Pursuits

The Best Spas in Manila and Their Signature Treatments

It's about time for another spa retreat.
IMAGE COURTESY OF OKADA
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The T&C editors try out the signature treatments offered by the city’s top spas.

Royal Hammam Treatment

CHI the Spa, EDSA Shangri-La 


Relax… Having first experienced a Turkish bath at one of the oldest traditional hammams in Istanbul, I can properly declare that the Royal Hammam treatment at CHI the Spa at Shangri-La EDSA is a much more luxurious experience. 

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A visit to CHI is always a delight, especially when I have just a few hours of me time to spare amid a hectic work week. Once inside the sanctuary that is CHI, I quickly forget that we are in the center of a chaotic metropolis, and I instantly succumb to the heady promise of calm and relaxation. 

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CHI has several private hammam treatment suites, each one with an Oriental bedroom, a large changing room and bath, a steam room, an outdoor patio and pool, a heated black marble-topped slab, and a tub. The royal treatment started off with a few minutes in the steam room to open up my pores and sweat off some toxins, followed by a slow soak in the pool laced with coconut milk and covered in rose petals.

With my skin steamed and softened, it was time to head to the hammam, where I lay down on the marble slab draped with linen. My attendant poured warm water over my body and proceeded to scrub me with a traditional Turkish kese mitt that exfoliated every inch of my body, sloughing off dead, dry skin and other impurities. Next, using a soft fabric similar to that of a high thread-count pillowcase, she lathered me in soap bubbles from head to toe, as she kneaded stubborn knots out of shoulders and my back. More warm water, this time on my head, as she gently washed my hair, her fingers massaging my scalp till all thoughts disappeared in a magical reverie. 

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Why It’s Worth It: Then came a wonderfully fragrant wrap in milk and honey that gave my arms and legs a beautiful golden sheen. One last rinse doused with more pitchers of warm water. A second trip to the steam room, and then it was back to the quiet of the bedroom, for one more hour of bliss as the attendant coaxed whatever knotted muscles were left in my pampered body. I don’t remember much after that. —YVETTE FERNANDEZ

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Price: P7,600

Chi, The Spa at Edsa Shangri-La, Manila is open daily from 9 a.m. to midnight.  For reservations, please call 633.8888 Ext. 3553 or e-mail [email protected].

Philippine Hilot with Ventosa

The Peninsula Spa, Peninsula Manila


Relax… Tucked away in a little corner by the poolside of The Peninsula Manila is its Spa and Wellness Center. You could miss it if you aren’t paying attention and what a shame that would be.

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I signed up for its Philippine Signature Massage and the next 90 minutes were bliss as I was treated to hilot, an age-old Filipino traditional massage. My therapist Ruby started with a blend of virgin coconut oil and organic lemongrass essential oil generously applied on my back and I could feel all my tension melting away with each stroke. I love that the oil came from a warmer, but what I loved even more was when she applied heated banana leaves and topped it with a heating pad.

That almost proved to be my downfall as I felt myself fighting off sleepiness— and I wanted to stay awake for what would come next. The banana leaves didn't stay hot for long so a few minutes later, Ruby began the Ventosa or cupping therapy. She placed lit candles in glass cups across my back and it was an unexpectedly pleasant sensation. It was my first time to try Ventosa, and I had heard a range of feedback about it, including it being too hot and too painful. Ruby told me most clients usually partook of the cupping therapy for only five minutes, to ensure there would be no marks, or even bruising for those with sensitive skin.

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Why It’s Worth It: As I was in such as zen state, I told her to keep the cups on for 10 minutes since I figured I wouldn’t mind the marks for a few days. She must have magic hands (or my skin is not-so-sensitive) as I did not have a single mark after the session. While waiting for the cups to work their magic, Ruby turned to my feet and my hands so time passed most enjoyably. 

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While Ventosa has become fashionable recently, it is actually an ancient form of alternative medicine, and can be traced to Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. Still, if you plan to bare your back in an evening gown soon, or intend to a stroll by the beach in a two-piece suit, I suggest you just enjoy the hotel’s signature massage with just Hilot minus Ventosa. Pay less at P3,400 for a 75-minute session.

Don’t Miss Out: If you can escape for a day, start off with the Red Rice and Ginger Body Glow treatment. Instead of the usual sea salt scrub, this exfoliating treatment uses a special blend of the red highland rice—much kinder to your skin plus rich in vitamins and minerals—and ginger that can help restore your skin’s suppleness and glow.  The 45-minute session costs P3,200. —ANETH NG-LIM 

Price: P3,800

Peninsula Manila, Corner of Ayala and Makati Avenues, 1226, Makati, 887.2888

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Bathing Ritual

Wellness Spa at Solaire Resort & Casino


Relax… The Bathing Ritual is best described as a sensory experience. There was the sound of bells that signified the start and end of the massage, the scent of the aromatherapy oils I was made to inhale, the sight of the romantic rose petal-filled milk bath. More than any of these, it was my sense of touch that worked overtime. After disrobing and laying on the treatment bed, I was scrubbed from head to toe with the coarseness of ground Barako coffee beans. It felt rough on the skin, but the payoff was wonderful. My skin was silky smooth again, which I discovered during the milk bath. I was given 15 minutes to soak in the bath and when my therapist returned, we were off for the hour-long message at the adjoining treatment room. 

