In today’s busy world, rewarding one’s self with an hour-long body massage every once in a while sounds almost heavenly.
But a Balikbayan is determined to show her fellow Kagay-anons how massage is more than just self-pampering—that it can as well improve one’s wellbeing. And so, together with her co-members who share the same viewpoint on the importance of wellness, they founded an association that would address what most people in the industry overlooked for years.
For this month, WhatALife! features the founder of BLISS Home Service Manicure, Pedicure, and Massage, and founder of Cagayan de Oro Health and Wellness Association, Inc. (CDOHAWAI), Tanya Gustilo—who believes, massage is a gold mine that is yet to be explored.
Mental health wellness advocate
Massage is said to be effective in lowering down the level of the stress hormone cortisol — a hormone known to be responsible for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. A good massage is beneficial in maintaining one’s well-being, especially in today’s fast-paced world.
Tanya knew enough people who underwent depression or struggle with mental health for her to understand how hard it is. She, too, can attest how real and big this issue has become, and how it needs to be addressed, especially now that suicide rates are alarmingly growing.
Knowing how mental illness could greatly alter someone’s life, Tanya eventually became an active advocate of mental health awareness through the power of a relaxing massage.
‘If there’s none, create one’
Tanya grew up in the City of Golden Friendship, who pursued a teaching career for a couple of years before migrating to the United States.
While living in the US, she dealt with a lot of hurdles and found living abroad to be grueling. And unlike in the Philippines, it is quite rare to find a kind of support system there. Here, we have easy access to relatives and hired help. So, when all just became too much for her, Tanya decided it was time to go home.
Arriving in the city, exhausted, Tanya yearned for her favorite self pamper—a massage.
“When I arrived here (in CDO), I was really emotionally and physically tired… ingon ko, ‘gusto ko magpa massage, naa ba’y home service?'” Tanya asked her sister if there were any massage therapists in the city that provided home service—to which she responded, “good luck in finding one.”
In the US, massage therapy is a booming $18B industry (as of 2018) predominantly served by 88% female therapists, where most therapists consider it a second career. While some are members of a professional organization, there are some sole practitioners as well. The following services provided in several settings include the client’s office or home, spa/salon, their own office, a health care setting, health club/athletic facility, or massage therapy only franchise or chain.
Not being able to find the kind of service she was looking for, Tanya considered the idea of creating one. Aside from having no other plans to fulfill, the business would also give her a sort of platform for her advocacy that focuses on health and wellness.
Certified NC II holder
She began her journey as a massage entrepreneur by conducting a feasibility study, at the same time considering the idea of developing an app for her home service massage. After recognizing the potentiality of the business, she attended TESDA and earned her NC-2 in Massage Therapy.
Now equipped with an in-depth skill in massage, Tanya officially launched her home service massage business, BLISS, in 2016. She started having one massage therapist that would help her run it while she took over the role of the receptionist/driver.
Like what any other starting entrepreneur would do, Tanya first distributed her business cards around her family and circle of friends. However, due to the challenges tagged along with massage spas, Tanya earned a few questioning looks and raised eyebrows. But instead of giving in to the frustration and opting to drop out, she perceived the situation as a motivation to move pass through the difficulties and continue.
Her innate character as a teacher also urged her to educate people, to guide her therapists to practice professionalism, and to remind her clients on the health benefits of massage.
She wants to highlight how massage is beneficial in maintaining one’s wellbeing, both physical and mental.
First premium ‘Home Massage’ in an App
“Running a massage business is not—relaxing. Very ironic that I have to say,” Tanya admitted with regards to managing her business in general.
As her market started to increase, her brother-in-law and a friend from the US suggested bringing BLISS Home Service Manicure, Pedicure, and Massage to the next level.
Launched in 2017, Tanya did not only set a high standard bar on the massage industry but also utilized technology to bring comfort and convenience in one. After the launching of her app, the business then slowly eased into online booking. Eventually, BLISS closed its physical store at One Avenue Hotel, C.M. Recto Avenue, to focus on their online home service bookings.
