After more than 50 years, a grand hotel closes down PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 18 September 2018 14:28



San Jose, CA. — First, the cool movie theaters. Now, the world-famous Lantaka Hotel by the sea. No more lingering around and trading “cuentos” and “lios” at the “burachons” Talisay tree bar or late nights at the coffee shop for a dozen-for-the-road ice-cold beer. I wonder if anybody has collected photos that dates back to the historic “Bayot’s Hotel” during my grandfather’s time to the deeply romantic getaway for lovers and other strangers. El Presidente stayed there. So did Juan Ponce Enrile, the man who would never be presidente.

Many of Charlie Rieth’s present friends have sought him out for accounts about the hotel that’s been refurbished twice and redesigned ones to give the interior more idyllic taste conducive to romance. Most, if not all, of his older friends have bade farewell, to name one of them, Joaquin “Jun” Enriquez, Jr.

In those days, there were good hotels that teemed within the downtown area — two of them Astoria Hotel and Zamboanga Hotel. Bel-Air was right across the present post office. Oh, yeah, the kitchens of these hotels were primed up with cooks and chefs imported from Macao and Hong Kong. Sus madre, as a boy, I witnessed Chinese wedding receptions being crowded with people with a nose for excellent, superfine food spiced with “Ajinomoto”. Lantaka was more of western, hosting mostly Americans and Europeans hungry for pasta, beacon and beef.

The Rotarians converged there for their weekly meetings. They’ll surely miss, as I will, this seaside fantasy facing Sta. Cruz islands and the widened “pantalan” which was part of the “Pantalan de Barrios”. We will no longer hear the splash of the small waves against the sea wall of the hotel, nor shall we be taking photos around the Spanish cannon and the colorful sail, or smell the appetite-stimulating grilled pork and fish, though putrid to foreigners. All, gone.

I’m still trying to figure out how all these happened. My guess is that the 94-year-old owner wants to donate the hotel to a religious organization before she goes, overruling the board’s recommendation to sell it. And my second guess is that the donee will be a Catholic school.


When Martial Law dawned in 1972, curfew was imposed all over the country. That meant fewer hours in bars, discos and moviehouses. Then, there were bar fights all the time among unwinding servicemen on rest-and-recreation in the city. Moviehouses and bazaars were systematically bombed by terrorists that have killed dozens of civilians. Movie enthusiasts were simply too scared to live their homes after seven o’clock at night. Business was down.

In recent years, movie-going has drastically dropped. Besides being expensive, theaters in the 80s just lost their flare due to the ascendance of Betamax. They ceased to become a Saturday-afternoon pastime that went with a bottle of soda (Coke or Pepsi), a piece of chicken sandwich, peanuts, or, if in season, a kilo of Lanzones. The lovers would fill up the upper section of the balcony.

The moviegoers haven’t returned. I always watched good movies at Mindpro. I’m going to miss this mall after it is torn down by the end of this month to give way to a mammoth SM-Mindpro Mall. My last viewing there was “Meg”. There were only seven patrons watching. With Mindpro gone for 18 months, that means that I’ll have to watch movies at KCC.

There’s a come-on movie experience in the U.S. At Pruneyard where I watch movies near my daughter’s house, is that kind of experience: dinner and movie at the same time. You can get fries, beer, chicken wings, salad, even soup while you’re watching, ahhh, “Crazy rich Asians”.

This dine-in cinema entertainment isn’t new here. The first one opened in Oregon and the second one, a decade later, in Austin, Texas. TIME wrote: “Much like fast food chains co-opted the craze for artisanal fare, full-service theaters appeal to the broader, more regionally diverse customer base.” The theaters have reclining leather seats to relax your legs and back.

With this, the theaters are making a comeback in the U.S. I can’t say the same for Zamboanga where movie attendance has dipped. The downward trend is the result of that 40-year-old fear. Then, there’s Netflix and HBO that cable subscribers are glued to. But hopefully, the enthusiasts will return to the theaters.