When the world people live in is stressful, their tendency is to distance from it. But where do people go to be relieved of stress? There are many options: nature tripping in the outdoors; working out in the gyms; drinking in the bars; pigging out in restaurants; playing games in arcades; shopping in the malls; beauty pampering in salons; and relaxing in the spas.
The Filipinos have no historic culture for the spas, for these structures were of recent offerings for the working class, the elite and the business executives. The Indigenous Filipinos and those in the provinces, have the beaches, rivers, streams, and hot and cold springs for a soothing bathe. To relieve them of body aches and pains, they turn to the art of hilot, and seek the wisdom and herbal knowledge of old folks for their physical hilom, so that their pakiramdam will be light or magaan.
The pakiramdam is an internal state. To a Filipino when this feeling is magaan, everything is maayos. Even the pag-iisip (mind) and the kilos (behavior) go with a healthy physical state. The loob (internal) and the labas (external) operate interdependently. The catchword that spas capitlize with is that of the promise of physical wellness – relief from life’s stresses. Nowadays, Filipinos for their relaxations go to Massage Parlors, Spas, Saunas, Bath Houses, or to Beauty Salons that offer massage. At worst, they see a medical doctor or a quack doctor.
Spas are a modern commercial establishment. It’s history is so young, because they are not authentically Filipinos. Spas are common in temperate countries, while bath houses are common in Arid regions and in Europe. The Wensha Spa combines the features of a massage parlor, a steam sauna, and a bath house, with free overflowing food and drinks for every guest.
In Metro Manila, there are two branches of this 24-hour spa, the first one is in Timog Avenue, Quezon City and the other is in the CCP Complex in Pasay City. While they offer the same services and operated by the same owner, the two spas are incomparable in their structure, but they offer the same services.
For a regular employee paid on a daily wage of 400 pesos, two days of work pay must be spared just to be pampered for a while. 680 pesos will allow a spaholics in Wensha to frolic the bath and spa, and raid the buffet for 6 hours. With that amount, a customer gets one hour of massage. Every customer is given the option as to have a masseus or masseur for the massage. This is the highlight in that spa. Aside from the full body massage, one can have special massage and spa services, but each come in special price.
There is a certain ritual that can be observed in the spa. Going inside, the customer registers, removes the shoes and wears the slippers that the spa provides. Men and women have separate locker rooms. The lockers that they have use special magnetic locks, and the customer needs to keep the key with him as a bracelet or an armband.
Nudity is a must in the spa’s baths. A customer upon entering the locker room is given a towel. Slippers are not allowed inside the bath, so one gets the feel of walking barefoot. A good shower, whether hot or cold, refreshes the customer before getting in the steam rooms. Dry and wet steam rooms are available, as well as hot and cold jacussis for a dip.
One should never miss being hydrated when getting in the steam rooms, to replenish the body of excreted water. Cold water and ice are readily available for those in the baths. Wensha provides the customers relaxing moments in the spa as it has wide-screen TV for them to watch while dipping in the jacuzzi pool, or just sitting there.
Inside the spa, men can gaze upon other men. Whatever is covered with clothes is bared in the open. It is noticeable that those men who like other men tend to show their interest through tempting gazes on other’s bared body. Sometimes there are even flashers, sort of exhibitionist rubbing their private parts, while looking at other guys. But because this is a public place, nothing so scandalous or obscene should take place. Making out takes place somewhere else, but cruising and hunting happens to begin there among discrete gays.
After frolicking the spa to get rid of body toxins from sweating in the steam room or dry sauna, customers can eat and sit in the dining area. Then a customer experiences the art of wearing Wensha’s styled Japenese robe and shorts. This is the gear for the massage. After an hour of massage, the masseur or masseus hands a customer a bukis or jueteng style bundle of paper for the tip.
This tipping is something uniquely surprising. Paying 680 for the package, a customer is given a paper to sign with a space to indicate how much one would like to tip the masseur or masseus. This process could be perceived to be something to control the tip or motivate the massage therapist to do well in his or her job, but this is also something that could be irratating to the customer. Somehow it deviates from the norm of tipping as a voluntary act, since it formalizes the exchange as part of the massage process.
Buffet is served, and a customer can prepare soup ala shabu-shabu. Wensha’s food offering is tempting to the eyes, but they are not so tasty. That’s what is so poor there, and can not have left-overs or that customer will be fined.
Wensha in Timog is much smaller than Wensha in Roxas Boulevard. Their customers are a mixed of locals and foreigners. Foreigners like Koreans and Japanese, take their family and friends with them in those Spas. While local customers come in as individuals or groups or couples. The spa seems to present a space for family and friends to bond and relax. Wensha somehow offers that space with food, massage and bath at a single price.
Going to the spa is relaxing, but viciously expensive. Some people say that the massage offered in commercial spas is not therapeutic, and having body massage often can affect the firmness of one’s muscle tissues. Other’s say that frequent body massage can cause the body to be flubby and easily expand. That one could later get fat easily after stopping the massage. The massage they offer is no way comparable to what reflexology and chiropractics offer. The masseurs and masseause they have had informal courses only and are not certified physical therapists.
For experience and some relief, going to the spa is one good thing to do. However, the customer should understand that getting the massage is just a momentary relief and it is not a therapy, that one can prescribe for himself.