I’m Finally Convinced

Believe it or not, in my 49 years I had not until recently ever had a real massage.  Ever.

Even as far back as high school I’ve always had this neurosis about strangers touching me.  I don’t mind bumping into people shoulder to shoulder in a crowded place, that’s to be expected.  But for someone to actually put their hands on me to touch me.. they have to either have a professional reason (doctor’s exam, barber’s haircut, arresting officer, etc.) or I have to know them well enough that they are on my ‘green’ list.  Family, friends and girlfriend make the list of course and I’m a very affectionate person.  I always greet my Mom, Sons, Daughter and a few close friends with a big hug regardless of where we meet.  But in the States the only reference I ever had to the word, ‘massage’ was that of an image including some neon ‘Massage – 24 Hours’ sign flickering at the end of some dark alley on the bad sign of town.

Over the years a girlfriend of wife might give me a half-baked 30-second ‘shoulder rub’.. but that’s about it.  Nobody that actually knew what the heck they were doing.  In addition I also had it in my mind that the whole thing was a big scam.. some sort of hocus-pocus nonsense that was purely subjective.  How could rubbing someone do anything to help with sore muscles?  It just didn’t make sense to me any more than someone saying that if you put an onion in your hat it will cure baldness.  Yah, I know they have schools for it and everything.  People get certificates in it.  But for a hundred bucks a person can also become high priestess of their own religion ordained by the State to perform weddings too.  I wasn’t buying it.  For almost five decades I just figured the whole thing was a sham for the real business.. the “oldest profession”.

So then, I come to the Philippines.  After a few months of getting situated and checking out the local scene I had to begin getting back to work doing my online ventures.  I’m not exactly what you’d call a month-to-month workaholic.  I think in terms of ‘Projects’ not schedules or hours.  Timelines and goals make more sense to me than just putting in hours.  So when I begin a new project such as building a website or creating graphic ads for a client, getting some writing done or learning a new piece of software.. I go at it full-throttle.  And I do mean full-throttle, with no distractions.  I will crawl out of bed, go straight to the laptop and pick up where I left off.  Then, sometime around 5pm that day I will realize I still haven’t showered or eaten anything.  Seriously.  After reluctantly doing so I then go back to the project and work on it until somewhere between 2am to 5am.. whenever my body just gives out and then, repeat the cycle until the project is completed.  Maybe that’s why I’m such a procrastinator at times.  I know that if I start a project it’s going to be a hard ride for my body until it’s completed.  I will admit though, it’s not always all-work.. I’m an avid Facebook and News addict as well so that sporadically eats up some of the ‘work’ time along the way.

Oh.. but I always sleep SO good when I lay my head down each night.

As you can imagine, spending up to 15 hours straight on a keyboard is kinda tough on the body.  I keep bottled water next to me to keep hydrated and have gone through countless bottles of eye-drops to keep my eyes from drying up into dust.  Tylenol helps with the eye-strain headache if necessary and Melatonin makes sure I fall into an intense, deep sleep (safely).  But over the years it has been that pinched feeling between the shoulder blades and lower back that is always the killer.  The shoulder tightness isn’t much fun either.  Motrin helps a bit and that’s about all I’ve ever done to deal with it other than going to the nearest L.A. Fitness to use their sauna and hot-tub.  But here in the Philippines I’ve yet to find a sauna or hot-tub locally.  However.. there are more massage places here than you could shake a stick at.

So since my girlfriend knows the limits I push myself through, for the last few weeks she’s been urging me to visit a massage place nearby and get a massage to deal with my muscle aches from so much typing.  But I still have the heebie-jeebies about the whole thing.  Especially knowing that some, not all, but some of the massage places even she told me are fronts for “extra-special, happy-ending” massage to be done at a later time or place.  Now, I’m not a prude and I’ve been in some extremely sketchy places, it’s not that.  It’s just that every time I considered getting a massage I kept thinking I’d not only have to wear some mini-gown like in the hospitals but it still boils down to letting someone I’ve only seen for maybe 3 minutes start grabbing me all over “like she knows me”.  I don’t know this person.  What if she tries to kill me?  Meanwhile my girlfriend gets unlimited massage with her gym membership and her Helper at home also knows how to give massage.  So she gets one practically every 2 or 3 days.  Sometimes twice a day if she’s been out driving a lot.

