MANILA, Philippines — Since opening four months ago, “Gwapotel Inn” run by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has apparently delivered on its no-frills offer: Safe, decent lodgings for out-of-towners on a frugal budget.
And according to MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando, even white-collar types and traders have been checking in, taking advantage of the token charges: P20 for a night’s stay, a minimum of P5 for a bath.
More than 40,000 transients have had a generally pleasant stay in the four-story “hotel” on Bonifacio Drive, Port Area, Manila, since its opening on May 14, Fernando reported in a statement Thursday.
The 710-bed inn, which used to house the offices of National Power Corp. but is now painted in “BF’s” signature pink and blue, has since posted an average occupancy rate of 73 percent, or about 519 guests daily, the agency said.
But unlike in regular hotels, the overnighters don’t get a room but share a common sleeping area, their double-deck beds three to four feet away from one another. Guests probably get to understand why the rates are that incredibly low the moment they see this spartan arrangement.
Also, a transient, who normally is allowed to check in at 2 p.m., will have to pack up by 9 a.m. the following day as housekeeping needs to “hose down” the quarters for the next batch of bedspacers.
Nevertheless, Fernando said he expected the figure to grow as more workers discover Gwapotel (“gwapo” is Filipino for handsome or sleek, and a recurring buzz-word in BF’s various beautification projects in the metropolis).
He said he expected the occupancy rate to reach 90 percent this month on word of mouth alone.
Profile of guests
Based on a guest list kept by the MMDA, most of the clients have been domestic travellers waiting for their ships bound for the Visayas or Mindanao, taxi drivers, call center agents, applicants for overseas jobs, port workers and government employees.
Many of the workers staying at the inn come from the Southern Tagalog provinces.
Occasionally, guests appearing to be businessmen and white-collar personnel would show up at the inn, having run out of other lodging options in the city, Fernando said.
Each floor has a TV set, electric fans for ventilation, security cameras, and beds for up to 200 guests. As many as six guards are on duty at any given time.
Women are sheltered separately on the second floor.
Each bunk bed comes with a pillow and leatherette matting, but an extra mattress can be had for P25. It is not uncommon for guests to bring their own blankets and sleeping bags.
To take a bath, guests use coin-operated showers, where they deposit P5 for approximately eight minutes of water flow. After eight minutes, the shower automatically stops.
Washing laundry is not allowed and eating is banned in the sleeping quarters.
There is a major policy at Gwapotel that one will not find in other hotels: “No reservations.”
Josefina Saliva, who heads an MMDA committee managing the inn, said guests who intend to stay another night have to check in again the next day.
“The floor has to be empty between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. That’s cleanup time,” she said in an interview.
Of course, there have been some complaints.
Mosquitoes used to be a problem, Saliva admitted, but this was alleviated with the installation of “air curtains” and more frequent use of insecticides.
Fights would sometimes erupt among strangers made to sleep close to one another, which Saliva said is “just natural in a room full of people. We just ask them to leave and settle it elsewhere.”
And what usually triggers the fights? “Snoring.”
Still, Fernando said, owing to the initial success of Gwapotel, MMDA will soon be opening similar facilities in three more cities in Metro Manila.