Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine, a landmark restaurant at No. 4 Times Street, West Avenue, Quezon City, recently posted on its Facebook page and Instagram account that, “with great sadness,” it will cease operations effective August 1, 2020. This is due “for the most part to the challenges brought about by the on-going pandemic, which has plagued not only our country, but the entire world as well.”
The news came as a shock to the restaurant’s loyal clientele, as it seems to have adapted quickly and successfully to the various community quarantine restrictions. It was open for takeout and delivery during ECQ, then with GCQ declared, for dine-in operations by June 15. It even touted in a June 24 Facebook post that it had passed all health and safety inspections by Quezon City authorities.
Established in 1981 by Ramon Syhunliong, Shangri-La was one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in Quezon City, boasting all the hallmarks of a traditional Cantonese restaurant, with lauriat menus and private rooms for celebrations.
In response to its farewell Facebook post, one commenter reminisced, “From our wedding reception in 2015, my son’s baptism reception in 2016, mom’s 60th bday celebration in 2018 and our baptismal coordination client in 2019, this place has become so special.” Another wrote, “The best Chinese resto in QC!! Unmatched! Also class A service. Hopefully it will reopen as this covid mess is over. It’s an establishment that brings family closer.”
While Shangri-La enjoyed low-key success in its Quezon City neighborhood, it also had its fair share of dignitaries who graced its expansive 1,200-seater space. Most notable among them was Pope John Paul II in 1995, but also visiting were Cardinal Sin, Presidents Cory Aquino (a Times Street neighbor), Joseph Estrada, Fidel Ramos, and even Imelda Marcos.
But perhaps what really got the restaurant in the news was its long drawn out clash with international luxury hotel chain Shangri-La over the right to use the Shangri-La name and “S” logo, which is strikingly similar to the hotel’s logo. In 1988, the Shangri-La hotel group filed a case with the Bureau of Patents, Trademarks & Technology Transfer (BPTT) prior to the opening of the first Shangri-La hotel in the Philippines in 1992. In a David vs. Goliath-style battle, the case went from the Quezon City RTC in 1996, to the Court of Appeals in 2003, all the way to the Supreme Court in 2006.
Regarding the similar logo, Syhunliong testified, as indicated in the Supreme Court ruling, that, “The "S-logo" was one of two (2) designs given to him in December 1982, scribbled on a piece of paper by a jeepney signboard artist with an office somewhere in Balintawak. The unnamed artist supposedly produced the two designs after about two or three days from the time he (Syhunliong) gave the idea of the design he had in mind.” The Court wrote, “The S-logo is, likewise, not unusual. The devise looks like a modified Old English print.”
The Supreme Court upheld the previous court rulings, allowing Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine the right to use its name and logo, with 2 million pesos in actual and compensatory damages and P500,000 in legal fees to be rewarded to them.
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Since then, Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine has operated, unbothered, with its name and logo brandished on its frontage, as well as on its website and social media accounts. Oddly enough, so open is its use of the “Shangri-La” name and logo that a well-known food website published an article in 2018 speculating that the Quezon City restaurant could be “deceiving” customers into thinking it was part of the five-star hotel chain. There was no mention in the article of the restaurant’s legal right to use the Shangri-La name and logo.
As of August 1, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts can finally lay claim to being the only Shangri-La in town, as Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine will be taking its final bow. In its farewell post, the restaurant offered its gratitude to its many loyal customers, stating, “We would not be this successful, if not for all of you, who celebrated your great moments, achievements and even your simple get-together with us. Deeply, we are moved by your support and loyalty to Shangri-La Finest Chinese Cuisine… We will cease operations but the memories we had with you will be imbedded in our hearts and minds.”