Stonehill Suites is one of the top-of-mind hotel choices of tourists and business travelers in Bacolod. And if you ask what makes this luxurious hotel different from other properties in the City of Smiles, the answer is simple—the woman behind Stonehill Suites is no less than a 27-year-old Chinoy who is unapologetically breaking gender stereotypes by taking on an executive role in the hospitality industry, where men highly dominate.
Despite the slowdown in tourism due to the ongoing pandemic, Margrey Sy remains buoyant that it will bounce back in no time, and just like the best trait of a Bacolodnon, she keeps the biggest smile on her face in whatever is ahead of her.
Margrey has seen her father, businessman and philanthropist Jerry Sy, build his construction empire from scratch for many years. To date, Silver Dragon Corp. is one of the top contractors in Bacolod and the entire Philippines. Witnessing Jerry’s generosity and dedication to people has greatly motivated this heiress to follow in his footsteps.
Three years ago, Jerry told Margrey of his plans of building a hotel. The then 24-year-old daughter saw this as an opportunity to finally spread her wings by completely immersing herself in the family business. So, while Jerry led the construction of their family’s very own hotel, Stonehill Suites, Margrey took care of the hiring and managing of people.
“We named it Stonehill in reference to Bacolod’s topography. Bacolod was derived from the Ilonggo word ‘bakolod,’ which means Stonehill,” Margrey, a graduate of the University of St. La Salle, explains.
Margrey admits her father started the ball rolling at Stonehill, but when she was called upon to take over and finish what he had started, the young woman proved herself more than up to the task of running a luxury hotel. That’s because she learned well from the best.
Before becoming the chief executive officer of Stonehill Suites, Margrey directly learned her leadership ways and work ethics through Jerry.
“My father started from nothing, and that’s one of the greatest lessons I learned from him—to start from the bottom,” Margrey shares. But, according to her, Jerry’s humble beginnings didn’t deter him from working his way up as one of the most in-demand contractors in the Philippines, especially in the Western Visayas region.
Margrey carries on with his father’s legacy, exhibiting the same passion and dedication for business. But beyond that, she also takes pride in helping other people, especially now that she manages 50 employees as the CEO of Stonehill Suites.
“We’re helping not just our employees, but their families and their future. I always tell them that it doesn’t stop with them as our employees. We make sure that they will also grow in their respective careers,” Margrey shares.
Bacolod is known to both locals and visitors by many names: “The City of Smiles,” the Philippines’ sugar capital, the Masskara Festival, and home to authentic Chicken Inasal (roasted chicken), Kansi (beef soup), and Piyaya (toasted flatbread). But for Margrey, Bacolod’s main asset is its people.
“You’ll find the most accommodating and hospitable people in Bacolod,” Margrey declares. That’s why venturing into hotels, she adds, is a promising endeavor for people like them. “Stonehill, for me, is a classic example of what Bacolod’s famed hospitality is. When you enter our hotel, you’ll instantly feel at home because of Bacolodnons’ warmth and sincere hospitality.”
Located at San Agustin Drive, near Bacolod’s financial and commercial district, Stonehill Suites is the place to be in the city’s northern end. And unlike other hotels in the town, Stonehill Suites only offers presidential-type suites for all of its guests. Besides room accommodations, Stonehill also provides function rooms that can accommodate 50 to 100 guests for meetings and important events.
“Being a Bacolodnon myself, I’m pretty confident that the comfort you will experience at Stonehill is far different from other hotels,” says Margrey. “I personally make sure that all our guests are only being treated and served well the Bacolodnon way!”
But, just like the rest of the hospitality industry, Stonehill Suites has had its fair share of struggles since the onset of the pandemic. “I had to move fast,” Margrey recalls, “My priority was to protect not only our guests but my team and staff. So we had to simplify our process and undergo a skeletal schedule for the staff. If it’s ECQ, there would be no operations at all. If MECQ, we’re 30 percent operational.”
Margrey adds that safety has always been the priority at Stonehill Suites. As of this writing, the boutique hotel is 50 percent operational. “We take safety very seriously in our establishment, so we always make sure that we’re compliant with any requirements from our local government unit and the Department of Tourism. For safety precautions, we make sure to sanitize and UV all areas in our hotel,” she expounds.
As a Chinoy, Margrey considers both her Chinese and Filipino cultural backgrounds as a blessing. “I get my work ethic from my Chinese side. But, I have my Filipino side to thank for keeping me grounded and having my family part of my journey. Our support for each other strengthens our bond because we motivate one another and succeed together,” Margrey concludes.
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