Owing to a mix-up, the Cebu Literary Festival organizer had to find us hotel accommodations at the last minute, and the guests from Manila were billeted at a hotel called Center Suites. The owners of Center Suites are members of Opus Dei, the ultra-conservative Catholic group, and our party included Carlos Celdran, celebrated “offender of religious feelings”. Carlos has actually been barred from some churches—they bolted the doors upon his approach—bringing up the possibility that the hotel would require an exorcism.
“Are you sure this is okay?” Hendri the one-man Cebu Litfest management asked about 20 times. We agreed so that we could tell our friends we had stayed at an Opus Dei-run hotel; at this point we just do things for the story value.
Upon check-in we were given copies of the house rules. “No instant couples” proclaimed a sign at the reception desk, meaning couples have to present a marriage certificate in order to get admitted. Immediately we thought of sending our friends who had gotten married in Ireland; the house rules did not mention same-sex couples.
The rules also prescribed “stain charges”—Php150 for the sheets, Php120 for the towel, etc—but did not specify the nature of the stains, which became an occasion for impure thoughts. Would the stain inspection be conducted with a black light?
Our room was very small, plain, clean, like a monk’s cell, not that we’ve ever been a monk. The window offered a view of the fire escape. In case the house rules were unclear there were helpful reminders taped on the walls. The bathmat was rolled up with a label that declared in large type: This is not a rag, you will be charged for heavy stains.
To our disappointment, the drawer contained neither hairshirt nor whips in case our conduct required punishment. Then again, it may have been to prevent reenactments of that 50 Shades crap.
The accommodations were so quiet and fun was such a distant threat that we actually got some work done. All we need are freezing airconditioning, a strong wifi signal, and a TV airing endless reruns of Law and Order, any version. If you want thrills, local color, vibrant company and aesthetic delights, this is not the place for you. But if you have responsibilities to meet and drudgery to endure, come on in.
We recommend Center Suites to parents whose children are going to Cebu—nothing keeps the young in line like house rules and a 10:30 curfew. Other hotels offer fun and excitement; Center Suites has a chapel with a full oratory. Does the Four Seasons have that? We think not.