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Posted in MMDA by Erineus on February 24, 2009

It is absolutely not a dark, secluded place. And unless you are a regular guest, it could really be a place where no one knows your face.

But, unlike in that song “Hernando’s Hideaway” that became highly popular in the 1950s, and can trigger a cascade of bittersweet memories for oldies like me, no way can you order even just a glass of water, or hanker for a fast embrace.

Not in any of the Gwapotels that MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando had put up in Port Area and in Tondo to provide lodging for people in need of a temporary place to stay whether for a couple of days or just for the night. It’s been featured in this newspaper a couple of times, the latest of which was only last Feb. 16.

My gulay,the Gwapotel concept is such a practical and refreshing approach to the problem of accommodation for transients that it’s a wonder why nobody had thought of it before.

It fills a crying need for people with emasculated wallets who cannot afford those P300 or so cost of an overnight stay in those motels in Sta. Cruz district and Ermita-Malate areas. Or, even the cheaper room rates of those squalid, hole-in-the-wall establishments in Quiapo Sta. Cruz that pass for hotels but which, more often than not actually become places of assignation.

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It took Fernando, harnessing the resources of Metro Manila Development Authority, to come up with the idea that has since brought incalculable benefit to people in able to get home and are compelled to look for a place to sleep in. They include people whose working time ends at odd hours at night such as call center employees, nurses, vendors the so-called GROs, or guest relations officers in nightclubs and beer houses, workers in 24-hours restaurants and fast-food outlets, and arriving and departing seamen and migrant workers. It goes without saying of course that the sleeping quarters of men are apart from that of women.

Fernando’s Gwapotels also offer relatively comfortable quarters for provincial folks who need to come to Manila for one reason or another but have no relatives or friends in the city who can give them sleeping quarters.

Costing only P25 for an eight-hour stay and located in easily accessible places, Fernando’s Gwapotels serve as haven where cash-strapped job-seekers, for instance, can rest their tired bodies grown weary from pounding the streets. An additional P25 will extend the eight hours to a full day. There’s a communal bath with 20 coin-operated showers, though only flimsy curtains separate each shower.

You only need to insert a P5 coin in the appropriate slot to get an eight-minute bath. And anybody who wants a longer shower can simply plunk in anotherP5 coin to get an extension of another eight minutes.

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Guest are afforded no privacy, however, in open sleeping quarters, with double-decked beds lined up in army-barracks style. There are no lockers too, so guests have to be on constant guard of belongings.

Of course, one cannot expect air-conditioning at such a very low rate. But, the sleeping areas have sufficient ventilation. The place is not stuffy at all and is kept clean at all times.

Fernando is reportedly on the lookout for building that the MMDA can lease and transform into such lodging. Perhaps, MMDA can also create similar establishments exclusively for students from the provinces since it would cost them a leg to commute from Central Luzon, Calabarzon and the Bicol provinces. I recommend to Bayani the old unoccupied GSIS building at Arroceros Street beside the Manila City Hall.

To avoid Gwapotels from being abused, MMDA can prepare a guideline for screening applicants so that only the poor and truly deserving can be accepted. My gulay, instead of those putrid and stinking pink urinals!

I wish Fernando can go a long way with his Gwapotels. He can paint them all in pink for all I care. I would not even mind if he calls them “Fernando’s Hideaway.” To that, I’ll even say, “Ole!”

Author: Emil Jurado
Manila Standard Today
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=emilJurado_feb24_2009