Friday, March 30, 2007

Zen Inspired Spa

I slept like a baby after two visits to this spa.

Ki by Neo Spa (725-6789) located on busy Wilson street in the San Juan area is a quiet refuge from the world. I went there one early evening after work to de-stress. The Zen inspired interiors were like a balm to one's weary soul. Strains of soothing music greet you as you enter their spartan lobby that is done in clean lines of white and grey. Immediately your mind gets uncluttered as you take in the quiet and simple surroundings.

On my first visit there (yes, I've been back and that is why this post is delayed...) I had the signature Ki massage treatment and that was certainly a superb experience. The therapist applied firm and unique strokes that had me asleep after half an hour. The treatment took all of ninety minutes and so you can imagine how relaxed and wobbly my knees felt after the therapist was done with me.

There is a certain "sacredness" if you can call it that, about the treatment rooms at Ki. The over-all ambiance is Zen but it is akin to being in a monastery. Everything is quiet and spotless. The shampoo and body soap you use prior to treatment is scented in ginger and green tea to prepare you for a truly relaxing experience.

Even better, when I returned the second time was the reflexology treatment I had which employed the Ingham method. Unlike Chinese foot reflex which uses the fingers and knuckles, and the Thai reflex method which employs a wooden stick, the Inghan method makes use of the fingers in quick movements muck like a catterpillar creeping on the soles of your feet. Don't get me wrong, it's not ticklish at all! Through this method, all the parts of your feet are stimulated, thus all the organs of your body that have connections at the soles of your feet, are stimulated as well. When the therapist is done with your feet, she moves to your arms (obviously, they really clean your feet prior to treatment) and then finally to your back. Again, as soon as the therapist was done with one foot, I dozed off.

What was most memorable about these treatments was the way I felt even up to two days after. There was certainly a marked difference in my sleep patterns over the next couple of nights after both treatments. I think the mark of an excellent massage is when (barring any life-threatening events...) you are able to savor and feel it's effects even days after the treatment has been done. Such was my experience in this Zen-like sanctuary in the city. I will definitely be back here for more.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Three Generations of PMA Graduates

mainphotopma01MANILA, Philippines -- Cadet 1st Class Marc Anthony Romero of the “Maragtas” Class of 2007 etched a place in Philippine Military Academy history by becoming only the third graduate of a three-generation PMA family.
His grandfather, Brig. Gen. Antonio Romero, was a member of Class 1941.
His father, Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Antonio L. Romero II, belongs to Class 1974.
On Monday, it was Marc’s turn to graduate from the academy and join the Philippine Army.
A former PMA superintendent, retired Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Estrellado says that of the approximately 8,000 graduates since 1905, there have only been two families with genealogical succession involving three generations of PMA graduates.
“It occurred first in 1981 when Natalio Ecarma III, the son of Rodolfo Ecarma of Class 1954 and grandson of Natalio Ecarma Sr. of Class 1923, graduated. It occurred again in 1986 when Paulino Dumlao, son of Jose Dumlao of Class 1951 and grandnephew of Armando Dumlao of Class 1917, graduated from the PMA. This is only the third instance, with Cadet Romero, that the PMA shall have a third generation graduate.”
2nd generation grads
Second generation graduates were more common in the academy.
Estrellado says that there were 131 fathers and sons who graduated from PMA. Given this number, it is safe to assume that there has been one in every batch.
In addition, there were seven families with four siblings who had graduated. The Andayas, Arevalos, Brawners, Maligaligs, Manlongats, Villacortes and Vinoyas.
There were also 24 families with three siblings belonging to the long gray line.
The experience of being in the academy from one generation to another has been both similar and different in the ways that matter.
Romero II says that during his time in the academy, he could not discuss military matters with his father who was in fact already retired.
“It just was not discussed. Maybe it was because he was still a part of the old school,” Romero II says.
“I remember writing a letter to my mother one time, telling her about the time I received punishment for an infraction. My father wrote me back to say that I should refrain from writing those kinds of letters to my mother because it put her in tears. From then on, I never wrote about those things again.”
Family support
The younger Romero has, on his own, decided to spare his mother from the details of his difficulties.
“He doesn’t discuss those things with us,” his mother Bechie says. However, the cadet shares an specially close bond with his parents -- ties that, he himself says, helped him during his toughest days in the academy.
“My family has always been there for me and I am able to discuss my problems with them openly. In my first two months here I really just wanted to go home. When my parents came for my incorporation into the academy, I wanted to just quit and go back to Manila with them,” he says.
In the end, his parents gave him the support that he needed to hang on and after his “Beast Barracks” days (the two-month period prior to his incorporation into the academy) there was no turning back for him.
“The biggest difficulty is being separated from your loved ones and having hardly any contact with them,” he says. In the first year, cellular phones were not allowed and you were only permitted a limited time to use the pay phone to call long distance.
“You adjust eventually,” Romero adds.
He had entered the PMA at the age of 20, after spending two years at University of Santo Tomas where he was majoring in Electronics and Communications Engineering.
Is life harder in the academy for a second or third generation cadet?
Estrellado explains that the pressure on the children of cavaliers came mostly from upper classmen giving them more challenges.
“Knowing that I was my father’s son really pushed me to do my best because I did not want to let my family down,” says Romero.