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I chose the lavender essential oil for the massage, despite knowing that it had the tendency to put people to sleep. Luckily for me, I was able to stay awake and enjoy each of the 60 minutes that the therapist spent kneading away all the knots that had formed on my back and on my legs (as I had requested). Before I knew it, the bell had rung and my time was up.


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Why It’s Worth It: The best part of it was that the special treatment did not start and end with the massage. Depending on where they’re coming from and which treatment they choose, spa-goers may avail of an extra chauffeur service that will take them to and from the hotel so you’re serviced from start to end.

Don’t Miss Out: The treatments during the Bathing Ritual are available a la carte. Other signature indulgences include the Urban Escape, a peppermint foot scrub and massage, and the Romantic Interlude, a foot spa, body scrub, milk bath, and body massage for two.  –HANNAH LAZATIN

Price: P4,500

Solaire Resort and Casino, Aseana Avenue, Entertainment City, Tambo, Paranaque, 888.8888

Filipino Pride Hilot Secret

Le Spa, Sofitel Philippine Plaza 


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Relax… I always thought “hilot” was simply the Filipino word for massage, but soon learned that it also translates to “the ancient Filipino art of healing”. Unlike a regular massage, hilot involves traditional techniques that have been perfected and passed on by our elders. The practice goes beyond alleviating physical pain, but also aims to improve one’s overall condition and well-being.

I tried the Filipino Pride Hilot Secret at Le Spa in Sofitel to experience the traditional hilot myself. Relying on the good effects of natural elements, the treatment makes use of warm strips of aromatic banana leaves laced with virgin coconut oil, which, I’ve been told, can help relieve back pain and even cure colds. And while I had none of these ailments on the day of my massage, I did have work and life-related stress waiting to be released.

After a cup of ginger tea and a twenty-minute soak in a warm tub, the therapist arrived to begin the treatment. Warm oils were gently massaged into my skin, focusing on my back and legs (as I requested), and I tried to relax to the faint music and mild, dewy scent that filled the room. The experience was quick, pleasant, and relaxing, and a few minutes before the end of the session, I drifted off to sleep. The therapist took this as a good sign, and I did feel recharged after.

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Why It’s Worth It: More than the actual experience, what I loved most about the treatment was its effect on my skin. I left the spa feeling moisturized, as if I was coated with an extra protective layer on my skin. Because of my sensitive skin, I get red, itchy patches on my skin often, and after the massage, I noticed the difference: no more red bumps, itchiness, and inflammation. I would certainly recommend this for those with sensitive skin, especially as the treatment makes use of all-natural ingredients.

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Don’t Miss Out: Together with my massage, I also got to try the Original Beauty (P4,500) facial treatment, which uses bamboo powder, collagen masks, and traditional facial massaging tools called the Ridoki and Nouat-Naa. My skin condition was generally healthy on the day of my facial, save for two budding pimples. Post-treatment, my pores were nowhere to be found and I saw that the looming pimples were less inflamed, too. —PATTI SUNIO

Price: P3,000 – P4,000

Sofitel Philippine Plaza, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay, 551.5555

Purifying Facial and Eye Lift

Conrad Spa, Conrad Manila Hotel

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Relax… The Conrad Spa stands apart from its competitors for its privacy, having only a handful of rooms and no common areas, save for the reception and waiting area. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they take the utmost care of your skin here. I sat with my would-be therapist before the session as she soaked my feet in a lukewarm foot bath and she presented scented oils that I could choose from. The selection of products used in every treatment comes from an all-natural British brand called Espa, which is easy on the skin. 

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Afterward, I was sent off to the sauna, where I stayed for a leisurely 15 minutes until I was covered in beads of sweat. One quick shower later, I was shown to the treatment table, where the Purifying Facial, a Conrad Spa signature, would take place. A cold liquid touched my skin, a toner infused with elderflower and peppermint, I was told, and to wipe it off, my therapist used a delicate circular motion to apply a cold towel around my face. A face oil was then applied. To prove that the treatment isn’t all just lotions and creams, my therapist assessed my skin with a skin analyzing device that uses UV light to determine the skin type. Instead of using the traditional tools to clean my face, the treatment swapped this with a non-harsh scrub that smoothens out all the bumps.

To round it all up, I ended the treatment with a 30-minute eyelift that works best to target ageing around the eyes and to fight puffiness and dark circles.

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Why It’s Worth It: I’m not quite sure how she found the time to squeeze in a hair treatment, but she managed to massage a pink hair and scalp mud onto my head. The treatment wasn’t focused solely on the top of the body, as I was also treated to a shoulder and arm massage in the 90 minutes I spent on the treatment table. Normally, I would dread getting a facial as it isn’t the most relaxing ordeal if it involves any cleaning, but I felt that I could rest easy with this one.