So, after three weeks at her suggestion I finally went in to one of the larger massage parlors (just saying that makes me feel dirty) and inquired within as to their rates and services.  The price.. no problem.  A simple ‘dry massage’ for 250 Pesos.  (I had to have them explain to me what a ‘dry’ massage is.  No oil.  Got it.)  A one-hour dry massage for about $6 USD.. not too bad considering my Mom gets a massage at a resort once a month and pays about $75 including gratuity back in the US.  Then the three ladies behind the counter began flooding me with info about Oil Massages, Thai Massage (but I’m not Thai.. or did they say ‘Tied’?), Swedish Massage (sounds painful, I imagine a huge blonde woman with thick fingers) and a couple other massages that involved river rocks, glass jars and candles.  It was really starting to freak me out.

I took one of their cards and told them I’d have to think about it first.  I haven’t been back since.  Meanwhile, the muscle pains continued.  And then it finally hit me.  My maid had mentioned about a month ago that she once worked at a massage place.  But I’d gotten distracted with her story of how the manager was always chasing her around the table and forgotten all about it.  I get along with her fairly well since she’s an amiable, but respectful person.  We usually have conversation while she’s cleaning my studio.  So I asked her if she’d mind making some extra money giving me a massage.  As it turned out I was also suffering from a cold at the time and she said a massage would help alleviate that as well.  I’m still a bit skeptical about that but, she came to my place and proceeded to give me my very first, official massage.

Massage?  I was not so sure about that!
Massage? I was not so sure about that!

I felt a bit awkward at first but my part was easy.. all I had to do was lay down.  The first time it started out a bit painful at points.  She said I was really tensed up.  But as she talked about her boyfriend and her Dad she went about working my muscles with some kind of mineral oil that smelled kinda like Vick’s Vapor rub.. but slightly different.  Within 20 minutes I began to relax and by the time she was done I sat up and.. wow, this stuff really works!

I moved my arms about and I could tell there was no longer the stiffness I’d had just an hour before.  I kept asking myself if it was just some sort of placebo effect but, no.. I actually felt better and ready to tackle the laptop anew with fresh vigor.  I gladly paid her and gave her a tip as well.  Once she left I walked about the studio feeling somewhat serene and balanced.  I was ready to go two rounds with Mike Tyson now.  Well, most of the first round anyway.

Needless to say my girlfriend did not share my exuberance.  But that’s another story for another time.  She’d have preferred I went to the gaggle of young lovelies down the street, behind some curtain in a little room where they’d have their way with me.  A woman I’ve only known for 3 minutes hardly makes it onto my ‘green’ list so, for now I’ll have to postpone any parlor experience and a resulting review for some other time.  Also, after getting a massage the last thing I felt like doing was walking back home over broken pavement for five blocks.  It was so much nicer to just follow up with a quick nap and a shower at home.  But letting some pretty young lady from the massage parlor down the street into my studio for a home-massage is probably going to go down even worse than having my maid do it so, I’ll hold off on that as well.

All in all, I can say that this skeptic is now a believer.  Massage is not a form of quackery, it actually does make you feel better in a physical sense if not also a mental sense as well.  I hear some places will dim the lights, light candles and play Kenny G on the down-low while you get your massage.  In that sort of environment I think I would just fall asleep in ten minutes.  But.. hey, baby-steps, right?

Post Author: Henry Velez (10 Posts)

Henry Velez is a recent (2012) addition to the Philippines and brings with him a fresh set of eyes as well as a talent for bringing his first-hand observations clearly to the reader. Motivated by both a life-long passion for writing, as well as for a Filipina he met in the US, Henry dove right in and made the move to the Philippines 'sight unseen'. He currently maintains three blogs, one which is devoted to his adventures here, and is currently working on a fictional novel set in the Philippines. We wish him the best of luck in his new adventures!

