By Michael Karlo Lim
NOUN – A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
I’ve always maintained a somewhat full social schedule since childhood what with my earlier circles revolving around those of my folks. Cebu didn’t have as much going on back then but, of what were, the roads always seemed to lead to Montebello Villa Hotel. Wedding receptions, birthdays, pool parties, small shows and concerts, family dinners, Sunday lunches, summer art classes and tilts and every one of my grandfather’s Batangueno Association meets where the golden grandson was a standard intermission number.
By and by, as we grew up, our visits became fewer and far in between as activities, events and ourselves with those eventually became drawn to newer alternative venues. Adulting, too, contributed to the toll and the industries I immerse myself in seemed to confuse the modern concept of work-life integration to a blur.
Tucked into the sleepier residential areas but still right smack in the city, one of its features is that one can get away without having to go far away — the only garden hotel in the city, as their tagline goes. Built in 1972, most of its structures exist in its original splendor blending colonial Spanish and classical elements in its design and irreplaceable character. Rising from what was initially planned to become a country club, the hotel is now the best-preserved example of Cebu’s 70’s swank, old-world charm, and glamor, even.
Fairly recently, we took a welcome break to stay at Montebello. Their newly renovated pool view rooms have shrugged off age to reveal a more contemporary take on how these were in their heyday. Located on the second floor of the newly renovated Heritage Wing, the Heritage Poolview rooms open to classical wrought iron-railed balconies overlooking the main pool and its titular gardens.
Ours was decked in comforting earth tones and a very plush King-sized bed. As complimentary wireless Internet access is pretty much an industry standard, theirs was notably stable and fast. A 50-inch LED television with digital cable channels added to the likelihood that we’d take the stay in staycation quite literally — wallowing in the bedding and relying on room service. A bathtub with an en-suite shower beckoned for a long, relaxing hot bath. Welcomed with a fruit basket and their signature sweet treats, we put off exploring the fully-stocked mini-bar and tea or coffee-making facility so much later.
We took the chance to make the weekend getaway to mean precisely that. We lost the rest of the weekend to sleep, interrupted only by meals. Of their several daily themed dinners, we indulged in their Saturday Spanish Night Buffet. It featured traditional Spanish dishes including their heritage signature items. Unlimited cocktails, local beers, and house wine capped the night and aided the easy slip into deep sleep.
We stretched out with a sunrise yoga session at the gardens. The motley crew of guests and staff in attendance undoubtedly served some entertainment for guests at the breakfast buffet nearby. Satisfied with finally having eased myself into the Crane, I satisfied myself with their considerable breakfast options and the poolside view. The rest of the day was spent checking out their all-new swimming pool, game room, cafe and their new event pavilion, the Glass House. Photowalking through all those uncovered many Instagrammable spots and allowed the discovery of new ones.
Some things best remain mostly unchanged, only updated. Our brief stay allowed us to still appreciate Montebello Villa Hotel’s culture and heritage while enjoying the recent upgrades. Every family has a story, and through its almost fifty years of operations, they continue to tell it just as beautifully as they did before.