January 7, 2007

OFW Journalism Consortium, Inc.
Julie Javellana-Santos

OFW senses sensible scent of spa service

PASAY CITY—He avoids alcohol and doesn’t smoke, so former migrant worker Miguel Bolos spent millions of pesos on his sole vice: the Bay Spa.

I never imagined myself as the owner of this spa, said Bolos –”call me ‘Mike’, please”– who, at first, thought the prospect of being one was too far fetched. Hence, he immediately snatched the opportunity to become a businessman when the option arrived on his feet this year.

“I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. I don’t even patronize nightclubs. This is really my only vice,” Mike told the OFW Journalism Consortium at his spa along Diosdado Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City.

The Bay Spa can be described as quaint and, like other spas, “offer to rejuvenate your body and mind with therapy and massages and pampering at its best.”

What sets the Bay Spa apart from the other similar businesses running on this booming market is what Mike has done to transform the place after buying it at less than P3 million.

It was really run-down when the owner handed me the keys, Mike said.

And it had a coffee shop.

“Who ever heard of a spa with a café?” he quipped.

Most of all, his blood curdled upon discovering a lack of privacy for men and women.

Thus, Mike designed sections in such a way that male and female clients would never interact.

From trying out the different spas in the metropolis, Mike saw that women and men remain stressed out since they are without privacy.

Hence, he redesigned Bay Spa so that women and men will focus on what they came for: stress-free individual rejuvenation.

Mike would know his spa: he has tried out nearly a hundred in the metropolis every time he went home twice a year from Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where he worked for 25 years.

I like to pamper myself this way, Mike told the Consortium. It is in spas that he said rejuvenates his skin and senses.

He was so rejuvenated, he decided to cash out as an OFW and cash in on a booming industry.

New thought

MIKE’S leap from OFW to entrepreneur didn’t happen overnight.

Bay Spa also was only the many spas he frequented every time he came home for vacation from working as a financial analyst for the GAMA Services Ltd. (a member of the FAL group of companies) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In his third time there last January 2005, Mike learned that its owner was selling the place.

Having been a regular client, I became interested because their personnel were really good, Mike said.

However, the asking price of more than P3 million was too steep for him so he dropped the idea but continued dreaming.

During a vacation last January, Mike heard that the Bay Spa, which he had been patronizing for three years, was being sold.

He got another chance in June when he next vacationed in Manila and again went to Bay Spa.

I overheard the staff talking about employment under the new owner, Mike said.

But when he asked, the staff said the place was sold for only half of what the owner earlier told Mike.

I talked to the manager and requested the owner to call me if things did not proceed as planned with the buyer, Mike said.

Three days later, the owner called Mike and was told the buyer hasn’t paid him yet.

So he told me if I could come up with the payment post haste, the place would be mine, Mike said.

Mike said he scrounged for cash and paid the owner “before he changes his mind” again.

After assuming ownership of Bay Spa last August 1, 2005, he immediately began renovating the estimated 40-square meter establishment and tweaked the operating system.

Business scents

FOR a start, Mike said he made sure therapeutic scents from aromatic candles will put his client at ease upon entering Bay Spa’s door.

Flavored warm tea is also served while the client bides time at a receiving area that is embraced with piped-in classical music of Mozart, Beethoven, and other masters.

He also built six private rooms for massage therapy: three for women and three for men.

There is also a room at the second floor that can be divided into four with the use of retractable dividers. This, Mike said, are for couples.

Since he values privacy and knows that clients also do, these rooms offer separate doors even when divided into smaller units.

We don’t have common massage areas, Mike explained.

Bay Spa offers different kinds of therapeutic massage, body care treatments for the face, hair and feet, and even body bleaching services.

In the anterooms before the private rooms are several divans or lazy-boys where some clients have opted to be massaged.

Mike said these rooms are frequented by his Korean clients who wanted to be massaged while getting a footbath at the same time.

He describes his service fees as “reasonable” and are within the country’s spa industry-wide range of US$25.

According to data from the University of Asia and the Pacific, this cost is still lower than the US$81 in Singapore, US$51 in Malaysia, and US$48 of Thailand’s spa industry. Likewise, a facial wellness service cost of US$23 in the Philippines is definitely lower than the US$94 in Singapore, US$52 in Malaysia, and US$43 in Thailand.

Citing Department of Trade and Industry statistics, the UA&P said there are 39 spas in the country. These establishments pale in comparison to the total 108 spas in Singapore, 198 in Malaysia, and 250 in Thailand.

UA&P’s Winston B. Padojinog said in a briefing last September on health tourism, where the spa industry is categorized, that the Philippines can compete with these countries with the low cost as well as its skilled labor force.

For Bolos, that is the most relaxing news he could get from home.

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