Manila's traffic is so bad a whole city of airport hotels has sprung up to service airline passengers in transit. Newport City includes a Marriott and a Savoy, convenience stores and coffee shops, casinos and shopping malls, and now the city's only Hilton, which opened in October 2018.
I've just flown in to Manila from the island of Palawan and will fly out to Melbourne early the next morning with Filipino carrier Cebu Pacific, from Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Terminal 3. I've chosen this new 357-room hotel for its location: it's just minutes from Terminal 3 in Newport City. Regular, free shuttles to the airport take about eight minutes, otherwise it's an easy 15-minute stroll through the sparkly, neon-lit Runway Manila Skybridge toward Resorts World and the Hilton. There are plenty of signs and even more uniformed staff to steer you in the right direction.
When wallowing in the shallow, open-air lagoon pool, you're encircled by hotel rooms – one half is Hilton, the other is the new Sheraton, which faces directly onto Terminal 3's runways, and opened a week before my visit. Hilton, one of the pioneers of the beige, cookie-cutter hotel, has added some Manila bling with bronze furniture and glittery ceiling decorations, and filled quiet corners with cosy turquoise armchairs. Check-in is on the third floor, looking out to the pool. Be warned, the pool changing rooms and landscaping are yet to be finished – expect construction noise.
The pool is on show from my king guest room on the 10th floor of the 11-storey building and at dusk its underwater lights twinkle prettily. There's a quick-filling tub with Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries and because I've added my Hilton Honors club number to my booking, Wi-Fi is free. Although my stay is curtailed by a 6am flight the next morning, I still have time to cruise the pillow menu and the Magic button on the phone connects me straight to guest services. The international power points are a welcome addition – they save me having to dig around for my adaptors – and the vast bed is super-comfortable and very hard to leave at 3.30am.
After a week on the beaches of Palawan, I'm in island mode, so my choice of the five dining venues must be the swim-up bar. Lunch is a mango mai tai, hot fresh pizza with buffalo mozzarella and fresh fish fingers for the small fry. Service is super-chatty and super-friendly, though not speedy, as the hotel is still polishing its act. Madison Bar & Lounge near the entrance is easy to overlook but chocophiles note: its patisserie serves excellent chocolate croissants. There's also a well-stocked gin bar with knowledgeable staff and a jazz singer who croons into the wee hours. The main buffet restaurant, Kusina Sea Kitchens, is jam-packed with conference-goers at lunch time, and they drift into the little bar, Port, after the day's proceedings. We opt to step out for Filipino food for dinner, instead of visiting the hotel's Shanghainese restaurant, Hua Ting.
Top points to concierge Frances who, without batting a lush eyelash, jots down the essentials for a stay in beauty-mad Manila: where to get a manicure or massage, and where the celebs go for facials. Instead of battling Manila's Carmageddon-like traffic, she recommends dinner at Crisostomo, an excellent Filipino restaurant in the Newport Mall, just across the road. Should you enjoy a little flutter, the hotel is co-joined with a busy new casino. The Mall of Asia, said to be the city's biggest shopping mall, is about 15 minutes' drive away. Visiting the city's centre must be planned well in advance so you can get in and out without getting caught in traffic: an unplanned "20-minute" drive can easily stretch to than an hour.
A stylish, easy-to-use addition to Manila's army of airport hotels and ideal for those using Manila as a jumping-off point to the Philippines' beautiful islands.
Doubles start from PHP10,870 plus taxes a night. 1 Newport Boulevard, Newport City, Pasay, Manila. See hiltonmanila.com
Belinda Jackson visited as a guest of Cebu Pacific and Hilton Manila.