New York Spa in QC: Despite American name, a very Pinoy soul

Despite American name, a very Pinoy soul 
By Walter Ang
April 30, 2008
Manila Bulletin

Upon entering, a spacious reception lobby and waiting lounge greets guests. And while this spa has the requisite wet area amenities such as his and hers showers, Jacuzzis and saunas, its unique feature takes advantage of its prime location at the penthouse of a building: an al fresco terrace.

In line with its cosmopolitan name, New York Spa is smack in the middle of Quezon City's restaurant row, Tomas Morato Street, and its terrace overlooks a handsome cityscape. "Our guests can just sit in this area, enjoy a bit of quiet time or have a nice chat with their friends while waiting for their treatments or after they're done," said Gio Manila, operations manager.

He then added, "Spas usually tout their facilities and interiors. We, on the other hand, are very proud of the training of our therapists. All of our therapists train everyday. We really want to keep our skills up-to-date and on a high level for our guests."

Aside from the de rigueur Swedish and shiatsu massage treatments, this spa offers two very Filipino specialties: hilot and dagagay. "We want to offer something that Filipinos can be proud of. Similar to other Asian countries like Thailand, India, Korea and China that all have their own "national" massage, we also want to promote our very own massages," he said.

Hilot is well-known among Filipinos, though Manila dispels the myth that hilot is only for treating "pilay" or sprains. "It's actually a massage for relaxing the body. It's more gentle than Swedish massage and has none of the chopping action or "karate" actions that are included in Swedish massages," he said.

Dagdagay is a lesser known indigenous Filipino massage from the Igorots. It uses two sticks that are rubbed against the soles of the feet to rejuvenate the body and mind. Manila himself traveled to the north to find someone to train him in this art. Using only a lead that he could possibly find a mentor in Baguio, he was like a detective searching for clues to solve a mystery.

As luck would have it, the grandfather of their tour guide turned out to be the head of an Igorot tribe in Sagada who agreed to teach him the dying art of dagdagay. "I learned that dagdagay is usually done inside a dap-ay, which is a enclosed or windowless hut that is smoked from underneath. It is like their version of a sauna," shared Manila.

"I also found out that it's sometimes used a punishment," he suddenly said. No, the dagdagay sticks are not used to torture or inflict pain, but "Naughty children are punished by being tasked to perform the dagdagay treatment for their elders," he laughed.

Thorough To make dagdagay more appealing to city-dwellers, Manila has developed a treatment that incorporates gisgis (head massage) as well as having the arms and legs massaged. "People find the treatment interesting and are curious to try it," he said.

When this writer tried out their treatments, the therapists were very thorough and the time flew by. The dagdagay was definitely a different kind of experience, although readers with ticklish feet might want to think twice before getting this treatment. The spa's minimum time for one session is one hour and 20 minutes, unlike other spas that have a minimum of 45 minutes or one hour. Manila made this their standard because he himself feels that having a one hour massage always leaves him wanting a bit more. "I feel bitin if I only get a one hour massage. Guests enjoy themselves more with our minimum time. Other spas will charge you more if you ask for a treatment that lasts longer than one hour," he said.

The slow, deliberate and relaxed demeanor of the spa is a conscious effort on the spa's part. The spa's logo juxtaposes soft lines that are actually a stylized rendition of leaves, to evoke softness and tranquility. "We're called New York spa because we want our guests to feel that this is their haven away from the hurly burly city life. New York is known for its fast-paced, busy lifestyle and we know how Filipinos also have to live a stressful life. We are here for them if they need to relax or take a break," said Manila.

Open from 2:00pm to 4:00am, it attracts guests engaged in different fields of work from nearby like hospitals, call centers and two major television broadcasting companies. "We actually have guests who come all the way from downtown Manila," he beamed.

Aside from the communal rooms, there are private rooms, couple's rooms, and family rooms that fit four guests. "We can accommodate as many as up to 50 guests in our spa at any one time and group discounts are available," he said. "We also offer discounts during our off-peak hours from 2pm to 5pm and from 2am to 4am."

