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old hotel tavern surigao philippinesIt is said that the streets of Surigao used to be bathed in white. They were paved with crushed seashells and corals glistening against the sunlight, prickly to the soles of one’s feet but surprisingly cool to the touch.

Horse-drawn tartanillas moved about in its quaintness and ships found a good home from their vast voyages. This mining town was animated by traders from the Orient and the Middle East. And it was through its seas that Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition to circumnavigate the world was completed.

Surigao is not bereft of its place in history. As a coastal town, its vitality depends much on thetemperament of the Pacific as it watches the tides turn day and night making it a formidable witness to one of the greatest naval battles ever fought.

It was in Surigao Strait that the last naval gun battle in its purist nature was held. No hostile confrontations between two genuine capital ships were ever recorded after the Battle of Surigao Strait, a fact memorized by midshipmen or cadets at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, and showcased by naval defense exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. In September 9, 1944, preceding the Allied invasion of Leyte, American warplanes bombed Surigao and when the smoke cleared, there were only a few buildings that remained standing. One was the house of local businessman-turned-guerill a-soldier named Domingo Alvarez and his wife, Aida.

When World War II was won by the Allies, American GIs were stranded in Surigao. Without anything else to pass the time and their paychecks otherwise delayed, they began selling whatever they had in the ship to Domingo Alvarez. Various kitchenware, chairs, bunks, and even a refrigerator, were sold to Mr. Alvarez just so the Americans could buy liquor. These items eventually contributed to the beginnings of the local watering hole named, The Tavern, in 1946.

The Tavern got its name from a very old British drinking song There is a Tavern in the Town at the turn of the century. It was popularized as an American tune by the 1936 film, M’Liss. It was sung by the title character M’Liss Smith played by Oscar-nominee actress, Anne Shirley.

Mr. Alvarez was a guerilla soldier in Surigao del Sur who fought alongside the Americans against the Japanese invaders. He and his fellow soldiers used to sing There is a Tavern in the Town. When it was time to put the items he bought from the Americans to good use, Mr. Alvarez rented a house with nine rooms and offered lodging. The Tavern Hotel was born in 1948.

In November of 1964, Typhoon Ining (internationally named Louise) ravaged Surigao and Cebu, making it one of the worst typhoons that entered the Philippines. The Tavern Hotel, since it resides beside the ocean, was among those businesses badly damaged.

However, the town and the hotel soon recovered due to the growing mining industry. Mining companies became prosperous in Surigao reaping nickel and gold from its mountains and islands. And where did the company employees go to have a good time? Nowhere else but The Tavern Hotel.

In 1972, Mr. Alvarez passed away leaving the hotel and its management to Mrs. Aida Alvarez. Mrs. Alvarez was also very much entrepreneurial like her husband. The Tavern Hotel’s initial area was around 200 to 300 square meters. With sheer guts, she expanded the business to 6,000 square meters all to herself.

Throughout the years, the Tavern Hotel was the center of social life. While mining companies frequented the place, social and business clubs mushroomed in this rural city and all of them held their parties and the induction of their charter officers at Tavern. Notable are the long-standing patronage to the Tavern are the Lions, the Jaycees, and the Rotary Clubs. Yet its most significant role of all was probably its evolution in hosting families for lunches and dinners.

Celebrations that followed weddings, engagements, baptisms, and anniversaries were held here. The Tavern Hotel’s plaid and checkered tablecloths were etched in the backdrop of memories along with the sweet smell of salt from the ocean just nearby. The Tavern Hotel became the silent character present in the many narratives of Surigaonons.

In 2004, the hotel was finally incorporated and renamed Hotel Tavern Surigao. With Mrs. Alvarez deciding that it was time to retire from the hotel business,she was already 85 years old at this time, she welcomed the infusion of old friends who became the Tavern’s new partners. Engr. Leonardo Kang, Dr. Josefino Miranda, and Atty. Claro Luis Garcia became the new hotel’s incorporators. Mr. Jake Miranda now heads its new management as President.

Evergreen Tavern Development and Management Corporation is the name of the corporation that now runs the hotel. Its stockholders share the same vision of restoring the glory of the hotel. The Tavern, as it was formerly called, is now Hotel Tavern Surigao. The name Hotel Tavern Surigao serves to unite both the rich history and modern purpose of the hotel.

The new Tavern promises to be the premier hotel of Surigao. New structures are slowly being constructed to anticipate the modern Surigaonon life. While new foundations are being built, Hotel Tavern rekindles its role as the place to be when in Surigao, whether its guests come for business or pleasure. With its efforts to keep up with the times, its goal in comfort is to please each guest. It aims to host the creation of new wonderful memories through the quality of service all guests richly deserve.

The hotel is poised to take her place as the premier hotel of Surigao-not only its first and favorite, but also becoming its finest hotel.

~Written by Ms. Tess Garcia, Palanca Awardee

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