Confronting Contrast: Marriott Manila’s Business Center

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This article was co-written with Emil Hofileña.

“We’re extremely underdressed for this place,” we thought to ourselves as we passed through security sensors and large glass doors in jeans and t-shirts.

Tourists, businessmen, and bellboys roamed the lobby of the Marriott Manila. The hotel, which stands in the middle of Resorts World Manila, would fit nicely in a fairy tale story—what with its large hallways, glowing chandeliers, and fancy architecture. And naturally, just like in a fairy tale, we were lost without a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. “Excuse me, where can we find Meeting Room 1? We’re here for the When in Manila internship orientation.” Hotel staff pointed us towards an elevator.

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We ascended to the second floor, which houses Marriott Manila’s Business Centre—a quiet working space away from the bustle of the guests below and the fitness area down the hall. Overlooking the hotel lobby and bar, the Centre lobby is simple: benches to the side and a small printing room in the corner, before opening up to a long pre-function hallway opposite the entrance.

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Along the hallway are full-body windows that peek out into a narrow roof deck adorned with plants—a contrast to the strict formality we expected to find indoors. The empty hallway would soon find itself full of interns posing for photographs, but for now we entered the first of six equally-sized meeting rooms that also line the hallway.

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We entered a room that did not seem very different from the classrooms we had all grown accustomed to being in. Tidy columns and rows of chairs behind long tables greeted our eyes, but the intimidating business aesthetic we had prepared ourselves for was shattered by the greetings of our co-interns and When in Manila’s administrators.
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Soon these chairs were in disarray. Amid cheering and shouts of “Akala mo lang wala, pero meron! Meron! MEROOON!!!” a door at the far wall would open, and waiters would enter bearing more glasses of lemon water. A beverage dispenser sits in an alcove off to the side of the room—safe from the flailing arms of contestants participating in pre-orientation games.

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But the room could just as easily turn back to being a space for business meetings. A projection screen lit up in front of the tables and chairs, as we took down notes, tips, and pointers with the help of Marriott’s free and easy-to-access wi-fi connection for its guests.

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Towards the end of the orientation, Vince Golangco—founder of When in Manila— asked us to retain the positive vibe we had displayed during the day. “I hate office politics,” he said, “which is probably why we don’t even have an office.” Marriott Manila seemed to reflect this sentiment: formally, we were doing work. But even the most professional of situations and locations could still be transformed into something fun, lively, and passionate.
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As we exited Meeting Room 1, the pre-function hallway now glowed with yellow in the nighttime. Together we made our way across the lobby and down a staircase—no longer seeking breadcrumbs, but following the scent of food floating in from under the Business Centre. We may have been underdressed at Marriott Manila, but When in Manila helped us feel perfectly at home with the skin we lived in.

For more of the WIMterns’ experiences, check this out!

Watch this video to find out more about what happened during the interns’ first day!

Emil Hofileña graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. He spends too much time in cinemas and runs his own movie review channel on YouTube. He believes all stories are worth telling. Follow him on Twitter @EmilHofilena.