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Review of MC Mountain, Tagaytay, Philippines

 

You usually get what you pay for, and MC Mountain is a budget-priced hotel, so your expectations should not be too high. However, in this case, you may need to lower your expectations even further.

I had arranged for their “shuttle service” to meet us at the airport and transport us to MC Mountain. I was told that the driver would be there waiting for me holding a banner with my name on. However, when I exited from the airport, the driver was nowhere to be seen, which caused me considerable difficulties. It was past midnight and I had no local currency (due to a cock-up in the UK with my travel money); the airline had lost my baggage, and I had no phone (I was relying on a Philippine SIM which had been sent to me, but did not work). After some considerable difficulty, I managed to stumble upon an American tourist who kindly allowed me to use his phone. I had the number for MC Mountain, but communication with the hostess proved to be impossible, which was yet one further frustration. It was only after we had obtained the number of their driver, and the American’s driver (also a Filipino) had phoned him to locate him, that we finally managed to track down the MC Mountain driver.

The next morning, we found that the view from our balcony was spectacular, which was almost the only positive aspect of our extended stay there.

 

We tried the MC Mountain complimentary breakfast. The first thing that we both noticed about this was the dirty, severely cracked mug that my coffee was served in. And the food itself was so basic that, to a Westerner, it was barely edible. We quickly arranged our own full catering for the duration of our stay.

We had taken the “deluxe” room and though I had been promised full cooking facilities, these were extremely limited, and when we asked for a single extra pan, above the aged, single pan that was supplied, they simply said they had no more.

Other facilities that our “deluxe” room featured were a large doorstop screwed into the floor, which the door did not meet and whose only purpose seemed to be to kindly allow us to stump our toes on as we got in and out of bed, which we frequently, and very-painfully, did. The extractor fan in the bathroom did not work at all; the rollers on all the sliding doors in the entire building had long since worn out, and opening or closing the doors required a considerable effort; the air con unit was so noisy that it was unusable; there were bare wires hanging out of some of the sockets in the room; the rusted hinges on the building’s external iron gates were extremely noisy and could be heard creaking late into the night and in the early morning; the TV in the room had such poor reception that it was not really usable (and had no remote control anyway); the furniture on the balcony was falling apart and well-feasted upon by woodworm, and at one end of the balcony there was the remains of another table that had literally fallen apart (but whose carcase had not yet been removed for burial). In general, the whole establishment had an aura of neglect about it and was in desperate need of basic maintenance. At one point, we both noticed that a large banner on the outside of the building had half collapsed and had just been left in that state, despite the fact that it was advertising their establishment. They clearly regarded such neglect as so normal that they did not mind advertising it to every passing vehicle on the highway.

 

A further inadequacy, which, for us, proved particularly irritating was the claimed WiFi access. They claimed to have WiFi internet access, and even display a sign to this effect on the front of the building, but most of the time this was not available, from anywhere in the building, and when it was fleetingly available, the speed was so slow that it was unusable.

The bed linen and towels were only changed every three days, and then only if you specifically requested this, though you will have to work this out for yourself, since no-one there will inform you of such things.

The staff were friendly enough, though most had zero English, and if you wish to obtain any reliable information from them, you will need to be either fluent in Tagalog, or provide your own interpreter. Fortunately, my partner is a Filipino, so I simply had to leave to him all the communication with the staff.

Throughout our stay, there was a considerable array of noise nuisances. A phone had been placed in the lobby outside the guest rooms and this phone rang almost continuously; there was the constant piercing noise of tricycles labouring up a nearby hill (at first, I had thought this was the sound of light aircraft passing nearby, it was so loud). For several days of our stay, there were noisy children running around in the corridor and shouting. At one point, there was a chorus of nearby dogs that would begin barking at 11pm; and if the other noise nuisances managed to keep us awake, we would delight at the curious sound of a tribe of local cats loudly hissing at each other for extended periods, which on occasions might continue until the local cockerels then began crowing. At another time, we were woken at 4 am by a loud banging noise, following by the sound of heavy furniture being moved around and a loud party of some sort in another room; and at around 5 am, the staff, and the lobby phone also added to the noise nuisance on that particular sleepless night. Though throughout our extended stay, there was the occasional peaceful moment.

 

The hostess proudly adversities her wish to serve her guests, but my impression was that she was more inclined to fleece them. There are no taxis in Tagaytay and she is careful to not supply the numbers of any local drivers to her guests, so that you are tied to using her “shuttle service”. She uses a local driver for this and adds 500 pesos commission for herself every time you require a driver (and the driver had a stressed manner of driving and made it plain that he expected you to pay more than the agreed fee for his services).

After arriving, I was attempting to contact the airline (China Southern Airline) to chase up my lost baggage claim, but the number they had given us, there was never an answer on. The MC Mountain hostess offered to send them a fax on my behalf. This was the only time that I got the impression that she was genuinely attempting to serve me and be altruistic (despite the fact that during the conversation, she attempted to sell me a lot of land that she had for sale, then boasted that she owned a house worth 8 million pesos, and then, in the next breath, claimed to be poor, doubtless imagining that that was the more likely impression to instill in me the urgent desire to hand over to her even more cash than I had already done), but then a few days later I was shocked to receive from her a bill for 160 pesos for sending this SOS fax on my behalf.

Amongst the culture of neglect in MC Mountain, I found this extra ruthless policy of profiteering offensive, when the room rental fee alone already provided a handsome (and unwarranted) profit for the hostess. And to add to this unpleasant impression, the hostess always seemed to go out of her way to point out to me instances where she was “doing me a favour” by not charging me for things that no-one else would ever consider charging for. It’s true that all big hotels will profiteer in this way, but it strikes me as dishonest for a small guest house to promote itself as a family run establishment whose raison d’etre is to serve its guests, when, in fact, they are possibly even more ruthless in their profiteering than a large hotel would be. At least with a large hotel, their charges are transparent.

In summary, considering the room charges at MC Mountain (starting at 2000 pesos per night, plus extra, unspecified fees), and comparing them to the competition, I think that the charges are considerably inflated. Due to the rundown state of the facilities, and the absence of some of the important, advertised facilities, I think that a more realistic room rental fee would be somewhere around 1000 pesos per night, if that (with no hidden extras added).

How to survive MC Mountain

On a personal level, both me and my partner very much enjoyed our holiday in Tagaytay, despite all the above difficulties. At the time, I think I had adopted the attitude that: this was the Philippines, so don’t expect Western standards. And we both had a happy time there, focusing on each other’s company and our activities, and simply laughing about the absurdities of MC Mountain’s facilities.

But if you want Western standards, you should stay at the more touristy areas in Tagaytay, such as the Summit Ridge hotel. MC Mountain seems to have aimed its standards more towards Filipinos, and Filipinos who are from a poor (but clean) background. If you imagine those standards, then you will feel right at home at MC Mountain, though, of course, you will not want to pay the exorbitant amount that they charge you for such standards. For UK citizens, if you imagine a rundown seaside hotel from the 1970’s, then you will have a good idea of what to expect. Perhaps visualize an establishment run by “Mr Rigsby”, from the 1970’s “Rising Damp” sitcom, and you will not be disappointed. In fact, you might even enjoy the humour of the situations, as we both did.

 

 

30 January 2010

 

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