Valentine’s Day signals resumption of Filipino motels

“Yes, walk-in customers have been coming in continuously since February 13,” said Sallie Perez, manager of the Marle Hotel in Cavite. “Business is picking up,” she added.

As part of the motel industry, Marle Hotel specializes in “private” walk-in guests and discreet reservations, especially in February or “the month of lovers”.

Anyway, in the Philippines, the word “motel” has a bad connotation. In the United States, where the word originated, it was coined from “motor hotel”, which is a type of hotel without a central lobby designed for motorists, each room of which usually enters directly from the aire vehicle parking.

In this predominantly Catholic nation, Valentine’s Day is spent with married couples and legitimate partners. But the days before and after are reserved for “other lovers”, lovers and concubines. This situation makes February a hot month for the motel industry.

Love songs top the music charts as most Filipinos celebrate Valentine’s Day in a pink, red and white rampage of roses and hearts, with a particular focus on marriage, family and babies.

But despite 500 years of Christianity and the deep Catholic devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, extramarital affairs are widespread in the Philippines, where a macho culture still dominates which tolerates men being fathers of several families and where there is no divorce law.

As the government lowers the health alert level and bookings increase during ‘love month’, it is now optimistic the motel industry is transitioning to full recovery.

Sociologists say that extramarital involvement refers to a wide range of behaviors practiced outside of traditional marriage, which can range from actual sex to a long-term concubine relationship.

In general, many Filipinos celebrate Valentine’s Day most discreetly at motels, such as Marle in Cavite and Victoria Court in Manila and Pampanga. The 10 drive-in hotels at Victoria Court depicts an elegant yet mysterious woman with a finger to her lips against a black and silver background. The logo aims to embody a secret.

This year, Valentine’s Day marks the revival of motel business when thousands of rooms of all sizes are all occupied by legitimate couples, young lovers and what Filipinos jokingly call customers with “the number two or number three”.

Since mid-2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented level of disruption to the hotel-motel-hospitality industry worldwide. The combination of local lockdowns, strict health protocols and travel restrictions has forced motel operations to go dark.

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Victoria Court owner and operator Atticus King said at least three of its branches in Metro Manila had been closed as the business suffered from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. Trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, King admitted some employees had to be laid off because the business couldn’t operate as usual amid the health crisis, describing the move as a “deep retrenchment”.

As the government eases the health alert level and bookings surge during ‘love month’ this year, it is now optimistic the motel industry is transitioning to full recovery. And, unfortunately, extramarital affairs continue.

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