Treat Yo Self: Wellness Retreats In Manila

Well-kept secrets for those seeking self-care in the city.

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Bustling Metro Manila isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of wellness getaways and beauty destinations. But with top-notch services, effective products, reasonable prices and, in many cases, a great view, these establishments and brands make are well-kept secrets for those seeking self-care in the city.

Hotel Spas

Chi Spa

Manila 1_Chi Spa_galleryA few hundred meters away from the hectic EDSA-Shaw Boulevard intersection, believe it or not, is this Balinese-inspired retreat offering respite so peaceful that it can make you forget the world outside.

Chi at Edsa Shangri-La takes inspiration from the hotel’s name — after the fictional utopia in James Hilton’s classic Lost Horizon — and creates an oasis of peace and wellbeing hidden (in this case at the end of the hotel’s Garden Wing) from the hustle and bustle of the city. Its spa menu isn’t just trendy — Chi embraces wellness traditions from all around the world, some of which are centuries-old.

There is, for example, the Turkish hammam, an indulgent bath that was once reserved for royalty. It begins with a hot steam session and a thorough scrubbing with a special exfoliating mitt called the kese, followed by a rich lavender bubble wash, a deep massage and then capped off with a luxurious bath of milk and honey.

Chi also offers Ayurvedic treatments, which are widely regarded as the oldest healing system in the world. Here, the treatment involves a traditional Abhyanga massage and a Shirodhara ritual. The former is a full-body Ayurvedic massage that uses rhythmic strokes with warm oil, designed to regulate the circulation of the nervous system and bring the mind and body into a state of deep relaxation. Shirodhara, from the Sanskrit words shiro (head) and dhara (flow), involves a constant, gentle stream of oil poured over the forehead and is said to relax the nerves; it also claims to normalize sleeping patterns and address other stress-induced conditions.

Of course, Edsa Shangri-La’s Chi spa — the fourth branch in the world, and the second in the Philippines — also prides itself on offering traditional Philippine healing concepts such as the ancient massage technique of hilot. Instagram: @chimanila

The Conrad Spa

Manila 2_The Conrad Spa_galleryImagine a spa that makes you feel right at home. The Conrad Spa is one of those hidden gems in Manila — in this case, found right on the shores of Manila Bay. Having just won this year’s World Luxury Spa Awards for Luxury Hotel Spa, the Conrad Spa is known for superb massages and body treatments.

Here, the therapists greet you with warmth and intuitiveness, putting you at ease as soon as you enter, whether your treatment is scheduled to last the whole day or just half an hour.

The spa uses Espa products, a skincare line that contains plant and marine actives and essential oils. The spa’s attendants create a therapeutic multisensory experience personalized to each guest, by assessing factors like skin type and lifestyle and then tailoring treatments to your needs.

Le Spa at Sofitel Manila

Manila 3_Le Spa_galleryLe Spa takes guests on a serene journey around the world. Most of the spa’s rituals integrate Filipino healing arts, coupled with the signature Sofitel French touch, as with the Hilot Secret. One of the spa’s most popular treatments, it takes the traditional Filipino art of hilot healing massage to the next level with the use of warm strips of aromatic banana leaves laced with virgin coconut oil.

Also on the spa menu is the half-hour Mango Delight Body Scrub treatment which uses real Philippine mangoes. If you want to go all-out, splurge on the Jardin d’Eden package for two, which includes a 90-minute Aruga massage, an overnight stay at Sofitel and breakfast at Spirals.

Wellness Retreat

The Farm at San Benito

Manila 4_The Farm_galleryDeep in the bucolic countryside of Lipa, Batangas, is The Farm at San Benito, a unique wellness resort that takes a holistic approach — and has won a number of awards while at it. This is where you go for a serious wellness retreat: A few days in this beautiful sanctuary, loyal clients say, can be life-changing.

These “five pillars” are the foundation of your journey at The Farm: diagnose, cleanse, nourish, repair and sustain. The program aims to jumpstart the body to return to its ideal balanced state through holistic medical services, spa and hydrotherapy practices, vegan cuisine as well as mindful movement and functional fitness classes. It sounds daunting, but combine the therapy with the idyllic countryside, supported by an attentive therapists and doctors, and it’s not at all surprising that even the most stubborn of clients embrace the program.

One of the biggest draws of The Farm is its natural, medically supervised health programs, carefully planned and conducted by internationally trained integrative medical doctors, spa therapists, nutritionists, living food experts, fitness coaches and yoga teachers.

Guests are given individually designed holistic treatments, which are said to help get rid of accumulated toxins and, according to The Farm, negative energies weighing on your mind.

And while many have raved about The Farm’s Weight Management, Diabetes Prevention and Heart Health programs, its signature package is Holistic Wellness, which includes a consultation and health assessment with a licensed physician and state-of-the-art biomedical diagnostics, including psycho-emotional clearing sessions.

Aesthetic Clinics

Shinagawa Lasik & Aesthetics

Manila 5_Shinagawa_galleryWith medical tourism more popular than ever, Shinagawa Lasik & Aesthetics has done brisk business with its vision-correction services catering to a wide range of customers. As an added benefit for out-of-town patients, Shinagawa can also facilitate in booking a hotel stay with special accommodation rates, plus hotel assistance before and after the procedure.

