When it comes to pampering, rest and relaxation, most Filipinos are spoiled for choice.
In the Philippines, there is an abundance of beauty salons, spa and wellness centres –from the most affordable neighbourhood “masahista” to exclusive retreat destinations. As such, getting a calming massage after a hard day’s work does not require much effort or expense.
This sort of indulgence is one of the things that we give up when we migrate overseas. In Europe, for one, the services are relatively more expensive compared to the Philippines. Two, there is that unique Filipino way of pampering that seems to be lacking.
With that in mind, former financial executive Maya Khasmine Valencia decided to open her own spa that offers the unique Filipino warmth and hospitality in Barcelona. Oriental Jasmine was a dream of Valencia that only came to fruition when she lost her job. The company she was working for downsized due to the economic crisis in Spain eventually letting go of some employees. The native of General Santos saw it as an opportunity to open her spa business.
Before Oriental Jasmine, Valencia had been looking for the kind of spa treatment that she was used to back home in the Philippines. She already tried different spa and massage treatments from all over the world –from Thailand to Mexico and India. Each time, Valencia would always look for that unique Filipino touch. So much so, while still working for her former company, she was always imagining her spa and wellness centre. She drew up a business plan and saved up.
“Part of my personality is being aggressive. I don’t really care [about the obstacles]. If I want something, I will get it,” says Valencia.
In April 2013, Valencia officially opened Oriental Jasmine on Calle Muntaner, a stone’s throw away from the popular university square in the centre of Barcelona.
Introducing hilot to Europeans
Oriental Jasmine offers almost everything that a woman might need for her day of pampering. However, clients, including Europeans, come here for the Filipino traditional massage called hilot.
Valencia hired professional Filipino physiotherapists who had hilot training in the Philippines to attend to her growing customers. To make the massage experience much more authentic, the spa and wellness centre only uses virgin coconut oil and wild ginseng imported all the way from the Philippines.
According to Valencia, one of the reasons that she decided to introduce hilot to Europeans was that she wanted them to feel it’s therapeutic benefits.
“When I was growing up in General Santos, I was used to being treated with hilot whenever I was sick or having body aches,” recalls Valencia.
In the rural areas of the Philippines, hilot is the first thing that comes to mind whenever a member of the family is feeling under the weather or experiencing body pains. After all, it is cheaper to go to the manghihilot or albularyo (medicine man) than go to a doctor. Hilot can take on different forms: As a chiropractic technique to align dislocated bones or as a massage treatment to cure back pains or other common illnesses like colds. In some remote villages, hilot is still being administered to assist in childbirth.
Oriental Jasmine recommends hilot to clients who are under so much stress or complaining about an upper back pain.
“There are a lot of massages that are already being offered here in Barcelona. To make my spa different from the rest, I decided to offer our traditional healing massage,” says Valencia.
Oriental Jasmine also offers body scrubs, nail treatments, waxing and natural facial lifts.
Our hilot experience
During a recent vacation in Barcelona, my husband and I decided to try Oriental Jasmine’s signature hilot treatment. We’ve been walking around the city for three days and our tired and exhausted bodies were screaming for a good massage. Used to the Swedish massage, the hubby was a bit hesitant at first, worried that hilot would be as painful as the Thai massage he had a few weeks back. But I was able to convince him to try it.
Oriental Jasmine is furnished with spacious interiors as well as tasteful decorations that include white sofas with Moroccan throw pillows for customers who want to try the nail care services, for example. The dimlylit massage area features a Buddha statue lying on a wooden table. Huge lamps hang by the door of the massage rooms.
Girlfriends can share bonding moments at the nail spa area. The masseuse generously slathered warm virgin coconut oil on my feet. I was told that a bottle of which is permanently sitting on a basin of hot water in the spa’s kitchen so that the oil will not coagulate. Then she worked her way to my legs and my aching back. Soon, I was feeling my muscles loosening up, the pain in my back going away. In the Philippines, we would usually associate back pain with lamig or muscle spasm. We turn to hilot for relief.
After a while, I felt myself slipping into dreamland. I woke up to a light tap on my back signaling that my one-hour massage was over. I forced myself to get up, feeling so much more relaxed. Then, Valencia offered me a cup of hot tea that helped warm my body.
I waited for my husband at the lobby, wondering how his massage went. Ten minutes later, he emerged from the massage room, freshly showered and looking relaxed. I am positive that he too had a good hilot experience.
Oriental Jasmine Nail, Spa and Massage is located at C/ Muntaner 88, 08011 Barcelona, Spain. Call (93) 453 75 51 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the 4th edition of The Filipino Expat Magazine. CLICK to read or download back issues.