published as a feature on August 25, MST Sunday - Sunday Living
The sound of running water will greet you as you enter the airy, Zen-themed common area of Crossroads Hostel on Mariveles Street, Mandaluyong City.
Atienza: ‘It’s more fun
at Crossroads Hostel!’
It’s a koi pond, says Kristoffer Atienza who runs the six-room, 30-bed hostel. There are some couches around the pond, perfect for sitting down and conversing among strangers—foreign and domestic tourists, backpackers, students, overseas Filipino workers and everybody else who comes across each other’s paths.
It is, after all, the sense of communal living— shared accommodations—that sets a hostel apart from related businesses like hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, apartelles and transient houses.
A family decision
Building and operating a hostel was not Kristoffer’s sole idea. It was a decision arrived at by the family—his mother, 77, and his brothers and sister —on what to do with the Mariveles property which they had owned since 1994.
The initial idea was to convert the place into several apartment units for a steady stream of income. But Kristoffer’s brother Roderico, a diplomat, globe trekker and backpacker, had an idea for something unique—a lodging facility that would serve as an alternative to the pricey hotel rooms tourists go to all the time.
“We also thought it could complement the ‘More fun in the Philippines’ campaign of the government,” adds Kristoffer. “It would also be a perfect avenue to showcase the famous Filipino hospitality.”
Construction of the hostel began in March 2012; it opened to the public in October of the same year.
Of the siblings, Kristoffer was the only one with some management experience, with his degree in fine arts-advertising. It seemed natural that he would take on the crucial role of overseeing the hostel’s day-to-day operations.
Inexpensive, not cheap
The kitchen has complete amenities.
Believe it or not, a night’s stay at Crossroads (https://www.facebook.com/CrossroadsHostelManila?fref=ts) costs P500 per head, inclusive of free breakfast. Each guest gets a set of beddings and stays in bunk beds in a color-themed, air-conditioned room. Each of the bunk beds has its own curtain in case one wants a little more privacy. There are also individual lamps for guests who want to read while resting, or before they go to sleep.
Although the idea was to offer an inexpensive alternative to pricier accommodations available in the city, the Atienzas do not want to give the impression that they are cutting corners just to keep their prices down.
They are able to save on cost, actually, because of the “common” principle. Despite this, the idea is to make the guests feel as “at home” as possible. The kitchen, for instance, has complete amenities where guests can cook their own food if they don’t want to eat out. There is cable television, too, and guests can tune in anytime—but again they may have to watch alongside others, because the TV is located at the common area.
La vida local
The bunkers are clean, neat and come with individual curtains and reading lights.
“We put ourselves in the shoes of the traveler,” according to Kristoffer. “If I am here, do I want to behave like a tourist, or do I want to experience the place as the locals do?”
This is why he believes that Crossroads’ location on a residential street at the heart of Mandaluyong is the best there is. This is, after all, the real Metro Manila—that vendor down the street, that bustling boulevard a few minutes away, huge malls nearby, even the small crowd that gathers in front of a sari-sari store.
Crossroads Hostel caters not only to tourists but also to those who find themselves in Metro Manila for one reason or another—attending a convention, seeing a relative off to the airport, and many others. “We don’t distinguish between foreign and Filipino guests.”
Cleanliness and safety are held sacred. “We know that our guests pay hard-earned money so we make sure they get the best out of it,” says Kristoffer.
Kristoffer and his wife Malou are ably assisted by three staff members who help make the guests feel welcome and safe.
“We converse with them and make them feel like they are among friends.”
More value, more fun
Engage in a conversation with newfound friends beside this koi pond.
“We’ve been around less than a year but we can say that the government’s tourism campaign has been working well,” shares Kristoffer. “Foreigners are excited to explore not just the famed beaches and islands of the Philippines, but Manila itself and what it has to offer.”
Unfortunately, the hostel concept in the Philippines is quite new and people don’t usually know in what group to place Crossroads. Fortunately, there’s the Internet, where Web sites such as tripadvisor.com, hostelworld.com and booking.com offer guests the opportunity to rate places they’ve stayed in before and recommend them to other travelers.
Online, Crossroads Hostel has scored numerous favorable endorsements. It’s been ranked first among four specialty lodging sites in the city by Trip Advisor. “The accommodation is topnotch!” said a visitor from Los Baños, Laguna. Another guest from Beijing liked the access to different means of transportation. Yet another from Cadiz, Negros declared: “You get more than what you pay for!”
The zen-themed hostel is a sight for sore eyes.
Kristoffer is assiduous in trawling the Internet for guests’ feedback and opportunities for tie-ups. He also makes sure he responds to every one of the comments to maintain a relationship with past, and returning, customers. The Internet is also a rich source of best practices from similar establishments around the world. “The possibility to improve yourself is endless,” he says.
“There are three reasons why we called this place Crossroads,” Kristoffer shares. First, because they are Christians and the cross is a central part of that faith. Second, obviously because it is near the Edsa-Shaw Crossing.
“Finally, we call it Crossroads because I don’t believe things happen by accident. Our lives intersect, paths cross at different points for a reason.”
And as one sits on the well-lighted (the roof is able to maximize the sunlight as it streams down) and well-ventilated (air moves freely, in and out), or rests in the tidy rooms one shares with a stranger, one remembers all the people and places one has encountered, the randomness, the beauty, and the purpose of it all.