History of Mercedes Country Lodge
The Doña Mercedes Country Lodge is one of the oldest running hotel in Sorsogon. It was opened in 1968. Dalisay Hotel, owned by the Diños is very much older. Everyone remembers the glory days of that lovely old wooden lodging house.
The picture below shows the Mercedes Hotel in the first years of its operation. The exterior was never painted until 2000 as there were always other priorities.
The lot where the Mercedes Country Lodge now stands used to be owned by the Bautistas, big landowners in their time. The house that stood on that lot was a “bahay na bato” – a typical colonial house that served as the Bautista’s family residence. It was a really grand house with an even grander staircase that seemed to go on forever into the skies. Eventually time and typhoons ran its course to deteriorate the building. The photo below shows what was left of the staircase while the house was being demolished. The Bautistas also rented out the ground floor as was the usual practice in the old days – family residence upstairs and rental units on the ground floor. Just before our parents bought the property, there used to be a small carinderia in one of the dark and cavernous spaces that so typified those colonial houses of the Spanish times. There also used to be a copra and abaca trader at some point in time.
The original plan for the entire property was to build a hotel on Peralta Street and a movie house on the lot fronting Rizal Street. But that never happened. However, it was actually a blessing in disguise. Nowadays, no one goes to movie theatres anymore. The videos, CDs and DVDs put an end to all that. So in those days, the empty lot ended up a inter-cropping mini plantation with coconuts at the top, bananas in between and taro, sweet potato on the ground level. There were also papayas, avocados and mangoes which still bear very sweet fruits to this day. Presently there are two structures being rented out in the front lot- Good Shot Billiards and Beer Garden, Ihaw Ihaw sa Sorsogon, Acebedo Optical and LMG cellphone Repair shop.
The picture above is the bulldozed ground cleared and ready for putting the foundation of Mercedes Hotel. The building to the right of the picture is now Novotel. The property across the Bautista property belongs to the Geronas. A 4-story building now stands in its place and LCC supermarket operates in that corner. It is still partly owned by the heirs of the Geronas-Detera Family. At one point in time of the hotel’s existence, the entire hotel was leased to a Chinese businessman. It was called Hotel Sorsogon. But that only lasted a year.
The big Sorsogon fire sometime in the early 70s was a real huge scare for the family. The winds fanned the flames in the direction of the hotel building while fire trucks incessantly blared their sirens because the fire was spreading everywhere. It was total chaos with people scurrying here and there with their belongings. Firemen, from as far as Legaspi, and eventually as far as Naga, came to help Sorsogon. Just when the fire was ravaging houses near the residence of Dr Paguia, which was a hundred steps to the hotel, the wind turned!!! The Mercedes Hotel was saved by a pyrocumulus cloud which helped turn the wind. (Across the residence of the Paguias now stands Mercury Drug. This corner is where the Rural Bank of the Aquinos used to be.) That wind saved the hotel but devastated the lives of so many Sorsogueños. The fire started from an unattended frying pan. Maybe it could have been contained immediately if it was not lunchtime for when the news of the fire rapidly spread, more and more townspeople left their houses to ascertain the direction of the fire. Then the fire ended up on two fronts because someone also left another open fire unattended.
The hotel is not only a place to lay your head down after a long journey, but it is also a place of quiet time. Aside from being a haven for wayfarers, the Mercedes Country Lodge also serves as a refuge for the less fortunate brethrens who seek shelter inside its concrete walls from the terrifying typhoons that regularly visit Sorsogon. More importantly, the hotel provides employment to many people. At times, the jobless out of necessity, approach the owners and ask if there is something he could do in order to earn a day’s wage to feed the family. They are normally accommodated if there are some odd jobs they can do. Sometimes if they show promise or potential, they find permanent employment.
The Peralta family is very proud of this hotel because the building is a testament to the tenacity over adversity, courage, vision, hard work and frugality of the family matriarch, Doña Mercedes. It has been a long hard struggle to put the hotel into the way it is now and the family is proud of its achievements, humble though they are. The management still has a long way to go to upgrade this hotel. However, the family continue their late mother’s formula in running the hotel – personalized service – making the best of what simple things they have to offer and serve it with a lot of care. They try hard to keep a family atmosphere inside the hotel to make the guests feel comfortable in their surroundings. The employees are well-trained to be friendly, helpful, and service-oriented. The hotel has very competitive rates, and management tries hard to be flexible and most of all they try to deliver quality and value.
The management, under the Peralta family, continues to ensure that the hotel is a safe place to stay. There are smoke alarms for each room, fire extinguishers in strategic places and emergency night lights instead of candles. The fire exits are very accessible and open at all times for the guests’ safety. There are two fire exits in the second floor – one, the main staircase and another at the end of the hallway. There are also front desk personnel on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they are instructed to make regular rounds within the hotel’s interior and around the exterior of the building. The building is sound and its structural integrity is ensured. The hotel is bounded by Rizal, Peralta and Jesalva Streets. The building’s architect was the late Rene Francisco. Above was the design of the building as envisioned and constructed by him.