Published on page 1 of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 21, 2007

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Couple Time At The Island

reception Island Spa at Rustan's

H and I decided on a quiet birthday celebration this year.

After a really great lunch of Indian food over at Queens restaurant in Makati, we hied off a few meters down the road to the Island Spa (899-1234) on the 2nd floor of Jupiter Place in Jupiter Street, Makati. Dubbed as "an oasis in the middle of the city, " Island is a quiet place of rest in the middle of hustle and bustle of the busy street that it is in.

At the reception you are met by a member of the staff who asks what your preference is. We decided to go for the usual Swedish full body massage (550 for one hour). We were then ushered into our respective changing areas. The spa itself is clean and simple. The changing and shower rooms are sparkling clean which to me is a MUST, otherwise I will never patronize the place again. There is a sauna room and several immaculately clean shower stalls. After changing into comfortable cotton shorts and a loose kimono top, we waited our turn in the couples room which was to my initial impression a bit quirky - mainly because of the mood lighting and the fashion channel that plays on the television across from where you are seated. I wasn't particularly hot about having a massage and having club music in tha background so I just asked the attendant to please turn it off. You have to see and experience the room to understand what I mean. Don't get me wrong - the massage room is very comfortable, conducive to sleep and the therapists are most accomodating. They cater to your requests with a smile :) The room temperature is also well-regulated.

The massage beds and the rooms per se are clean and quite basic. Spartan-like if you compare it to the more expensive spas around town. The scent of eucalyptus and peppermint waft through the air from the moment that you step into its confines and lulls you into a more relaxed state. H and I settled down and after waiting a few minutes, two attendants came into the room to knead tired muscles and bodies. And here lies the difference...

The therapists at Island have exceptional hands! They really hit the spots that matter and what makes this particular treatment different is the use of hot water compress. H and I have been to several spas both here and overseas but this was the very first one we experienced in Manila wherein a warm and relaxing hot compress is applied to the weariest parts of your body - basically the shoulders and back. The compress is applied in between major kneading of weary arms and back muscles. I cannot begin to tell you how stress-relieving that truly felt. The therapists and the treatment certainly made up for the simple ambiance that the spa had. As usual, I dozed off half-way through the session and never felt more relaxed at the end of the hour. I shook my head in amazement. My body felt so light! Really, it was a massage to remember.

Island has a plushier branch over at the 5th floor of Rustan's Makati but expect to pay a little bit more over there. The rooms are nicer - very Asian and of course there is less hustle and bustle within the confines of a department store versus a busy Makati street. Simple though the facilities may be, the experience over at the Jupiter branch is well-worth a second visit and it is something we both plan to do over the long summer break.

Island's price points :550 - 1,200 pesos for reflexology or body massage (depending on the branch)

Rating : **** (facilities, therapist, ambiance, cleanliness, spa products)

Legend :

** so-so *** good **** very good ***** excellent

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Notes from a Spa-holic

I'm a certified spa-holic.

Every Friday from hereon, expect a spa review or a wellness treatment or product to appear on this page. This is a "pledge" I've made to myself to keep my sanity - to better take care of myself and indulge in the things I love at least once a week.

If there is one luxury I like to indulge in, it is both the thrill and the comfort that an hour (or more) at the spa can bring. I don't want to think of it as an indulgence but rather an essential to helping maintain my well-being. For some women shopping for clothes or jewelry does the trick, for others it's cooking, I'd rather spend time resting my mind and body while someone kneads my woes away.

