Martial Law, a lost paradise

WHEN Martial Law was declared on Sept.  21, 1972 I considered it a blessing in disguise.

Weeks after the declaration I landed a job, my first incidentally, as a houseman in Hotel Enrico on the corner of Padre Faura and Leon Guinto streets in Ermita, Manila.

The hotel was owned by the Enricos of Batangas, a known influential family of that province because of its close association to the famous Laurel clan.

The hotel had its grand opening in 1971. Chanteuse Ms. Carmen Soriano, then at the peak of her career, was the official crooner for a year or two.

It has a revolving restaurant on top where you can view and appreciate the whole metro at nighttime while enjoying live music as you dine. Because of this amenity Enrico became famous although another hotel, The Crown in Quiapo, also had a revolving restaurant.

Enrico became a byword in the hotel industry. A lot of travel agencies preferred to book their clients, mostly Japanese and Chinese tourists, in groups not only because of its superior amenities comparable to other big hotels but also because of the hotel staff from supervisor down to ranking files; they were known for their hospitality and professionalism.

Then President Ferdinand Marcos once graced a showbiz gathering there – a FAMAS Awards Night. It was during that period also that Nora Aunor was at the peak of her career as a movie star. Many other big occasions were held at the hotel.

Well-known local and international celebrities in sports left their footprints in the hotel; from Shen Dong Pa, China’s tallest basketball player in the early ‘70s, to Asian chess champion Eugene Torre Jr. and many more.

While working at the hotel my executive housekeeper encouraged me to continue my schooling at Far Eastern University to finish a course in Mass Communication. I was given a schedule to suit my schooling time.

There were times when I have to work on graveyard shifts especially during summer breaks. Sometimes my schedule started at 3 p.m. and stretch to 11 p.m.

Going home after work, I walked. It was far. My boardinghouse was somewhere on Taft Avenue facing De La Salle University. This went on for years and I thank God not a single untoward incident happened to me.

We were under Martial Law then. Petty crimes happened far and between. Citizens during that era enjoyed the tranquility of the night. Discipline implemented by the government worked wonders to all law-abiding citizens.

One may loiter around Rizal (Luneta) Park, stroll along the boulevard nearby to relax or, even spend the night alone or with company; rest assured you’ll reach your destination still whole and happy.

I might say that was the best years of my life.

People were free. The economy was booming. The entertainment world (film and theater) was vibrantly growing. With the construction of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Folk Arts Theater (FAT), Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), and five-star hotels the country had nowhere to go but up. It was the golden era of the local film industry, and the proliferation of sexually-charged movies as well. I still have to hear from the male specie rising up and revolting against illicit scenes. The more the merrier.

Move forward to the present. Gone were the days when Martial Law era was a paradise. (


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