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Bill Clinton

Manila Hotel’s MacArthur Suite has such a reputation in the West that former US president Bill Clinton chose it as his official residence during his short Philippine visit

Former United States President Bill Clinton brought new meaning to the word “transient” when he checked into Manila Hotel’s MacArthur Suite for a 22-hour Philippine state visit on November 12, 1995.

Clinton arrived in Manila with his wife Hillary at exactly 12:28 a.m., and was escorted to the hotel thereafter by the US Secret Service and the RP Presidential Security Group. Bodyguards were showing him the way to the elevator when he strayed off to greet well-wishers, to which a secret service agent fumed, “I knew it! There he goes.”

The reason he stayed at the Manila Hotel: history. It was also timely to stay there as the 50th anniversary of the Leyte Landing—led by Manila Hotel’s longest staying guest General Douglas MacArthur in 1944— had only been celebrated weeks prior to his arrival.

Manila Hotel has also been a refuge for US presidents like Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.

It goes without saying that Manila Hotel, also known by the sobriquets Grand Dame, Address of Prestige in the Far East, and Aristocrat of the Orient, has been the top hotel choice of high-ranking officials, heads of states, and royalty visiting the country.

Clinton feasted on a plate of pancit (noodles) before going to bed. He saw a close-in security agent savoring a dish and requested to have one too. He liked pancit so much that he even asked for the recipe. The US president wasn’t really new to Filipino dishes, though, as five of his F&B staff at the White House were Filipinos.

Except for the pancit, Clinton didn’t demand for any particular food during his visit, although he did ask for dairy products to be kept to a minimum as he was allergic to them.

Clinton tucked himself at around two in the morning in a matrimonial bed covered with embroidered jusi fabric.

Preparations for the visit lasted for a month even though Clinton only stayed for less than a day. There were three security sweeps before the visit.

The hotel was a convenient location for the Clintons during their visit. It was only a few minutes away from the Malacanang Palace, where a sumptuous four-course lunch with then RP President Fidel V. Ramos was waiting for them. It was at that event that he gave Ramos a moon rock as a gift. It was one of the many rocks brought home by Apollo 11.

The hotel was also a stone’s throw away from the Quirino Grandstand—where Clinton met with a local Order of DeMolay chapter (an international fraternity of which he was a member) to receive an award—the historic Manila Bay, and the walled city of Intramuros.

On the morning of his departure, Clinton went for a jog at Luneta, leaving his Filipino bodyguards huffing and puffing behind him. The fitness buff also went for a swim in the hotel pool before attending to state affairs.

The MacArthur Suite was recreated in 1976 during the hotel’s major renovation. It has a formal dining room called the Gold Room, a smaller dining room with a riveting view of the waterfront, and a study-library containing 10,000 volumes of the general’s books.

MacArthur loved the suite that he was almost moved to tears when he saw the Imperial Japanese flag hanging from it during his retreat to Corregidor Island during World War II. Three years after, in 1945, the general reclaimed the hotel that served as a command post for Japanese forces.

Print ed: 03/10


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