An old article unearthed.



A visit to this amazing Tropical Spa redefines what it means to “Put on the Ritz”.

By Anna Rodriguez



            Most dictionaries define the word “ritz” somewhat negatively. Coined from the name of the Swiss founder of a chain of elegant, luxury hotels, it is described as an ostentatious or pretentious display of wealth; a gaudy show of luxury meant to attract notice and impress others.  But there was nothing tasteless or vulgar about the facade that greeted me when my fiancée and I went on a visit to the Ritz Tropical Spa in Subic.  It hardly even looked luxurious at first glance, with a simple entrance made warm and inviting with carefully planned greenery, antique wooden benches and capiz checkered windows that evoked nostalgia of eras past.  It did not scream, rich or grandiose, as its name suggests. Instead in drew me in with a feeling of belonging. It’s label as a tropical spa is perhaps more appropriate, as a mix of Balinese and Filipino interiors remind those who enter that this is a sanctuary in the tropics, where bamboo, palm and coconut trees provide solace from the sweltering sun.  For people like me whose jobs require us to be in constant communication, nothing is more pleasurable than the opportunity to take a mental break from the cacophony of urban chaos. Once inside the spa, the white muslin curtains seemed to shield me from the noise of busy Rizal Boulevard. Suddenly, I was in an oasis of serenity.


            I do not appreciate ostentatious displays of elegance. In this country, I often equate these to brocade, gold finish and humongous marble pillars. When in need of luxury, I prefer those of the physical and spiritual kind. A long, relaxing massage is the pinnacle of physical indulgence.  To me, the endorphin rush brought about by sweet, creamy chocolate and the velvety coolness of the most delectable frozen desserts pales terribly in comparison to the feeling of lavish gratification brought by warm hands rubbing down every tired muscle and sinew in my body. I look forward to my little moments of absolute bliss when for at least an hour and half, I could sink into crisp sheets and feel like a genuine pampered monarch. It is in this aspect that the Ritz tropical spa is truly indulgent. 


            There is something to be desired in having such sensual pleasures in a place where the ambiance alone can evoke a feeling of complete and utter relaxation. The small receiving section leads to the wet areas, separate facilities for men and women.  Couples can reunite at a second lobby at the back, which serves as a waiting area for guests while awaiting well groomed therapists and treatment specialists to lead them to their respective pleasures.  This second lobby opens up to an entire complex of rustic thatch roofed huts that serve as the main treatment area.


            The place is surprising, as the lobby opens up to an unexpected expanse of greenery made even more relaxing by the view of the magic lagoon.  Beautifully landscaped palm and coconut trees share root space with antique wooden benches scattered around in little pockets of silence, reached by paved walkways lined with garden lamps.  Native bahay kubos are found just off the small patio where one can have drinks and refreshments while watching white swans glide across the water. The huts serve as personal enclaves, named sweetly after the aromatherapy oils available to suit each individual fancy.  I found it quite heart warming to be able to choose to have my massage in rooms with such names as cinnamon, patchouli, pine, rose and lavender. Needing nothing more to whet my appetite for pampering, I headed back into the wet area to prep for my chosen treatments.


            On that day, we chose to try the spa’s signature foot reflexology combined with my favorite of all massages, a full hour of Swedish ecstasy.  The spa offers this 2-hour combination at a rate of P1,500.00. Not bad considering that even the most basic treatments come with the use of the shower, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.  Entering the locker rooms, one already begins the journey into royalty.  The Ritz Tropical Spa makes sure there is nothing I would need that they cannot provide.  The locker rooms were staffed with 2 pleasant women who were practically at my beck and call for anything I could need or want.  The spa provides you with everything — from the standard robe and towels, free toiletries and specially prepared potions, toothbrush and toothpaste, and even a pair of shorts to change into.  It was a pleasant observation that they even have sterilizers for their provided combs and brushes. Apparently, sanitation is of paramount importance at the Ritz.  Complimentary bathrobe and slippers on, we were led to one of the VIP rooms to begin our trip to nirvana. VIP rooms cost a bit more at P1,400.00 per person for an hour’s treatment. But it’s a worthwhile expense for couples like us who consider spa time, bonding time.  Families could even choose to use the Presidential room (P2,000/pax), which is practically a small house with a sitting room, veranda and 2 separate treatment areas.


            The foot reflexology begins with an authentic herbal footbath, the mix of herbs flown in from China.  It is believed that the warm water causes the veins in the feet to expand and helps to regulate blood circulation.  By adding an herbal infusion, minerals and phytochemicals from the herbs enter the soles of the feet through opened pores and circulate in the blood stream. While my feet soaked in herbal goodness, the therapist began to apply steady pressure on my shoulders to begin the back and arm massage that came with the treatment. After my upper body has been kneaded into relaxation, my feet were dried and the reflexology began.  The Chinese believe that the feet are full of nerve endings that lead to the various organs of the body. By stimulating these points, oxygenated blood flows to the various organs and help to prevent or cure diseases.  Reflexology is but one branch of Chinese traditional medicine, which is recognized worldwide for its various alternatives to modern healing methods.  A specialized cocktail of virgin coconut oil, infused with the scent of sampaguita, was used during the massage. I sat half-prone, listening drowsily to the soft strains of oriental music being piped-in ever so subtly that I would not even have noticed had I not made an effort to do so. It was almost a surprise to me when the therapist wrapped my feet mummy-style and left the room. I checked the clock and realized an hour had passed without me knowing it. 


            A short break after the foot reflexology allowed us time to tour the grounds. I realized then that when they said they offered any kind of body pampering imaginable they truly meant it. A peek at one of the communal huts showed modern facial care stations where guests can have collagen and Vitamin C facials or dead sea black mud masks starting at P1,000.00. The Jasmine hut has 4 rooms that have equipment and facilities for body scrubs, body waxing and various body treatments.  For P2,000.00, one can choose to be slathered in honey, soaked in milk or covered in dead sea mineral mud.  For P1,300.00, one can experience the anti-stress scrub, mood-uplifting scrub or the relaxing scrub.  Another hut houses a full service salon that is equipped to provide all manner of services from the requisite hair cut, hot oil, shampoo and blow dry to scalp treatments, expert hair color, manicures and pedicures. Truly a pampering experience from head to foot!


            But Filipinos love to have a good massage and to date, 3 years in operation, it is still their most requested service.  They offer different massage styles — Japanese Shiatsu, Thai or combination but for me the long kneading strokes characteristic of the popular Swedish massage is the definite winner.  At the hands of their senior therapist I found myself in another hour of pure luxury.  I like using oils with a hint of eucalyptus and peppermint. I find the subtle coolness relaxing.  But those who prefer other scents are sure to find one to their liking as the Ritz tropical spa has a wide selection of aromatherapy oils to offer. Indeed they had thought of practically everything.


            After a long hot shower, I lingered around the grounds.  The thing with such heavenly pampering is it becomes quite difficult to leave.  No wonder why many of the foreign guests were seen lounging about the many settees scattered around the spa. I asked the manager why it is that they don’t expand into a resort that can offer accommodations for overnight stays and transform the place into an all-in-one vacation destination.  I was happy to be told that this was indeed in their plans for the future.  Holding a cold drink in my hand, I relaxed on their patio and watched the garden come alive with lights as the sun set on the lagoon.  Indeed, the Ritz Tropical spa redefines what luxury means. There are no gaudy gold embellishments, heavy brocade tapestries and vulgar displays of wealth here.  It is the feeling of wellness, physical and spiritual contentment that makes a visit to this spa a truly rich and lavish experience.