How to Move to the Philippines Manual


  1. John Miele says

    Henry: you will find both types all over asia… In Japan, Korea, and Indonesia, if the word “sauna” is mentioned, there’s about a 75% chance that it is dodgy. ( Largely salaryman clientele… Dodgy or not, some of these places are pretty nice facilities)) for instance, a colleague in Indonesia loves these places. One (city mall in jakarta) has Two Olympic sized swimming pools, with several other pools and even a waterfall and oxygen lounge. It is divided into two halves, naughty and legitimate… With no pressure either way. This is where business gets done ( a bunch of fat guys sitting around drinking ginseng tea, smoking, and swimming with business discussions interrupted by the odd naked girl walking past.

    Several of the malls in the philippines have higher end saunas with hot tubs etc that are legit… Focus on the larger and newer malls

    • says

      I’m kinda convinced the one down the street is legit. Kinda. But since my maid does it for cheaper and in my home, plus I trust her since I’ve known her.. for now I’m gonna stick with that. Eventually I’ll try out a big massage place with the jacuzzi/pool action going.. that sounds nice! Speaking of which, I just recently came across a very large pool I can make use of, for 12 hours a day, for just 60 Pesos. :) It’s in a private subdivision about 4 blocks from my place. Very nice on hot days.. which we have plenty of. ha!

    • says

      That’s a good idea.. however she paid about $500 USD for a lifetime membership to get the unlimited massages. Plus her spa/gym place is in downtown Cebu and I’m in Mactan so I rarely am out there to take advantage of it. I did check out a gym only 2 miles from my place, but it turned out to be kinda small with just some treadmills and a few machines, no massage or hot-tub. But I’m gonna keep my eyes peeled.. or eventually try out the massage place down the street. Eventually.

  2. Scott Fortune says

    Henry, great story! I can tell you that I have had only ONE massage. It felt great, and was free. It was given by a student who was required to gvie a certain number of hours free for study purposes. The massage was only one half hour, but it felt like three minutes. I felt great afterwards for about two-three hours, and then the pain set in so hard I was crippled up. Apparently, I was supposed to drink lots of water afterwards or it can cause cramping. I guess the student thought I knew that. Lesson learned I guess. My wife wants me to go to because of my back injuries. Needless to say, I can’t afford U.S. prices. if they were covered under insurance, I’d be all over that idea!

    Thanks for sharing the news of your first massage. Now, I feel dirty saying that! LOL!

    • says

      Ha! Nothing a hot shower can’t fix. :) To date I’ve now had three massages and I’m almost convinced to schedule one a week just to deal with all the typing and laptop time I put in. I’ve been taking nightly walks to kind of stretch, but the massages really do the job. I drink water ALL the time here. I have bottles of water on my desk, the fridge, always drinking water so that helps. And here.. can’t beat the price!

  3. Mike Coyne says

    What a funny read. It does bring back memories of our early mariage. I went with a buddy to Carson hot springs having never had a massage. I had been married to my Filipina wife for a few months and did not realize how jealous these inday’s could be. So when I got home with a big smile on my face Reina was asking what kind of massage was this. I went to great lengths to explain that it was all prefectly honorale. She was not buying my story so I told her I would take her with me in the near future. After we went and she came out with a smile from ear to ear. So I had to ask if the guy was any good. She caught on and laughed. End of problem!!

    One of my favorite massages was at the Dakak Resort in Mindanao. The setting was on a white sand beach under a canopy with my wife and I getting a 90 min. massage for $11 each. If I could get this in the States I would go every week. This was enough to make me want to retire immediatly in Dapitan. A small town near the resort in Mindanao. I am not sure why the boss did not give her consent but that is another chapter…. but another fond memory of our travels in the Philippines.

