Undressing for a stranger’s touch and paying for it may be a bizarre thing to do but that’s what a spa is all about. While reading an Englishman’s gastronomical adventures in France, I learned a little about spas. A proper spa facility has a wet area (jacuzzi and/or pool), a massage parlor with health treatments, and a dining place that serves nutritious food. In other words, the point of going to spas is wellness and not pure pleasure.
This year, my spa buddy and I made it a point to get a massage every month, or every other stressful week when needs arise. Our housemate recommended Mont Albo because their massage is excellent, services are not expensive, and Mont Albo’s just a stone’s throw away from us (in fact, we’re in the middle of three branches along Chino Roces/Pasong Tamo).
One time I stumbled upon a blog article about Mont Albo’s “upscale” version, Ginhawa. I’m sure you’re smiling too at this Tagalog word as I did the first time I saw it. Ginhawa means ease, comfort, or release from something cumbersome, but it has so many connotations from wealth building to pleasures, and to come to a spa called “Ginhawa” is like believing in the promise of magical inner body transformations. But Mike and I called for reservations anyway.
The spa is on the second floor of High Pointe building along Pasong Tamo, near the corner of Yakal St. We live a few blocks away – a good five minute walk – but we came from the Salcedo Sunday market that day, so we were greeted by the only issue we have with Ginhawa: parking near the smelly canal. The guard may not be very helpful in parking nor will he mind your business, and the sad staircase to the second floor may not be welcoming, but once inside Ginhawa, things become more promising.
Buenas tardes, señorita! the receptionist greeted me the moment I stepped in. I said, hello we have reservations this afternoon, and Jaselle (we learned her name later on) recognized us as the bloggers who wish to take a few photos for this site. So while waiting for our private room, we registered, wrote any ailments we had, sipped the iced tea they served, and snapped a few shots in the lobby and dining area. Young Chef Xander of the Unang Hirit fame went out of his way to greet us and chat. He invited us to try the tasty and healthy crocodile meat, which they’ll be serving next week.
Jaselle called us as soon as our session was ready. The hallways are clean and neat like the lobby, and we appreciated our private couple’s room that has a spacious bathroom. Many massage houses offer private rooms but not as stylish and aromatic as this. Piped in spa music added comfort, and the massage beds were fresh and sweet smelling.
The staff who showed us the way asked us to take a shower, change into disposable undergarments provided, call them through the intercom when we’re ready, and lie on the bed face down. I think it took us more than 30 minutes to call them back as we took photos and adjusted the lighting and posed for more pictures.
We reserved the service called “Azucarera,” which includes the private cuarto-baño, 45-minute full-body massage, soup of the day, and drinks. Next time, perhaps we’ll try “Hacienda,” which has an additional personal sauna, or “Ciudad” with four-course meal, or the most expensive “Hilot Batangan,” which has all of these (private room, 45-minute full-body hilot, personal sauna, four-course meal) plus 8-cup Ventosa, believed to eliminate “lamig” or nodules. Interestingly, they also have “Makiling’s Foot,” which costs as much as Hilot. Aside from the private room, sauna, four-course meal, and hilot (15 mins), Makiling’s include Foot techniques such as Chinese Reflexology and Shiatsu. Part of their scrub options is “Fair & Snail Scrub” but I think I’m not yet prepared for snail slime.
In came the two polite, neat-looking masseuse who both asked our pressure preference. I chose soft, Mike hard. They started with our legs then back, arms and hands, then shoulders and feet, then hair and face. All our parts covered, except of course the privates. The oil wasn’t greasy, thanks for that. I almost fell asleep during the session, and I hoped the massage was longer but they had to finish and leave us with iced tea and hot towels for refreshment.
I guess a clear proof that the massage did us wonders was our deep sleep that night at the apartment, the first time in many nights. So deep, the alarm couldn’t wake us early the next day, another first in many days. The massage was perfect, Mike told Jaselle and Chef Xander, and he said this with basis as we’ve had mediocre massage experiences (let’s not mention where) and the worst one (let’s mention that: The Massage King at SM Fairview. Ick. So noisy and talkative staff who seemed to be doing the rubs and pressure just to get it over with, while talking about their personal problems. Very unprofessional).
I’m tempted to use the usual words soothing, relaxing, calming in describing my experience at Ginhawa but all spas should deliver that. This spa, however, stands out among its competitors in Makati in terms of pricing (Azucarera is below P500) and extra effort in presentation and service especially in dining.
Chef Xander presented us their soup of the day, organic pumpkin soup. And to our pleasant surprise, he treated us with Russian Potato Salad even if it’s not included in our Azucarera service.
We appreciated the upscale treatment and we didn’t expect to eat good food in a spa.
Till our next visit!