Tuesday, May 08, 2007

(Part 4, Boracay series)

If you are up for a massage, Boracay has a full spectrum of massage places, ranging from the manangs at the beach using coconut oil, to local day spas such as Yasuragi Relaxation Spa (Station 3), to the award-winning resort/retreat-type Mandala Spa & Villas.

Tirta (meaning "holy water" in Hindu) Spa is literally the new kid on the block, having just opened its doors to the public on March 28th this year. I had found out about this spa by accident, and had to call them a week before our trip to find out where exactly they were located on the island.

When you enter the gates of Tirta Spa, this is the view that greets you. Stone steps lined with white statues holding parasols leading up to their reception hut.

Above is a closer view of said statues. One thing you could say is that Tirta doesn't subscribe to the minimalist school of design. Some people would probably find these statues (and there were a lot of them inside, too) rather overwrought (as in "OA"), but i thought they were pretty charming. And no, they do not come alive at night. :-D

We were fortunate to bump into the owner, Ms. En Calvert, a pretty lady with a svelte figure and a complexion so evenly-tanned many women would kill for it. She turned out to be quite pleasant and gregarious, and filled us in on the story behind Tirta Spa.

She had studied Spa Management in Hong Kong, where she has been based for quite some time. She felt there was a market for a truly high-end spa in the Philippines, hence her decision to open Tirta Spa. As a consequence, she has been flying in and out of Hong Kong for the past year or so, overseeing operations and the like. Construction of the facilities took around 18 months, and is actually not fully completed yet.

Further, plans are afoot for Yoga classes, detoxification programs, etc. once they are fully operational.

Overall, the spa's architecture is a combination of Balinese, Indian, Indonesian and Filipino influences. Pictured below is their reception area, which has a narra ceiling and lots of antique furniture Ms. En had collected over the years, and had refurnished for her spa.

Not pictured here is the reception area table. Made from teak, it is so solid and massive and heavy that ten men are not enough to lift it. Of course, crazy guy that i am, i tried lifting a corner of it and nearly suffered a hernia in the process.

As a matter of policy, the spa does not allow pictures to be taken inside its premises, so we were extremely fortunate to have cajoled and persuaded Ms. En to make an exception in our case; her remaining condition being not to take photos inside the treatment pavilions.

Above is another Hindu statue meditating on the meaning of life. Behind it you can see the treatment pavilions. Strictly no picture taking beyond this point!

This proved to be a great pity. Once you enter the pavilion, it is a lavish feast for the eyes. Think pocket gardens / mini-ponds; wooden furniture; open showers and the like. Our friend S. whispered to me that no expense seemed to have been spared, what with the bath tubs from Bisazza glass mosaic (Italian) tiles; Kohler bathroom fixtures; the stout wooden door imported from Indonesia, etc.

We were so awed that we nearly forgot we came there for a massage. Haha! I availed of the 90-minute Signature Massage., for which the spa used grapefruit seed oil with lemon extract.

I felt it was above-average, though not spectacular. My therapist could probably have applied more pressure. My friend R.T. concurred with my evaluation, while S. was rather more harsh in her assessment, saying the massage at the beach was better. At any rate, its early days yet for Tirta Spa, and they should improve over time.

It goes without saying that all this pampering does not come cheap. Tirta Spa is not for the light of wallet, as its pricing is even higher than the more-established Mandala Spa.

So the challenge for Ms. En and Tirta Spa is to live up to customers' expectations (which would be quite high, as a result of their lofty prices and lovely interiors), by delivering a unique spa experience which would make the trip to their part of the island worthwhile.

(Tirta Spa is open 9 AM to 12 MN. It is ten minutes via tricycle from the White Beach front, just past the fire station and new cockpit arena. Their shuttle bus will drive you back to the beach area after your treatments.

Tel. no.: (6336) 288-6841, or check out www.tirtaspa.com)

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