New York Spa is at CTTM Square Bldg., Tomas Morato cor. Timog, Quezon City. Call 441-050 to 51 or email

Peta's 41st season focuses on writers and their work

Peta's 41st season focuses on writers and their work 
By Walter Ang
April 14, 2008
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"We hope you will join us in another year of wondrous theater experience," said Maribel Legarda, Artistic Director of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta), to a large group of teachers at the launch of the theater company's 41st season.

Having produced more than 300 productions (with some that have had runs that reached up to 40 shows) is by no means a small feat for this theater company that was founded in 1967.

Now settled in its own tony building, the Peta Theater Center (after leaving its longtime home at the Rajah Sulayman Theater in Intramuros three years ago), the company is once again teaming up with the decision-makers in schools and organizations to help them bring their brand of educational entertainment to more audiences.

The launch featured excerpts from the upcoming productions including song and dance numbers as well as staged readings of selected scenes.

Peta usually holds this "sneak peek" preview a few months before the season finally takes off in July, allowing potential show buyers to have a more tangible idea of what's in store for the coming year. It hopes to accord the buyers more time to prepare (such as doing the paperwork and budget justification for approval by higher-ups).

Touring production 
What may be the most appealing to organizations or schools outside of Metro Manila is the availability for touring of the back-to-back package of Peta's Children's Theater productions: Mga Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang and Batang Rizal. The excerpted scenes featured colorful costumes, high energy acting and upbeat tunes with hilarious dialogue.

Written by Christine Bellen, Lola Basyang features three of Severino Reyes' folktales while Batang Rizal tracks the journey of a student named Pepito as he time travels and meets Pepe, the young Rizal.

"Lola Basyang tackles mythical journeys that allow the characters and the audience towards self discovery and values formation," said Legarda. "Batang Rizal, on the other hand, revisits the notions of heroism and love of country from the point of view of a child. It unravels a child's understanding of what is truly heroic and selfless."

"Since both productions are performed by the same cast of actors, we offer a package where it's possible for the buyer to buy both shows at a lower rate than buying just one production," said Jette Gonzales, public relations manager.

"For example, the buyer could have a 10am performance of Lola Basyang for a younger audience and a 3pm performance of Batang Rizal for an older audience." Peta provides the cast, crew, light and sound equipment, props and costumes, and even tickets. The regular run at the Peta Center will be in September and October.

Writer in focus 
Peta's 41st season "recognizes the role of the writer in crafting performances and shaping the messages for the audience," said Legarda. "Thus, the theme 'The Writer and His Work.'

The season involves works of major Filipino writers as adapted by contemporary writers to reflect our current conditions. And in the same tradition, it will showcase works by European writers to allow both our artists and audiences to expand their perspective by allowing the works of these masters to mirror our own realities."

The season will kick-off in July with Noli-Fili (An adaptation), Nicanor Tiongson's adaptations of Rizal's two books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, into one contemporary play set in a small town in the Quezon province.

"In this adaptation, the small town politics and social mores become the backdrop of Rizal's novels. The question of where change really emanates will be explored as we see how, after a hundred years later, Rizal's novel still resonates in contemporary Philippine Culture," said Legarda.

With an initially scheduled limited run of two shows in August is Tosca, an exciting collaborative production with Black Tent Theater of Japan and Practice Theater of Singapore. "Our three companies explore Puccini's opera in three approaches. Peta sets its interpretation during the Japanese occupation of Manila and explores Japanese Imperialism, patriotic love and selfish greed. The three interpretations intersect at certain points and create a tapestry of interpolations," she said.

This production was first staged in Japan and will go on to tour Asia after its Philippine premiere.

As a fitting postscript to the spate of Korean and Japanese ghost movies in recent years, November will see a staging of a ghost play, Saan Ba Tayo Ihahatid Ng Disyembre?, featuring one character with "clairvoyant, clairaudient and clairsentient tendencies."

This is the third of Tony Perez's trilogy on friendship love and compassion with the first two, Oktubre, Noong Tayo'y Nagmamahalan Pa and Nobyembre, Noong Akala Ko'y Mahal Kita, previously produced by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in the 1990s.

