The Court finds that since petitioners’ complaint arose from a contract, the doctrine of proximate cause finds no application to it:
The doctrine of proximate cause is applicable only in actions for quasi-delicts, not in actions involving breach of contract. x x x The doctrine is a device for imputing liability to a person where there is no relation between him and another party. In such a case, the obligation is created by law itself. But, where there is a pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, it is the parties themselves who create the obligation, and the function of the law is merely to regulate the relation thus created. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)
What applies in the present case is Article 1170 of the Civil Code which reads:
Art. 1170. Those who in the performance of their obligations are guilty of fraud, negligence or delay, and those who in any manner contravene the tenor thereof, are liable for damages.
RCPI v. Verchez, et al.  enlightens:
In culpa contractual x x x the mere proof of the existence of the contract and the failure of its compliance justify, prima facie, a corresponding right of relief. The law, recognizing the obligatory force of contracts, will not permit a party to be set free from liability for any kind of misperformance of the contractual undertaking or a contravention of the tenor thereof. A breach upon the contract confers upon the injured party a valid cause for recovering that which may have been lost or suffered. The remedy serves to preserve the interests of the promissee that may include his “expectation interest,” which is his interest in having the benefit of his bargain by being put in as good a position as he would have been in had the contract been performed, or his “reliance interest,” which is his interest in being reimbursed for loss caused by reliance on the contract by being put in as good a position as he would have been in had the contract not been made; or his “restitution interest,” which is his interest in having restored to him any benefit that he has conferred on the other party. Indeed, agreements can accomplish little, either for their makers or for society, unless they are made the basis for action. The effect of every infraction is to create a new duty, that is, to make RECOMPENSE to the one who has been injured by the failure of another to observe his contractual obligation unless he can show extenuating circumstances, like proof of his exercise of due diligence x x x or of the attendance of fortuitous event, to excuse him from his ensuing liability. (emphasis and underscoring in the original; capitalization supplied)
The pertinent provisions of the Banquet and Meeting Services Contract between the parties read:
4.3 The ENGAGER shall be billed in accordance with the prescribed rate for the minimum guaranteed number of persons contracted for, regardless of under attendance or non-appearance of the expected number of guests, except where the ENGAGER cancels the Function in accordance with its Letter of Confirmation with the HOTEL. Should the attendance exceed the minimum guaranteed attendance, the ENGAGER shall also be billed at the actual rate per cover in excess of the minimum guaranteed attendance.
x x x x
4.5. The ENGAGER must inform the HOTEL at least forty eight (48) hours before the scheduled date and time of the Function of any change in the minimum guaranteed covers. In the absence of such notice, paragraph 4.3 shall apply in the event of under attendance. In case the actual number of attendees exceed the minimum guaranteed number
by ten percent (10%), the HOTEL shall not in any way be held liable for any damage or inconvenience which may be caused thereby. The ENGAGER shall also undertake to advise the guests of the situation and take positive steps to remedy the same. (emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)
Breach of contract is defined as the failure without legal reason to comply with the terms of a contract. It is also defined as the [f]ailure, without legal excuse, to perform any promise which forms the whole or part of the contract.
The appellate court, and even the trial court, observed that petitioners were remiss in their obligation to inform respondent of the change in the expected number of guests. The observation is reflected in the records of the case. Petitioners’ failure to discharge such obligation thus excused, as the above-quoted paragraph 4.5 of the parties’ contract provide, respondent from liability for “any damage or inconvenience” occasioned thereby.
As for petitioners’ claim that respondent departed from its verbal agreement with petitioners, the same fails, given that the written contract which the parties entered into the day before the event, being the law between them.
Respecting the letter of Svensson on which the trial court heavily relied as admission of respondent’s liability but which the appellate court brushed aside, the Court finds the appellate court’s stance in order. It is not uncommon in the hotel industry to receive comments, criticisms or feedback on the service it delivers. It is also customary for hotel management to try to smooth ruffled feathers to preserve goodwill among its clientele.
Kalalo v. Luz holds:
Statements which are not estoppels nor judicial admissions have no quality of conclusiveness, and an opponent whose admissions have been offered against him may offer any evidence which serves as an explanation for his former assertion of what he now denies as a fact.
Respondent’s Catering Director, Bea Marquez, explained the hotel’s procedure on receiving and processing complaints, viz:
Q You mentioned that the letter indicates an acknowledgement of the concern and that there was-the first letter there was an acknowledgment of the concern and an apology, not necessarily indicating that such or admitting fault?
Q Is this the letter that you are referring to?
If I may, Your Honor, that was the letter datedAugust 4, 2001, previously marked as plaintiff’s exhibits, Your Honor. What is the procedure of the hotel with respect to customer concern?
A Upon receipt of the concern from the guest or client, we acknowledge receipt of such concern, and as part of procedure in service industry particularly Makati Shangri-la we apologize for whatever inconvenience but at the same time saying, that of course, we would go through certain investigation and get back to them for the feedback with whatever concern they may have.
Q Your Honor, I just like at this point mark the exhibits, Your Honor, the letter dated August 4, 2001 identified by the witness, Your Honor, to be marked as Exhibit 14 and the signature of Mr. Krister Svensson be marked as Exhibit 14-A.
x x x x
Q In your opinion, you just mentioned that there is a procedure that the hotel follows with respect to the complaint, in your opinion was this procedure followed in this particular concern?
A Yes, ma’am.
Q What makes you say that this procedure was followed?
A As I mentioned earlier, we proved that we did acknowledge the concern of the client in this case and we did emphatize from the client and apologized, and at the same time got back to them in whatever investigation we have.
Q You said that you apologized, what did you apologize for?
A Well, first of all it is a standard that we apologize, right? Being in the service industry, it is a practice that we apologize if there is any inconvenience, so the purpose for apologizing is mainly to show empathy and to ensure the client that we are hearing them out and that we will do a better investigation and it is not in any way that we are admitting any fault. (underscoring supplied)
To the Court, the foregoing explanation of the hotel’s Banquet Director overcomes any presumption of admission of breach which Svensson’s letter might have conveyed.
The exculpatory clause notwithstanding, the Court notes that respondent could have managed the “situation” better, it being held in high esteem in the hotel and service industry. Given respondent’s vast experience, it is safe to presume that this is not its first encounter with booked events exceeding the guaranteed cover. It is not audacious to expect that certain measures have been placed in case this predicament crops up. That regardless of these measures, respondent still received complaints as in the present case, does not amuse.
Respondent admitted that three hotel functions coincided with petitioners’ reception. To the Court, the delay in service might have been avoided or minimized if respondent exercised prescience in scheduling events. No less than quality service should be delivered especially in events which possibility of repetition is close to nil. Petitioners are not expected to get married twice in their lifetimes.
In the present petition, under considerations of equity, the Court deems it just to award the amount of P50,000.00 by way of nominal damages to petitioners, for the discomfiture that they were subjected to during to the event. The Court recognizes that every person is entitled to respect of his dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind. Respondent’s lack of prudence is an affront to this right.