Admittedly a novice when it comes to travel in the Philippines, Tom has had the local's-eye view as his tour guides have all been family.
An Eco-Friendly, Truly Green Hotel
Located a block off Timog Avenue in one of the hipper areas of Metro Manila, Cocoon Boutique Hotel was made almost entirely from recycled materials rescued from various construction sites. You might imagine a jumbled building of disjointed parts barely held together with baling wire and chewing gum. You'd be wrong.
Elegance, Style and a Staff That Treats You Like Family
The lobby makes a good initial impression: class without snootiness, a combination I always admire. Some of the doormen don't speak English, as this hotel caters primarily to fellow Filipinos, but never fear—a smile and warm words you may not understand will greet you upon entering. The first thing you will notice when entering will be the old pianoforte to your left. It's ancient, it's delicate, it's valuable—and if the staff finds out that you know how to play the piano, they'll insist you play it (as they did with me: it's so out of tune it's mostly embarrassing to play).
A Staff so Sweet Your Teeth Will Ache
I couldn't understand a number of staff workers (especially in housekeeping), but they could all understand me. This is common throughout the Philippines, as English is the administrative language and therefore taught in all schools. The entire staff of Cocoon goes above and beyond on a daily basis. From the bellhops to the booking agents, from the waiters to the people changing the sheets on your bed, the staff is courteous, friendly, helpful and make you feel like you're part of the family. My wife and I made several friendships with Cocoon staff members that have lasted for years.
This is a good example of how the staff treats their guests. While getting directions from the lobby staff, I casually mentioned that while I adored the coffee they served in the rooftop restaurant, I was trying to avoid caffeine and wondered if they knew of a place where I could find quality decaf beans. Joe turned to Daphne, she shrugged and Joe said, nothing comes to mind. When we returned to our room later that day, we found a full bag of freshly ground decaffeinated gourmet coffee that was nearly identical in taste to what the restaurant served.
Stylish, Nearly Soundproof Rooms
The entire building is solid-wall construction, so a bomb could explode in your neighbor's room and while you'd probably feel the building sway, you very likely wouldn't hear the blast.
Even the hallways are detailed with taste, as are the rooms. You aren't here for a view, so don't expect much of one; but the air conditioners are silent and efficient, the rooms include all the usual amenities (coffee maker, cups, glasses, desk with chairs, big screen TV) and the hotel is so environmentally conscious that they ask you to separate your trash from your recyclables. The beds are all Memory Foam mattresses, so expect a good night's sleep.
What impressed my wife and me the most about the rooms were the bathrooms. Not only do they include a fancy overhead shower stall that can bathe an entire soccer team simultaneously, but there's also a bathtub that can fit two—and when one of those two is me, you know it has to be a big tub. Naturally, there's a phone next to the toilet (which includes a bidet hose with hand-grip nozzle) for those who can't avoid sharing their most intimate moments with friends and family. The toilet itself is environmentally conscious, with two flush settings.
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Treated Like Royalty
Friendly, efficient service is taken very seriously at Cocoon. The staff at first referred to us as Mr. and Mrs. Wagner, very respectfully, until I insisted they call us by our first names, after which they called me Sir Thomas and my wife Ma'am Ella. I was so amused by this I didn't even bother to correct it. On our second trip to the Philippines and our arrival to Cocoon a year and a half after our fist, the lobby staff immediately recognized us and echoed, "Welcome, Sir Thomas!" When we checked into our room, we found a welcome note on the counter.
The Roof and the Deck
At the top of the building, you'll find a small but adequate dining room wrapped around two sides of an equally small yet adequate swimming pool with built-in hot tub and mood lighting. Behind the pool are changing booths facing a bar across the water. The pool is mostly for kids, the hot tub mostly for adults, but I think cross-overs are permitted. The bar—known as the Deck—is good at mixing tropical drinks (they make a good mai tai), but, like most bars I visited in the Philippines, they don't know Western cocktails at all. If you want a martini or Manhattan, you'll have to give explicit instructions and hope for the best. Philippine whiskey is not the best stuff around.
The Rooftop Restaurant
Breakfast is included in the price of most rooms, and if you've never had Filipino breakfast you'll love it. It's very similar to a typical American breakfast except instead of toast or a muffin you get garlic fried rice; instead of bacon or sausage patties or links, you get your choice of meat:
- Tapa (fried, thin-sliced marinated beef)
- Longanisa (sweet pork sausage links that will not remind you of Jimmy Dean or Farmer John)
- Bangus (fried boneless milkfish filet, our personal favorite)
- Dilis (fried, whole, tiny, salty fish that taste amazing).
Of course, an egg or two comes with the main meal. In addition, there are fresh tropical fruits, muffins, pastries, desserts and various juices and everything is delicious. Be sure to take advantage of the breakfast; they do it right.
Fresh herbs create a border between dining tables and the pool, and the chef comes out regularly to trim what's needed in the kitchen. Here lies my only problem with Cocoon: the times we were there, the chef didn't really know what to do with those herbs. The restaurant was just okay when it came to lunch and dinner. They could make chicken strips, burgers, sandwiches and various familiar dishes and it was all okay, but just okay.
Fortunately, the hotel is virtually surrounded by new and old eateries ranging from street food vendors and fast food (a McDonald's is nearly across the street) to gourmet cuisine, all within a 2 block walk. The hotel's location makes many local attractions easy to access; for example, the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center and Quezon Memorial Park are less than 10 minutes away by cab or trike. There are also at least five comedy clubs within walking distance of the hotel and the Boy Scout Circle and Monument is just over 2 blocks away. (While there, take some time to learn the history of the memorial and all of the side street names. It's a sad but good story.)
Why I Call It "Affordable Luxury"
When we stayed, our package deal included massages for the wife and me, and adjacent to the lobby—in the same building—is a salon where they will pamper and preen you for surprisingly little, and massages are included in nearly everything that they do. That's just the tip of the iceberg: Cocoon Boutique Hotel's amenities include but are not limited to
- Fitness Center
- Jacuzzi or Spa
- Airport Transportation
- Dry cleaning service
- Non-Smoking Facility
- Business Center
While the staff will treat you like royalty and you will have all the same services available at hotels that cost over $300/night, the room rates at Cocoon range from a mere $72 for a single room to $126 for a suite, and that's if you book through the hotel. You may be able to save a buck or two booking through a booking agent or website. Book your room early: this place is popular and fills up regularly.
And while I can only hope that the restaurant's dinner menu has improved, I strongly advise visiting the roof often. Few taller buildings lie within about a ten block range, providing an unexpectedly good panoramic view of Metro Manila, the dining area is relaxed and comfortable and it's a particularly pleasant place to just hang out when it's raining. And if you get too warm, they have several evaporative air coolers handy and will gladly position one--or maybe two--to blow right on you, and that's one of the finest sensations while sipping a mai tai on a hot and humid afternoon just before jumping into the pool. Or if you're a teetotaler, do like my wife and enjoy some ice cream.