Dressed-up guests of the Makati Peninsula hotel were sitting in restaurants when they saw dozens of soldiers in uniform who took over the hotel and turned the patrons out.
Talk about deja vu.
Four years after disgruntled troops, led by a charismatic young navy lieutenant, seized a Manila hotel in a daylong uprising, the same men walked out of their trial over the incident and barged into another hotel to again press their demands for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to resign.
Hundreds of guests were soon scrambling to vacate rooms as security forces surrounded the Peninsula in the rain.
"I lived here for four years, so I understand the way it is," said Tom Collins of Honolulu, who flew in for a wedding at the hotel. "It's just an inconvenience. I don't think this was handled well."
Coup plots are nothing new in the Philippines. In the years since democracy was restored in 1986, there have been some half dozen failed attempts by soldiers to seize power from democratically elected governments. Arroyo, who came to power in 2001 in the Philippines' second "people power" revolt, has faced down at least three efforts to unseat her.
Each time, confidence in the country's economy and its image as a stable democracy have been eroded.
"When they see something like this, people will not come here," said businessman Peter Randel, from Sydney , Australia . "My friends were coming but guess they won't come here any more."
The Peninsula management said 310 out of the 497 rooms were occupied before Thursday's drama began.
About 200 guests led the massive check-out, lining up in the reception area with hastily packed bags. Some carried their clothes in plastic bags.
With a huge Christmas tree standing in the lobby, two marble staircases were each guarded by a pair of armed mutineers. TV reporters and other journalists camped out in the corridors.
A Filipino couple about to get married and hold an evening reception at the hotel could hardly believe their bad luck.
"I am disappointed. Why does this have to happen today?" said groom Ryan Montano, a company executive.
His bride Mars was dressed in a wedding gown and held a bouquet of roses in her hand.
"I feel a little worried," she said, adding that the reception was moved to a nearby hotel. "I have had better days than this."
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