferry Experience” was like. Since I had seven days off, I picked the farthest destination: Davao. I don’t know if it was my youth coupled with my sense of adventure, or I just didn’t really think about it, but two days later I was on my way to Davao City. The itinerary: spend three days in the boat going there, enjoy six hours going around the city, and spend another three days traveling back to Manila. Clearly, I had no idea what the next six days had in store for me. Not a breeze In the beginning, I felt pretty confident that the entire experience would be a breeze. Considering the only thing I knew about traveling by boat I had learned from watching episodes of “The Love Boat,” I had visions of parties, fun activities, swimming, and tables heaped with food. And, since I’ve been a certified bookworm from the day I learned to read, I knew I could turn on my unsociable self and hole up inside my cabin with my book any time things got boring (since I had nothing to do) or scary (being alone, at the time, was horribly scary for me). Unfortunately, five minutes after the boat left the shore, I realized I had done the unthinkable: I left my book at home. I made a beeline for the ship’s store, hoping against all hope they’d have some form of reading material. Think I was lucky? I wasn’t, although the guy promised to scrounge around the boat for something for me. I tried entertaining myself by going around the boat, looking out from the deck as we passed by Mindoro and the lovely dolphins that accompanied us as we went on our way. Obviously alone and probably looking quite desperate by this time, a petite girl approached me and struck up a conversation. I found out she was a missionary and was on her way to Bacolod before leaving the country to do some missionary work in Cambodia. Her company for the next couple of hours helped me while away the time. It wasn’t long, however, before she had disembarked and I was, once more, left to my own devices. New friends The first meal time spent without my new friend was difficult. I hate being alone so I usually try to entertain myself by reading a book while eating. Since my friend at the ship’s store still hadn’t found a book for me, I searched the dining room for a friendly looking group and it was then I met a biracial couple, a middle-aged Filipina and her middle-aged Caucasian husband who declared, five minutes into the meal, that the various spices he was putting on his food wasn’t drugs and that Filipino food, in his opinion, was quite bland. (Of course I wanted to argue with him that there’s nothing blander than American food but I wasn’t about ready to offend my new friends.) Once I got the hang of approaching total strangers, and once some of the crew realized I was alone, all my mealtimes were spent in the company of various people. Once I was invited to dine at the Captain’s table and another time, I ate with some of the members of the “hotel” crew. On my second evening aboard, the men who took care of the ship’s engineering requirements invited me to hang out at the “disco” (the mess hall gets converted into a huge ballroom at night) with them and I danced with men of all ages: from someone who was barely a couple of years older than I was to someone who had kids older than me. The ship’s captain also invited me to join them on the deck and taught me how to steer the ship. For a little more than an hour, I was in charge of steering the ship (they claimed it was the most horrible hour, with lots of people probably getting seasick and throwing up). When I wasn’t “working,” I’d pepper the various men and women of the crew with my questions, from how does it feel to be on a ship for days on end to whether or not they’d consider me joining them onboard permanently. In Davao then back All too soon we were in Davao. Not having made any arrangements with anyone, I asked the First Mate if he’d consider taking me around the city before I had to get back onboard five hours later. There, he brought me to the mall (I finally bought myself books to read) and to the market (to buy a crate of pomelo for my mom). He also asked the driver to go around the city a bit. After a quick dinner, we were back onboard and it was not long before I was waving goodbye to Davao’s pretty lights. Now that I was armed with my books, the trip back was pretty uneventful. I reverted to my old, unsociable self, spending most of my time in bed just reading. On the last day, all I had left to do was say goodbye to my new-found friends, promised to keep in touch, and stepped back onto dry land where everything wasn’t bolted down and where I got friends, books, and a whole myriad of entertainment to keep me preoccupied. Nine years later, I still think of this trip with the fondest of thoughts. Never, in six short days, have I done so many new things: first boat ride, first meal with absolute strangers, first time to see Visayas and Mindanao, and first (and, needless to say, last) time to steer a passenger ship. I know that since then, I have had many other firsts in my life. Nothing though would beat the amazing adventure I took at the age of 21. P.S. Whenever I tell this story, my friends’ reaction would be of disbelief. I don’t blame them. After all, I don’t have any pictures to show for it (this was way before digital cameras were staple travel gear). All I have is this ratty old Davao City shirt I bought from Island Souvenirs which, in retrospect, I could’ve bought from SM Southmall.