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