Thursday, August 7, 2008

The exhilarating spa business and sorority bonding

Learning & Innovation - August 9, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


The exhilarating spa business and sorority bonding


We asked our sorority sis Raquel Jacobo and her hubby, our frat brod, Jake, what they want to do while on vacation here from California.  Their answers were, in order of excitement:  spa, tour of Metro Manila, an out-of-town outing and checking out old and new food outlets.  To the dismay of Malou Amante, Angie Cruz and Salve Callanga, shopping is not in Raquel's list.  PAL and other airlines have limited the baggage allowance of their passengers. 


In the news today, many US airlines have started charging for check-in baggage, pillows, blankets, food and drinks and other inflight amenities.  On top of higher airfare.   Budget airlines have long done that, but they do it in exchange for low fares.  Rumors have it that passenger airfare will be based on weight, just like cargo. 


Oh, well.  So off we went to Urban Spa on the fifth level of Shangri-la Plaza Mall.  Urban Spa did not disappoint, from the reception to the spa experience and the free bibingka at C2 Restaurant after.   The 90-minute therapeutic hot stone massage was very rejuvenating.  I like the oil they used because it is not greasy and is not scented.  This massage is done only in the Philippines because the stones were individually handpicked from the areas around Mt. Pinatubo.  Try it.


The spa business is part of the burgeoning health and wellness industry around Asia.  Practically all Balikbayans I know are excited over spending some quiet time in the spa.  Abroad, going to the spa is an expensive treat.  The rates here are very reasonable.  And our masseuse/masseurs are very nurturing.  Fast becoming a favorite is the "hilot" massage.


A favorite indulgence when you are in Boracay is the massage by the DOT-trained and accredited masseuse.  They are very good and their service charges are really practical.  They are all over the place and they do the massage right on the beach.  However, if you want a more private session in your room, most hotels require some kind of a fee.  I really don't understand this extra levy.


I go to the spa only once a year as a birthday treat and when we have visitors from abroad.  On a regular basis, I am very satisfied with my trusty neighbor and "manghihilot," Aling Upeng whose 83-year old hands are very soothing and caring and the force is just enough to lull me to sleep.


Going back to our gallivanting, off we went to Fort Santiago.  The facilities seem to be much improved from the last time I was there a year ago.  But some portions are caving in and the big adobe stones are falling off.  This memorable place needs our help—we need to visit it more often and make donations.  It is a very beautiful and gentle place amidst the chaos in Manila.  


The view from the Fort across the Pasig River, though, is not worth mentioning—you could almost touch, feel, hear and smell the filth and disarray.  Something needs to be done in order to preserve the happy memories that you form going around the Fort. 


The Manila Cathedral is as serene and as striking as always, in and out.  And all churchgoers there are dressed appropriately—no mall or sports clothes.


Then to Luneta Park and the new Ocean Park.  No comment.


We enjoyed our dinner at the Seafood Market along Diosdado Macapagal Avenue.  First, you buy your meat, seafood and fruits from the market area.  Then you bring the goodies to any of the restaurants there.  They will cook and provide you the necessary restaurant services, e.g. plates, utensils, napkins, drinks, waiters.   Their service charges are sensible.   This is a practical place to dine in especially if you are a big group.  Prices at the market are subject to a lot of haggling while those at the restaurants are fixed.


Tourism is good, not only for business, but also for the mind and soul.;

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