Cataract surgery is a popular procedure at the clinic, which, done in parallel with the refractive lens exchange (RLE) procedure means that your vision not only clears but becomes sharper, eliminating the need for visual aids such as contacts or glasses. Another alternative to Lasik are implantable contact lenses (ICL) for severe nearsightedness. The permanent ICLs are maintenance-free, and made of biocompatible materials.


Dr Che Ramos Bernad, one of Cebu’s most prominent dermatologists, stamps her initials on this clinic, which has offices in both Cebu and Manila. And yes, Dr CRB has Pia Wurtzbach — who, as Miss Universe 2015, can officially claim to be one of the world’s most beautiful women — lending her face as a testimony to Dr CRB’s restorative talents.

Dr CRB is all about the face, specializing in invasive and non-invasive treatments that aim to improve what you already have. The clinic’s Designer RX Facial amps up the standard facial by offering personalized treatments. Before it begins, you’ll undergo a thorough analysis of the condition of your skin from a facial analyzer, which determines sebum levels, pore size, wrinkle areas, pigmentation and texture. Using that data, the staff will craft a treatment just for you.

The clinic’s most popular facial is the cult favorite Hollywood Lift. Known as the no-knife facelift, the facial uses microcurrent double-tip probes, combined with collagen ampules and firming serum for skin rejuvenation. Fans of this facial treatment hail it as better than injectables and surgery, since it offers the most natural anti-ageing results. The procedure is said to have immediate results, with no down time or side effects and, best of all, no pain. It  can also be used on other parts of the body like the arms, thighs and abdomen to reduce cellulite.

For a little extra care, the fat transfer procedure — called the fat autograft muscular injection — removes unwanted fat from one area (say, the abdomen or thighs) which is then used for facial reshaping. This is billed as a better alternative to using artificial fillers or implants, since with one’s own fat, the results are more natural and last longer.

And the others


Manila 6_Zennya_galleryWant a quick, no-frills massage at your home, office or hotel? Download the Zennya app on your phone and experience what has been touted as “the Uber of massages”. The app guarantees that a licensed therapist will be at your doorstep in 30 minutes or less.

App users can choose from two Swedish types of massage, shiatsu or a Thai foot massage. The service also offers hand and foot care plus a massage service called Office Syndrome which can be done in your office and is meant to reverse the adverse effects of sitting in front of a computer all day.

Thanks to a star rating system much like that of Uber, all therapists and customers are rated, which also ensures the safety of both. Cash payments are not allowed at the moment — you must enter a credit or debit card, or use PayPal. You can also tip your therapist through the app.

Zennya has recently upgraded its app to include more health-related concerns. Nursing services have recently started with vaccinations available on-call, and the app will soon expand to blood extraction, specimen collection and IV therapy. Zennya is currently available in select cities around Metro Manila, though more are being added regularly.

Frontrow Luxxe White

You’ve seen the brand everywhere lately, considering their spokespeople include the most beautiful (Miss Universes Demi Leigh Nel-Peters, Pia Wurtzbach, Iris Mittenaere and Catriona Gray), the strongest (boxing champ Floyd Mayweather); and the most popular (Daniel Padilla, Kathryn Bernardo, James Reid, Vice Ganda and even K-pop group Momoland).

The company’s platform is simple: supplements help take a normal skincare and beauty routine and enhance it, ensuring that feeling good and looking good comes from the inside out.

Among the most popular items on the roster is Luxxe White. Glutathione has long been used to brighten complexions, but it’s also been studied for its beneficial effects on the skin and eyes, and in detoxifying and protecting organs such as the liver, kidney and lungs. Formulated with an “enhanced glutathione accelerator”, the capsules help support the body’s own production and preservation of glutathione, and are clinically tested for optimum absorption.


Manila 7_Ultherapy_galleryReaching a certain age has its drawbacks when it comes to skin firmness and elasticity. Due to environmental stresses, skin begins to dull over time, as fine lines and wrinkles start to become more noticeable. So when a facial treatment comes along that promises to restore a youthful glow and reduce the appearance of lines, with effects that are seen immediately and last for months after, it’s no wonder that everyone from busy moms to celebrities are raving about it.

Using microfocused ultrasound, Ultherapy stimulates the creation of new collagen in and under the skin to lift, tightening the skin and giving your face a more youthful, contoured look. It’s not the most pain-free experience — patients describe the feeling like a rubber band snapping on the skin — but the results are worth it. You’ll also be glad to know that patients only need to return an average of once or twice a year to get optimum results.

Those who have tried it say that their faces appear tighter and slimmer, especially around the jaw and cheeks. Results are seen in one to two weeks, with clients noticing a dramatic lift in their faces.

Many clinics in the Philippines offer the treatment, with multiple package offerings to ensure that you get the best zap for your buck.


Manila 8_Kaffee_galleryOne could say coffee makes the world go round. Many of us need it to kickstart the day. Now what if coffee can also be used as a wellness and beauty supplement?

Kaffea coffee blend adds in extra boosts along with the caffeine: L-carnitine, collagen and glutathione, plus iron, zinc, grapeseed and CoQ10. It’s also sweetened with low-GI coconut sugar and contains non-dairy creamer, making it suitable for those watching their sugar level and lactose intake. Kaffea has even made it as a Fruits In Ice Cream flavor, in a coconut milk variant that makes it paleo-friendly — not that it needed to be made more appealing to the health and fitness crowd.

This article first appeared in the August 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

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