    • says

      That is great. :) Can’t beat the price here, that’s for sure. I’m planning to get another one either tomorrow or Tuesday. I think I’m hooked. ha!

  4. donna west says

    good for you Henry. i am glad you found the benefits of a good massage. I am like you…not always wishing to have people touch me. but, i have spent most of my life in physical pain and now at 65 years old it is even less comfortable to move my body than it ever was. i am sure arthritis is setting in and my right leg really hurts now and i am not as mobile as i used to be. i have really needed those massages all my life and its not possible here in america on my budegeted income. so i am really looking forward to finding one of those good massage parlors when i get there and hopefully it will help put the spring back in my step. our bodies get very toxic from things we eat and drink and breathe and are exposed to everyday. some our bodies will shed off but much of the toxins are stored in our body. massage helps release those toxins and helps them leave our body naturally. that is why drinking plenty of water before and after a massage is a good idea. it helps flush out the toxins the massage has freed. enjoy henry, i am envious . cant wait until i can feel better with needed massages.

  5. says

    Hi Henry V- You certainly know how to keep the suspense going in a story. I did not know whether to laugh or cry at your scepticism regarding the act of massage. I have a massage every month along with my wife of course and have got so used to it. I’m glad you eventually plucked up the courage to have your massage and to learn you had a happy ending as a result.

    • says

      I’m still such a newbie at this. For now I’m comfortable with my maid doing it since she’s here three times a month to do laundry, cleaning, etc. anyway. Eventually I’ll pluck up the nerve to go to one of the actual parlors in town and venture behind the closed door. :)

  6. DanielY says

    The massage parlor (shady sex) connotation has always been there, because a lot of moralizers don’t like others to have fun. The truth is that a good massage from an expert therapist (especially using deep pressure) is healthy, although at times it is painful, especially when it has been a long time between massages.
    In the Philippines, they often use Dry=No Oil, or the green coloured oil which smells like Vicks Vapor Rub. It is called Efficascent Oil or Wintergreen Oil (as we know it). It has cooling and soothing properties, but make sure you wear something as soon as the massage is over, to avoid a chill.

    • says

      Yes, that is it.. the Green Bottle. I did put my shirt back on after we were done and drank water. At first I thought I’d end up all oily like a basted turkey or something. But I guess mineral oil is different. It kinda dried, allowing me to take a nap before having a shower. Felt fantastic afterward. :)

  7. MARK says

    Hello Henry another of your great reads. My gf got me to go when I arrived from Vancouver on a long, long flight. My back was sore and stiff and we both had a massage in side by side booths. She had a female and I had a male masseuse. I like you at first was a blt edgy but it made me feel so refreshed after an hour and it cost if I remember 300pp. Now every time I go to Zamboanga City after I drop the bags at hotel we go there to start the holiday.
    I look forward to your articles always a good read.
    Thanks Mark from Vancouver

    • says

      Thanks for the compliments. :) I’ve been kinda lagging and only turning in an article every 2 weeks due to either sickness or a renewed work load. But I’m getting back on track again. Getting a massage after that long plane flight must have been great.. I remember how glad I was to step off the plane and just stretch my legs again!

    • says

      Yah.. ‘spa’ sounds better than ‘massage parlor’, especially when calling my Mom back home to let her know what I’ve been up to over here. ha! :)

  8. amapangarap says

    i remember this classy spa in makati where the lady gave me scrub all over my body and im wearin nothin but that see through disposable underwear. i cant remember most of the massage part, but what i can vividly remember was when the lady sat on top of me just to scrub my chest! after the massage and body scrubbing, my wife asked me if the lady assigned to me sat on top of me, and of course i said no.lol

  9. peterjoy says

    hi mate

    a good post mate and 2 right it works and i thank my wife for that ok in 2006 i had a bad full at work and did brake my hand and when i went home to the php my wife had me take off the placter cast off my arm and she would rub it every night and u know in no time it was back as good as new mate so from then ok i know it si good for a lot off thinks ok god bless…..peter martin tassie

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