I spend a lot of time in Manila so it is only fair to list it as a separate page as I have enjoyed many a long session in the massage establishments there. As with most things in Manila there is no real distinctive style to their massage, they take what is best elsewhere, copy it and end up with a product that is not bad but you would not travel too far for.
The Manila massage is loosely based on the Thai traditional massage, although not so ubiquitous as in Thailand, it is not difficult to find a massage parlour in Manila. Much of the time they call themselves Spas and offer treatments as well as massages.
The actual massage itself normally uses oil and involves a fair amount of needing and stretching, but not to the extent of the Thai traditional massage, where the object of the exercise is to inflict pain in order to gain the benefits.
Many ladies hair salons also provide massage services, mostly in a room above the premises. These establishments are clean and have all the facilities required such as showers and air conditioning, if you are male you may also be offered a pedicure as part of the massage package, strangely enough it is always a pedicure and never a manicure!
Most of the beauty parlours that offer massage services are run by Chinese and offer many services massage and medical as well as the previously mentioned beauty treatments. Some of the massages are given whilst you sit up, for a true Manila massage though I like to lie down as the barber chair form of massage is not so relaxing.
Manila massage services are also offered in many of the main hotels; however they may be on the expensive side so beware. There are also plenty of visiting massage services that advertise all over town, these services provide the massage in your room and I suspect do not dwell too long on the massage side of things, if you wish to have a “proper” massage in your room it is always best to ask reception and let them sort it out for you, you will end up with a registered service and with someone who arrives expecting to give you a massage.
Also on offer is The Manila barber massage, these take place in normal, barber shops anywhere in Manila, the format is always the same, the barber shops are attached to a ladies beauty parlour. If you ask for a lady massage and are known to the chaps in the barber shop they will call through a little gap in the wall and 5 minutes later a girl will arrive with a variety of creams and liquids. There is absolutely no privacy involved, you are sat in a barber’s chair in front of a mirror and the world goes on around you.
Your next door neighbour will be having a shave and the bloke three down having a trim of his beard, no one bats an eyelid and everyone gets on with their own thing.
The Manila massage in the barbers itself is not unpleasant as long as you can put the noise to the back of your mind, Manila barber shops without exception play musical CDs on full volume from when they open until they close. Some form of facial cream is used to give a 10 minute facial massage, the girls are not especially gentle, however it is quite pleasant as long as you keep your eyes shut as the damn stuff stings if you get it in your eyes. Once the face is finished with the strange part starts, you will already be wearing the traditional barber’s gown that it tied up to the neck. The girl will loosen this, undo your shirt and use a handful of what maybe moisturising lotion to rub around your chest. This can be a very pleasant experience and I am convinced that the girls know exactly what they are doing, as with a lot of things in Manila there is a suggestion of something more, without that something more materialising.
The other option for a Manila massage is not quite so pleasant but will test your manliness to the extreme. After a haircut, the man who has cut your hair will give you a complementary 5 minute massage. If you survive the full 5 minutes without asking him to stop or shouting out in pain you are indeed a man. I am convinced that especially rough treatment is served out to foreigners. The fewer foreigners that use the salon the rougher the treatment as it is more entertaining for the chaps who work there.
The massage if indeed it can be called that consists of hitting you very hard in the back of the head, scrubbing the top of the head with knuckles, taking handfuls of neck muscle and squeezing as hard as possible, repeat the process even harder and finish with a sort of double handed karate chop to the top of the head. Two types of Manila barber massage, you choose!
To sum up, the Manila massage is not for the gourmet, however most of the time it will be a relaxing and pleasant experience.
If you have any experience of Manila massage please mail us from our contact page and we will be pleased to include your stories.