Whether you come to Manila for business or pleasure, you deserve a luxurious pampering session. There’s nothing like the traditional Filipino healing technique called hilot (pronounced “hee-lot”) for a local twist on your usual rubdown.
Before Western medicine became the norm in the Philippines, a manghihilot (a town elder who serves as a cross between a shaman and an herbalist) would treat various ailments using hilot. Administered either as a massage-like technique with natural oils and medicinal plants or a method that requires strategically “cracking” joints (like an ancient chiropractor of sorts), the healing practices differed from one manghihilot to another. Ailments could be as simple as a stiff neck or sore legs to something as extreme as a broken limb or even a supernatural possession.
Nowadays, modern establishments pay homage to this ancient tradition by using the same movements and all-natural treatments to ease stress, rejuvenate muscles and renew energy.
Here are the most luxurious versions of this age-old Filipino healing approach to experience the next time you’re in Manila.
Nestled within the two-story, 86,000-square-foot fitness center (one of the city’s largest) of Shangri-La at The Fort, Manila is Spa at Kerry Sports Manila. Here, you can try the Classic Philippine Hilot Massage that uses herbal banana leaves and virgin coconut oil to help relax the body and boost the immune system.
Meanwhile, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila’s Le Spa offers a special treatment called Filipino Pride Hilot Secret. It features rhythmic palm and thumb strokes that work out muscle knots and has a slew of herbal ingredients — virgin coconut oil for its anti-aging properties, banana leaves to relieve pain and luya (ginger) to calm the mind — to enhance the experience.
Hilot with Ventosa Cupping
If you’re searching for a little more than the average hilot, visit Metro Manila’s cluster of Five-Star hotels (The Peninsula Manila, Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, Sky Tower at Solaire Resort & Casino and Nüwa Manila at City of Dreams) to couple the service with ventosa cupping.
This 90-minute session, available at all four of the hotel spas, aids with deep muscle relief using heated cups specially made to form a seal or vacuum to alleviate soreness.
At The Peninsula Spa, you can also experience more locally influenced treatments using unique Filipino components like the Philippine Red Rice and Ginger Body Glow (an exfoliating body scrub to brighten the skin) and the Warm Philippine Herbal Oil massage.
Dagdagay Foot Massage
The 90-minute Traditional Hilot Foot and Body Massage is a signature at Four-Star Fairmont Makati’s Willow Stream Spa. The restorative treatment uses banana leaf strips with warm coconut oil to soothe the body, while a massage with a wooden dowel (the dagdagay method) focuses on the soles of the feet to release tension. Aside from aiding in relaxation, the warm coconut oil hydrates the skin, leading to a more radiant glow.
The dagdagay method is also offered as a solo service at Four-Star Nüwa Spa Manila, where it’s meant to rebalance the functions of the body by concentrating on acupressure points of the feet and legs.
Aruga Sedative Rhythm Method
Aruga (“to care for” in Filipino) is a rhythmic massage that uses long strokes and plenty of pressure to treat your most tense areas. In addition to its soothing sensation, the treatment promotes circulation, eases muscles and restores metabolic balance.
Try this customizable rubdown at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila’s Le Spa, where therapists employ sweet almond and grape seed oils to nourish your skin.
Mango Delight Body Scrub
Another Philippine-inspired treatment offered at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila features the country’s national fruit. This sweet-smelling scrub gently exfoliates and moisturizes sensitive skin for a vibrant glow.
After hydration, the scrub is applied all over the body to boost circulation and avoid skin damage. Once the scrub is rinsed, a moisturizing lotion is applied to the skin to leave you with a smooth finish.