"The play is about the unbreakable love and bonding between best friends and among family members, despite complications of betrayal, jealousy and anger," Legarda said.

"The season ends with a pseudo festival in February to March called Adapting The European Masters. This will showcase an end to a ten-month project that will take at least forty of our artists, be they writers, directors and actors, into the study of European playwrights like Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg," she said.

The project involves analysis of the texts as written during its time eventually leading to the selection of specifics scenes to be mounted in a laboratory production. The final phase will see our young playwrights adapting these classics into contemporary Filipino adaptations using various approaches and styles.

For details, call 410-0821 or 0918-906-8083. Email

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'A World of Pun' art exhibition to celebrate World Intellectual Property Day

Young artists hold multimedia exhibit
By Walter Ang
April 7, 2008

Three young multimedia artists are featured in an exhibit billed "A World of Pun" at the Alab Art Space of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IP Philippines). The exhibit is not only the thesis showcase of the works of John Ryo Manaluz, Jerold Manalili, and Cris Dumlao, graduating students in AB Multimedia from Asia Pacific College, but also serves as IP Philippine's prelude to the 8th World Intellectual Property Day celebration on April 26.

IP Philippines was created to administer and implement the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines and deals with copyrights, invention patents and trademarks.

The three artists are classmates and came together with the concept of creating works based on the theme of "puns" for their group thesis. Curated by filmmaker and multimedia artist Elvert dela Cruz BaƱares, the artists use both traditional and digital media to "juxtapose signs and symbols with imagery to decode meaning in word play. Most of the works of these three emerging artists confront the idea of how words and expressions are used, perceived, and misused."

Mixed media Dumlao has a Certificate in Fine Arts major in Painting from the University of the Philippines and is taking AB Multimedia as her second course. While this 26 year old has no preferred medium and is most likely to "select the most appropriate medium for the concept," she does admit to being partial to large canvasses. This is evidenced by her diptych ""Paper Cut," all of two four feet by six feet of mixed media on wood.

21 year old Jerold Manalili, a finalist in the U.P. Cursor Digital Fine Art 2005 competition, is more adventurous with his use of brush and canvass, exploding a gamut of primary colors onto his piece "Kalye Krayola." This vibrant piece is Manalili's attempt at experimenting with different paints such as latex, acrylic, poster paint and oil. Taking two and a half weeks to paint, he was inspired by his earliest recollections of his awe of crayons and the hues they could produce on paper.

Showing the strongest potential of the three is multi-awarded 20 year old John Ryo Manaluz, whose works demonstrate depth, emotion and thoroughness. His digital prints like "Under the C" and "The Missing Peace" showcase his ability to layer meaning into the theme of puns beyond a literal take, while his "The Mysterious Karnebal" tells a macabre and melancholy story with the striking figure of a decapitated chicken/humanoid body giving birth to a head amidst a landscape of silently screaming twisted faces.

Aside from the pride of being part of a group exhibit, Dumlao is "simply enjoying the moments leading up to graduation." Manalili, on the other hand, is preparing to begin an apprenticeship to further hone his skills while Manaluz is looking forward to doing more video editing work aside from his current projects doing freelance illustration and graphic design.

Intellectual property culture Guests of honor at the opening ceremonies were Prof. Napoleon Abueva, National Artist for Sculpture; Mr. Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature; and Dr. Abdulmari Asia Imao, National Artist for Visual Arts.

IP Philippines Director General Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr. said that since the launch of Alab Art Space in early 2007, the gallery has opened its doors to both seasoned and budding creators. The art space not only provides a venue for showcasing original works, but also aims to cut across age groups and sectors in stressing the importance of copyright protection to national development.

"We strongly support both established and up-and-coming artists because our goal is to foster a vibrant intellectual property culture," Cristobal said. "We have a wealth of talent in our current generation of creators. They are our future national artists."

A World of Pun runs until April 25. Alab Art Space is at the ground floor of the IP Philippines Building along Gil Puyat Ave. (formerly Buendia Ave.), Makati City. 

Open from Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm. For details, call Betty Uy-Regala at 752-5450 loc. 610 or 0917-859-1872 or email