The Different Faces of Motels

Words by : Michael Luchico

The word motel has a long and storied history. In fact, what it actually is has become a distant memory or a vague recollection especially in the Philippines. The word itself was coined in 1925 and actually is, an abbreviation of the term motorists’ hotel. By virtue of definition, motels are smaller versions of hotels were guests can park in a garage below a room they can rest in. The need for a motorists’ hotel came about when the United States of America started expanding their highway system. With major highways now open for use, people can cross the country on road. But the long drive can cause drivers to get so tired which can lead to eventual accidents. Now, that is why motels were created. They are the halfway homes for travelers and one of the more attractive catches is the affordable room rate that they offer.

Fast forward to recent times in the Philippines. The roads and towns may not be as far in the United States, but the blooming of motels was quite obvious. One would expect motels in-between Manila and Baguio. But these motorists’ hotels are frequently seen in areas around Metro Manila. Take for example; Hillcrest Pasig is home to more than three motels despite it being just an hour away from Manila. Another good example is a street in Sta. Mesa that leads to V. Mapa Avenue. It is in the heart of Manila yet it prides itself as a motel hotspot. This is an illustration of what motels are in the Philippines. Over and beyond being a stop over for weary drivers, motels have become an easily affordable getaway for Filipinos.

There are about a thousand reasons why a Manileño needs a cheap getaway. But with one mention of the word motel, a giggle or an immature reaction is sure to follow. It is because to the eyes of many, motels are seen as a venue for romantic, passionate, or intimate getaways. It provides the basic needs- a shower, a table, a couple of chairs and, of course, a bed. This popular use of motels has transcended the original sense of the word. In a country where not everyone owns a car, most motels offer taxi rooms. The taxi room service helps couples get into the motorists’ hotel even without a car. And in some cases there are still walk-in motels. Unlike hotels, motels offer wash-up rates or the 3-hour setup. Perfect for a bath, rest time, some snuggling, a joke here and there and the eventual second bath.

The basest of needs can be met in a motel. But the most luxurious or superfluous desires can also be savored in motel rooms. Motels have created rooms where people can live out their fantasies even for just three hours. The fantasy rooms have themes like the Moulin Rouge, The Matrix, and X-Men. These are perfect for playing out your favorite scenes with your personal twist. Other themes are inspired by the beauty of Babylon, India, Phuket, Bali, Marilyn Monroe, the White House, Boracay, the 70s, Steam Punk, Outer Space, Iron Man, and even the chick flick, Twilight. Such innovations and actual face lifts has endeared motels to the vast majority of its patrons.

In the archipelago where every piece of land is an opportunity, wiser businessmen found another use for motels. They have converted some of their properties to more than just a bed and a garage. Some started introducing motel function rooms. For people who find it impractical to rent a hotel room or function hall the motel rooms were such a welcome addition to the choices of party venues. Now, birthdays, bridal showers, and even barkada reunions have a home in motorists’ hotels all over Manila.

There are plenty to see and to experience in motels. The rooms might be small or big, but the ever-evolving face of motels has continued to serve tourists and pleasure seekers alike in a big way. And this month of love, room after room will have patrons come and be part of the continuous story of motels.

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