Don’t know about you, but I don’t know how many times I’ve booked a ‘Hotel & Spa’ or ‘Resort & Spa’ only to not book a spa treatment at all. Those words simply conjure up an image of decadent relaxation and pampering; just what I thought I needed when I made the booking… only to not book a treatment in the end. I was in search of the best spa treatment in Manila, and I did treatment myself to what I considered to be the best massage in Manila, right at the Conrad Hotel. A traditional Hilot Massage.
Best Massage in Manila
I was in Manila as part of the TBEX blogger conference. By signing up for the conference, they offered a free pre-conference goodie. You know, so you blog about it. It could have been a private tour, a shopping excursion, visiting a local village, a local cooking course, or spa treatment. So I chose a spa treatment that will take place at Le Spa in the Sofitel, but I wanted to have one at the Conrad to give perspective to the treatment I will have at the Sofitel. Yeah, not great to have 2 spa treatments one-day apart, but I didn’t time it correctly.
I like experiencing local treatments. You can get a Swedish massage anywhere, including here, but I opted for the traditional Hilot massage, which cost 50% less than a Swedish and is 15 minutes longer. As long as I don’t have some woman stepping on my back or contorting my body in unnatural, painful positions, I’ll give it a go. This was something quite special and quite frankly one of the best massages I had in Manila.
What is a traditional Hilot Massage?
Hilot is a traditional massage from the Philippines, which includes a ‘deep massage meant to rid your body of toxins, to heal the mind and the body.’ Having read up a bit on the traditional treatment, the Conrad treatment was a bit different. This was the best massage in Manila I found! Here’s how it went:
Each guest to the spa is given a pre-massage refreshment. Today was cucumber and orange juice. I never like to over-indulge in these because I’m afraid I’ll have to ask her to stop mid-massage so I can.. pee. Sorry, ‘TMI,’ I appreciate the gesture, but am afraid of the result.
She then took me to my treatment room, which was actually set up for two people. Two massage tables, double of everything in the bathroom, including plush bathrobes and slippers, and there was a bathtub for two as well.
Into the bath you go?
The first part of this treatment is a bath. I haven’t taken a bath in years. Don’t get me wrong, I shower, but sometimes a bath is just too time and water consuming. But this wasn’t just any bath. It was a bath filled with what seemed like 1000 gallons of water AND an entire large tea kettle of coconut milk! She poured it all in while I watched and I wondered what this was all about. “You spend 30 minutes in there.” “Really?,” I said. “I marinade in there for 30 minutes?” The water was running when I went into the room and she told me to continue letting it fill up till it covered me and she’d be back in 30 minutes.
What comes next with a Hilot Massage?
Fine. So I shed my robe, stark naked with gorgeous views outside and hopped in. This tub is huge! It had to be 5 ft long with backrest formations for two people. As the water was filling up, I had a hard time staying upright. I’m only 5’3″ and I kept sliding down, trying to keep myself upright by pressing my toes against the other side of the tub. It was quite comical and somewhat frustrating. I tried lying diagonal, turned over on my stomach for a bit, sat up at one point with my arms on the edge of the tub gazing out the window at the people riding the ferris wheel across the street. Basically getting lost in random thoughts.
From the 4th floor, you can see into the Hilton Honors Lounge on the opposite side of the hotel on the 7th floor, and into people’s rooms all around the hotel. Then it twigged. If I could see them, they, too, could see me. Butt cheeks in the air and all! I was really hoping the cute guy I met in the Lounge this morning wasn’t up there for happy hour, only to see my naked booty slithering around like an eel! It would bring new meaning to Happy Hour!
Then my mind started wandering as I was steeping in milk. This tub is for two and this treatment could be done for a couple. What a great place for 30 minutes of clean naughtiness with your partner! Then I drifted to, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a big ole glass of wine here?’ If this treatment was meant to rid me of toxins, I might as well put in a few more for good measure.
Hot Banana Leaves come next
Bath time was over and now I needed to move over to the massage table. I had five minutes while the attendant left. So I stepped out of the tub gingerly, ass in full sight of the ferris wheel riders, dried off slightly, got my robe on and moved over to the table.
Then, down with the gown and onto the table, face down. She starts with more coconut, but oil this time, all over my back and arms. She does a 5-minute traditional warming massage and next comes the hot banana leaves (think hot stones, but banana leaves). These leaves are quite large and she places four hot leaves one-by-one on my oiled back. She covers the leaves with a hot moist towel, then a dry one, another dry one and yet one more towel and pats my back so they stick well, and wraps me up like a cocoon. I’m now steaming like Japanese dumplings marinating in coconut milk with an accent of banana.
She then moves on to my leg, and this was simply a typical massage technique with the warmed coconut oil and no leaves. Then the next leg.
And the massage in Manila continues…
Again, mind wandering with my face squished into that circular head thingy looking at the floor, and not knowing how this massage was going to play out, I began wondering if she was going to put these hot leaves on my front bits? Or where on my front she’d put them?
With the back of my legs done, the next step was unwrapping this cocoon and removing the banana leaves. It wasn’t just a peel-off method, but it was taking one end of the banana leaf and sliding it off my body. One by one, she slid the sticky leaves off, literally pulled the toxins off with the leaf. Quite a strange feeling. Once all done, she had a few spare hot leaves and she began brushing them against my back, kind of like the motion when you shine shoes with a cloth, but slow – back and forth. This went on for another 5 minutes.
Time to turn the rotisserie over. I sure hope those folks riding the ferris wheel enjoyed the view! And actually, the rest of the massage was a typical massage. There were no leaves to be glued to my front, and my mind was comforted that all remained covered.
With the massage completed, she offered me another refreshing tea of slightly-sweetened Lemongrass and ginger. Really lovely and a nice way to end the experience.
A Hilot Massage in Manila is a very unique experience
It was a fantastic treatment and the staff at the Conrad Hilton are lovely. The treatment rooms are top notch as you’d expect for a new Conrad, and I appreciated the in-room safe for keeping my valuables locked up. The shades to the room do drop, but we just left them open because the views are simply beautiful at that hour. One more blind was actually down, we just lifted it after the massage so I could take photos.
If you are looking for the best massage in Manila, I would highly recommend the traditional Hilot Massage at the Conrad Hilton if you get a chance. A 90-minute massage was 1900 PHP (£28/$36 Aug 2018), so not bad for a massage in a 5* hotel. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy any of their treatments. Just book and go. You won’t be disappointed. I paid for this massage on my own and was not compensated from the Conrad for this post.
Update: I did have a treatment at the Sofitel, but something got lost in translation. We had a choice, supposedly, but what I asked for I did not get. In fact, when I compared my treatment with the other from the conference, it appeared we all had the same watered down version of a Swedish massage. Any rate, the Sofitel Philippines Plaza Hotel is a lovely property well worth a stay.
Let me know if you try the traditional Hilot Massage at the Conrad and let me know if you think it was the best massage in Manila you’ve ever had.