Upon booking a massage session on the app, it will immediately inform the client what to expect—to make things clear that the home service intended is absolutely professional.
The following is a customized response sample, enumerating to first-time clients what to expect:
- The massage therapist will bring her own basket of mineral oil, alcohol, personal hand & face towel, masks, socks, BP apparatus, and a stethoscope. Note: We do not provide sheets and towels. Each therapist are required to wear clean socks before service
- Before body massage service, your massage therapist will check your Blood Pressure (BP) to make sure if it is safe to proceed and can apply the right pressure
- If BP is high we recommend foot massage, light pressure body massage. If you still prefer hard pressure with a high BP, kindly sign our waiver.
- We suggest starting on time to give courtesy to the next scheduled client.
- If you decide to cancel and the therapist has arrived or at your residence or is almost at your residence, we require a payment of Php 380, our minimum service fee.
- If pregnant, please inform us right away.
They also note that “Massage is not just a luxury, it’s health and wellness in today’s busy lifestyle.”
It (Massage) actually prevents depression and at the same time, we are educating netizens as to when it is safe to get a massage because if taas imong blood pressure di gyud ka pwede magpa hard (massage) kay prone ka to have a heart attack.
Looking for like-minded people that value and share the same outlook on wellness, Tanya reached out to Davao Health and Wellness Association (Davwell). It’s the nearest health and wellness association she can find since CDO is yet to have one.
However, Davwell’s then-President Cherry Faye Al-ag declined her application and encouraged her instead to establish a first one in CDO. Hence, the founding of what is known today as CDOHAWAI.
CDOHAWAI is not only exclusive to spas, but the association also welcomes members from different health and wellness industries—including gyms, healthy food providers, and naturally-made products.
In addition, members of the association work hand-in-hand in promoting each other’s products and services. “We do not compete because there are services that they offer that I don’t have. We support each other,” Tanya stated.
To provide integrity and trust among loyal customers by setting professional standards among spa owners and advocates of health and wellness.
One of the advocacies of CDOHAWAI is to promote wellness from having a healthy diet to staying physically active to relaxation. They also conduct health awareness seminars and activities as well as engage in community services with their most recent at Boys’ Town and Oro Pahulayan Shelter. Moreover, the association is in the process of “preparing a module to be used on all technical schools based on CDOHAWAI proposal—professionalizing the massage industry.”
Through this module, it would highlight the relevant role of a massage therapist and show that it is a profitable profession for wellness. It also aims to uplift the dignity of its workforce, ensuring that their rights are not being neglected—that they have an equal voice as any other professional has.
It is important to note that CDOHAWAI is already an accredited member of the Technical Education Skills Development and Employment Committee (TESDEC) and an accredited Non-Profit Organization (NGO) of the City and is under the umbrella of the Regulatory and Complaint Board (RCB) with Atty. Egay Uy and Mr. Antonio Resma.
The following are the affiliated businesses to CDOHAWAI:
- Cafe Kelso
- Katha Aromatics
- Ban Sabai Spa
- Vanity Works Limketkai
- Cenyu Probiotics Eggs
- Contrera Soy Products
- Good Earth Citronella Oil
- Mana Movement Studio
- Soap Bakery Natural Products
- Potter’s Hand (Therapeutic and Wellness Spa)
- Nature’s Remedy Concoction
- Royal Sanctuary (Grooming and Wellness Lounge).
Meanwhile, KomBrewCha Tea, La Cabana Spa, Gram Handmade Soap, and Brain Up Training & Development are the association’s latest addition.
Although it still has a long way to go with the initial steps, Tanya and CDOHAWAI are actively making an effort that they hope does not go into waste. Particularly in today’s modern world, overwhelming workloads and expectations are experienced by people of all ages.
Indeed, a massage is a great way to relieve tension and maintains one’s well-being.
“The massage industry needed to be saved because there’s so much potential and it’s just taken for granted.”