It really doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. Spa treatments run the breadth of 350 pesos for a relaxing foot reflexology treatment to a high of 4500 for a package (scrub, massage and facial) at a high-end spa. Last week, my friend T and I found ourselves at one of the newer and pricier ones in the city. Nevertheless it was a spa moment to remember.

Terra Wellness Spa (638-9145 to 46 or 638-2977) is located on the 4th floor of Discovery Suites at the Ortigas Center on ADB Avenue. Terra, a Latin word for earth, offers seven elegant treatment rooms that offer total privacy for couples or individuals. All luxurious treatment rooms have individual shower and bathroom facilities. After spending time with the Good Shepherd nuns, cleansing our souls, my friend T and I thought it was time to pamper our weary bodies and mid-lifing spirits. So off we went to Terra...

Stepping into the serene confines of Terra alone is enough to make your stress levels drop instantly. Plush and comfortable seats await you in a zen-like waiting area where you are served a cup of tea while you browse through the spa menu offered by a very knowledgeable and polite attendant. I decided to go for the Terra's Touch, their signature treatment which is a 90-minute variation of the Swedish massage. After having done that, I was asked to pick what kind of music I wanted to listen to (a first!) - classical, jazz, celtic, pop (yes...), movie adagios, new age etc... and because the Oscars were coming up that week, I opted to go for the film soundtracks.


Reception area at Terra

I was then introduced to my therapist who asked me what kind of organic massage oil I wanted to use - calming, revitalizing or oriental. Because I was headed for a basketball game that evening, I opted for the revitalizing oil lest I crash on the seats of Araneta Coliseum which would have been terribly embarrassing for me. We moved to a corner of the reception area where the therapist blends your oil from a "bar" and lets you check if she was able customize it according to your desire. Having done that, I was lead to a chair in quiet corner where I was asked to slip off my shoes. The act of removing the shoes before entering the spa area itself is a practice commonly done in high-end spas in Thailand but rarely done here. Slipping into oh-so-soft and white terry slippers, I was ushered into the main "sanctuary" where not a sound could be heard and the ambiance was pure heaven.

My therapist then brought me to my very own private room where I was given adequate time to shower and slip into an equally soft and plushy robe. The toiletries in the bath are first rate, not your standard issue spa shampoo or soap. You can tell because your skin feels like a baby after your done with your shower.

Bathing ritual done, my therapist quietly slipped into the room to begin the spa ritual. Terra's treatments were customized by Kate Fernandez Moynihan and the unique feature of the Terra's Touch treatment is that they ask the client to lie down face up first. Most other spas will have you lie on your back and then half-way off to dreamland, you are asked to turn over - which kind of disrupts the relaxation mode. Over at Terra, it's sheer pleasure and relaxation from start to finish. I must say that it was one of the best massage treatments I'd had in a long while. And there's no stretching here to contend with (which I actually hate...) after the treatment is done. When the therapist was done with me, I could hardly get up and if I didn't have a ballgame to run off to, I would have slipped into a deep, deep slumber right then and there.

Slip into bliss in the couple's room

Everything at Terra is world-class - from the service, to the oils, to the fixtures, the linen, the facilities and most of all the treatments. The therapists carry a light and positive aura about them which to me is very important because after all when they touch your body, their energy gets transferred to yours. I've had treatments in teh past where I ended up with a migraine or an even more painful back all because the therapist seemed to have a "heaviness" about her - and I don't mean the weight.

If body treatments aren't your thing, Terra also offers Ingham Foot reflexology which is a 75 minute treatment or the Traditional Thai Foot Massage which runs for 60 minutes. Instead of a private room, you slip into one of their "pods" and lose your aches while a skilled therapist massages your feet and your worries away.

061 P_DISCOVERY FITNESS & SPA_07 Like a princess in a pod...

Terra is one of the best new wellness places to arrive in the Ortigas business district. For the executive or the lady of leisure who wants to indulge in an afternoon or evening of world-class pampering, this is definitely the place to go. A piece of heaven on luxurious, solid ground :)

Terra's price points : 800 - 2,200 pesos for reflexology or body massage

Rating : ***** (facilities, therapist, ambiance, cleanliness, spa products)

Legend :

** so-so *** good **** very good ***** excellent