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Don’t Miss Out: For the month of February, the Conrad Spa is offering a couple’s package that will give them use of the spa’s biggest treatment room that’s equipped with its own sauna and a Jacuzzi that overlooks the bay. This comes with a bottle of wine and a cheese platter that may be enjoyed in the comforts of the private suite before having the couple’s massage. —HANNAH LAZATIN

Price: P2,800 – P4,700

Conrad Manila, Seaside Boulevard, Coral Way, Pasay, 833.9999

Dance of Waves

The Retreat Spa at Okada Manila


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Relax... The first step inside The Retreat will already take you to another world—seemingly far from the bustle of the city, detached from the elaborate mall and casino enclosing it, and straight into a calm and beautiful oasis. True to its name, here is where you can spend a day at the spa and feel like you took a real and relaxing vacation. 

The walk heading to the treatment room makes you feel like you’re in an expansive private haven, taking you from the long hallways and lounge to the spectacular pool before being led to your very own private suite. The treatment room is massive—it comes with a shower, a tub, closets, vanity desks, and sofas—and the plush beds are heated, with an option for watching movies or shows or browsing the internet while you get a massage, thanks to touch screen tablets under the headrests. 

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With such ornate and breathtaking surroundings comes an impressive pampering experience to match. I came here for something called the Dance of Waves. After a long, warm shower, the treatment began with a foot soak and foot scrub. The therapist adjusted the light to my liking and had me face down and fully unclothed before making me take deep breaths as she placed a citrusy blend of aromas under my nose.

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After drizzling massage oil over my skin, she began moving her forearm from my upper back to down to my leg in a flowing movement. Her long, firm strokes glided through my entire body, her forearms wonderfully tackling stubborn knots and softening every tense muscle. The movement was flowing and crisscrossing—which is perhaps why it’s called the Dance of Waves. She continued to massage my scalp, neck, and shoulders, which left me sighing in gratification.


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Why It’s Worth It: The experience didn’t end when the massage did. I was led to the Tonic Bar outside the massage suite and across the pool, where I was served tea and a small platter of fruits and pastries, and where I was told I could just linger and relax or order drinks, light meals, and healthy snacks. It also had a hot steam room and a dry sauna, among other features that convinced me a day here is truly the perfect escape from my normal city life. 


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Don’t Miss Out: The Retreat has a barber shop, whose design is inspired by a gentleman's club, and an equally beautiful salon for ladies. NICOLE LIMOS MORALES

Price: P5,000 for 90 minutes

3rd Floor, Pearl Wing, New Seaside Drive, Entertainment City, Paranaque

Executive Recharge Treatment

Willow Stream Spa, Raffles Makati


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Relax... Willow Stream spas are known around the world for their “authentic, energy-building spa treatments” and that’s exactly what I experienced with their signature treatment, the Executive Recharge. It pays to arrive for your appointment early as you have free reign to relax in the lockers which has a mini lounge, sauna, and a hot pool.

I started by wasting no time and going straight to the sauna where I stayed until I was completely ready for the treatment. After, I found my masseuse waiting outside the lockers ready to lead me into my spa suite. The next 90 minutes were a sensory delight. While facing down, I found a sampaguita flower and its scent waft in the air. The full-body treatment itself was simple and fuss-free without the need of gimmicks. Instead, I got to feel and focus on my masseuse’s every stroke and move. Once my back was finished, I turned over and the massage bed was reclined with a push of a button. More relaxation came from a heating pad (which felt like warm stones) as my hands and feet were inserted. I drifted to sleep moments later, and was awoken to find that the treatment had ended.

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Why It’s Worth It: What really impressed me was how personalized the treatment was. Before we began, I had a quick sit down with the masseuse to discuss what I wanted to be after the treatment. She gave me a list of words to choose from which all sounded pleasing: relaxed, de-stressed, or refreshed. She then asked about my other preferences with regards to the pressure, points to focus on, and more.—PAOLO CHUA

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Price: P5,000

1 Raffles Drive, Makati Ave, Makati; 555.9888

Aroma Wellness Massage

Spa at Kerry Sports Manila


Relax... The spacious massage suite, knowledgeable therapist, and wealth of oils available here summarize what I enjoy best about going to the spa. I came here for its most popular treatment, which is basically a luxurious aromatherapy massage.

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Why It's Worth It: My masseuse began by drizzling Mandarin oil over my back; its aroma calming my mind as much as my nerves. She then began doing light, relaxing strokes on my back, torso, and legs, before realizing that the stubborn knots on my back and shoulders required a more intense probing.

This was when she decided to customize the strokes, pressure, and kneading to my needs—and the experience turned out even more satisfying as she employed techniques of the Therapeutic Remedial massage along with the aromatherapy. She drilled into my tightest muscles and knots but employed gentle strokes where needed, melting all tension. 

I left reaffirmed that deep massages are indeed one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Don't Miss Out: Other signature massage treatments you can try include Deep Muscle therapy, Jet Lag Recovery massage, and Classic Philippine Hilot. NICOLE LIMOS MORALES

Price: P2,700 for 60 minutes

Shangri-La at the Fort, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

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