A day in the life of a mega-hotelBy Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It certainly helped that Chris Humphrey, executive producer of the new eight-part Bio Channel series “Marina Bay Sands 24/7,” is a big fan of this “iconic” mega-hotel in Singapore.
Since its opening two years ago, Marina Bay Sands has been a formidable landmark in the cityscape—three imposing towers topped by what looks like Noah’s Ark from afar. (The modern ark is dubbed Sands SkyPark, where the swimming pool is located.)
“It’s a sprawling, integrated resort,” Humphrey explained to the Inquirer in an e-mail interview. “Logistically, it’s massive compared to the usual hotel. Structurally, it’s extremely unique and a must-see for tourists. Architecturally, it’s superb.”
Humphrey’s favorite place in the entire complex is the Sands SkyPark, which has attracted 2.7 million visitors as of November 2011.
“As you swim, you feel like you’re falling over the edge; but [that deck] offers the best view of Singapore,” he said. Considered the world’s largest elevated swimming pool, it holds 376,000 gallons of water. “The SkyPark is awesome; it’s ridiculous,” said Humphrey. “It looks even more bizarre from five kilometers away.”
The sixth largest hotel in Asia and 34th in the world, the Marina Bay Sands cost US$5.7 billion to build.
It is also the most sought-after tourist address in Singapore, as Humphrey, who had stayed in the hotel in the past as a guest, quickly found.
“I always requested an earlier check-in and later checkout, but I would get denied every time,” he recounted. “It’s always been so busy.” Well, it gives out up to 36,000 key cards a month.
After shooting the series, Humphrey said he now fully understands the reason behind the strict rule: “It’s a huge place (2,561 guest rooms in three towers, each with 57 floors), and for a TV crew shooting from one end of the complex to another requires a fair bit of energy.”
Conceptualizing the TV series began in April 2011; principal photography started five months later and wrapped up in February 2012. “Since then the Bio Channel team has been editing [footage] nonstop,” said Humphrey. The series premiered on May 31 and runs until July 19.
Humphrey added: “We worked tirelessly to keep things real and not recreate any of the scenes … We were given only one chance at every scene and we had to take that.”
Apparently, you can’t ask for a “take two” when shooting, guerrilla style, the visits of such international celebrities as US basketball player Kobe Bryant and Chinese actress Gong Li.
Technically, the members of the hotel’s hardworking multinational staff are the real stars of the show.
In many ways, Marina Bay Sands can be regarded as a “microcosm of Singapore,” said Humphrey. “It’s very mixed but seamlessly integrated. The 9,000 staffers come from different cultures and countries.”
Not just a handful of these employees are from the Philippines. When the Inquirer visited the hotel last year, a Filipino was posted in almost every corner—from the coffee shop to the boutiques. A Pinoy employee said the hotel officers seemed to prefer Filipinos.
Humphrey pointed out: “Filipinos play a leading part in the global hospitality industry. Their reputation is second to none. That in itself is a major achievement and, I hope, a source of pride for the country.”
He raved about the Filipino as employee: “They are smart, educated, fun and they’re proud to hold a job. I think the rest of the world can learn a thing or two from this attitude. Apparently, Filipinos are famous for singing, too. But I think that’s a rumor spread by tone-deaf people.”
One of the Pinoys prominently featured in the series is Gianpietro Iseppi, director of operations. A Filipino-Swiss-Italian, Iseppi is a “natural in front of the camera,” said Humphrey.
In a separate e-mail interview, Iseppi told the Inquirer that working at Marina Bay Sands is “awe-inspiring … It’s like being part of a symphony.”
It is because of Iseppi and his colleagues that Humphrey persevered in recording a day in the life of this hotel for posterity.
“Marina Bay Sands has become iconic, not just in Singapore but all over Asia. It’s one location where thousands of ‘real stories’ come to life every day. And that is our tag line and our brand focus on Bio Channel: Stories about people.”
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