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Christmas begins early at Solaire Resort

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Two 20-foot Christmas trees stand in the main lobby of Solaire Resort in Manila, the Philippines. Christmas celebrations begin early in the Philippines. Courtesy of Solaire Resort Entertainment City

By Kim Ji-soo

MANILA, Philippines — For the majority of Korean travelers to the country, the capital city usually meant a blip en route to Boracay, Palawan or Cebu. But post-pandemic, and with the growth of integrated resorts in the capital city such as Solaire Resort, Korean tourists are being urged to stay longer.

Solaire Resort is located along Manila Bay, the horizon of which is one of peace with boats gliding silently on the water and which at sunset turns into a majestic palette of orange and grey. It is a surprise attack of idyllic beauty in a bustling city.

Inside Solaire Resort, however, Christmas trees are ubiquitous, as the nation is already in high gear to celebrate Christmas.

"In a country where 85 percent are Catholics, celebrations begin early in September," said Jit Ng, vice president of brand and marketing at Solaire Resort.

The resort held a Christmas lighting ceremony themed "Christmas Magic" on Nov. 9 with a performance by Ballet Philippines and Powerdance Dancers. Top crooner Martin Nievera who enthusiastically engaged with fans before the ceremony, serenaded season's songs as two 20-foot Christmas trees were lighted in the main lobby. The resort has two lobbies. Dignitaries attending the ceremony were Bloomberry President and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Arasi, Paranaque Mayor Eric Olivarez and Bloomberry Resort Corporation Vice Chairman for Construction and Regulatory Affairs Donato Almeda. The Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, led by Filipino port tycoon Enrique K. Razon Jr., operates Solaire Resort. A second resort, Solaire Resort North, is expected to open next March in Quezon City.

Singer Martin Nievera serenades at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Solaire Resort in Manila, the Philippines, Nov. 9. / Courtesy of Solaire Resort Entertainment City

The Christmas lighting amid the warm November weather was a unique mix of festive activity — as if to reflect the diverse Filipino culture.

The resort, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, was the first to enter the Entertainment City overseen by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Currently, it is one of four integrated resorts in Manila, offering theater, casino, shopping and more. The resort's major guests are Chinese, Koreans and local Filipinos, but the resort hopes for more Korean visitors.

"They can also stay in Manila, stay at Solaire Resort, and discover the various activities and charms that we have," said Ng.

There is a confluence of Korean elements at Solaire Resort, due to the Korean visitors but also the influence of Korean soft power. There is a Korean restaurant Kiwa as well as the fried chicken franchise Kkanbu to enjoy chicken and beer, or "chimaek." The resort sponsors Korean female golfers Ko Jin-young and Park Sung-hyun. In South Korea, Solaire Resort has an outlet on Jeju Island, the Jeju Sun Hotel and Casino.

The swimming pool at Solaire Resort, located along Manila Bay. / Korea Times photo by Kim Ji-soo

As a resort, Solaire offers about 800 rooms, comprised of the Bay Tower and the more luxurious Sky Tower, which opened in 2014. The Sky Tower also earned the Forbes Travel Guide 5-star rating for seven years straight. The top tier however are the expansive four Villas — Chairman's Villa, Villa 1, Villa 2 and Villa 3. The villas each have their own pool and jacuzzi on private terraces overlooking the bay.

A view of the bedroom at Chairman's Villa at Solaire Resort Entertainment City / Courtesy of Solaire Resort Entertainment City

An interior image of Solaire Resort's Finestra Italian Steakhouse/ Courtesy of Solaire Resort Entertainment City

Hung are artworks throughout the resort, some 3,000 paintings including works of local Filipino artists from the collections of Razon Jr.

The resort's gaming floor — two levels of it — spans 30,200 square meters, decorated by mother-of-pearl-covered columns.

A total of 17 hotels and bars stand ready to fill hungry stomachs, headed by Sebastian Kellerhoff. The Chinese restaurant Red Lantern offers authentic Chinese menu items such as suckling pig and Peking duck with ingredients flown in daily from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. The Japanese restaurant Yakumi has produce flown in from Tokyo's Toyusu Fish Market. The Italian Finestra steakhouse, where Michelin star chef Andrea Spagoni recently joined in September, features pasta, steak and gelato. Some outfits such as the Lucky Noodles and the Dragon Bar, operate 24 hours.

Those looking for theatrical experience can see the Broadway musical "Hamilton" currently playing at The Theatre. A unique indoor shooting range at the Sky Range Shooting Club offers pistol and rifle shooting bays.

A facade of Solaire Resort / Coutesy of Solaire Resort Entertainment City

A majority of Solaire Resort's rooms enjoy access to the Bay view, but the outdoor swimming pool is an optimal place to appreciate the calming vista that burns orange-red at sunset. Beyond the pool stand palm trees and African talisays framing the view of Manila Bay. There are also private cabanas and a cocktail bar on the sidelines.

Despite worldwide inflation, construction seems to be booming in Manila, and business for the resort is rebounding after the COVID-19 pandemic. The gross revenue from January through September this year in the gaming sector rose 26 percent over the same period of the previous year. Also, the gross revenue in non-gaming areas for the resort rose 42 percent over the same period of the previous year, according to the resort's figures. Occupancy also for the third quarter of 2023 stood at 82.1 percent, marking a 20 percent increase year-on-year.

Kim Ji-soo


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