MANILA, JULY 15, 2005
(STAR) By Claude Tayag - We were at Shangri-La Mactan Hotel when they officially opened its Spa Village called Chi. Chi is the Chinese word for life force, which is the same as qi, pronounced "ki" in Japanese (same as tai chi and chi gong).

Based on ancient Chinese philosophy, the life force, which is present in all of us, must be balanced for better health. And when there is a block in chi, the body malfunctions and that causes illness and pains. That would be enough to make me really curious, being an old man who suffers from backaches every now and then.

The invite said 5:30 p.m. and the attire "resort chic." We also learned it was President Gloria Arroyo who would cut the ribbon. Our lady president is known to be always on time, if not early. And knowing how busy her schedule is, I was sure she would not stay long. So, I nagged Mary Ann that we get ready really fast and go down early.

"What do I wear? What is resort chic?" I asked her.

"Something more formal than beachwear but more casual than smart casual," she said. To someone who only wears shorts every day, that was like asking me if I spoke Russian.

"Can you just tell me what I can and cannot wear?" I was almost barking at her because we were pressed for time.

"Wear something all-white cotton or linen, and do not wear flip-flops," my commander ordered.

I rummaged through my bag and could only find a batik polo shirt.

"Will this and white pants do?" I asked.

She looked at my other clothes and said, "Just don’t stay too close to PGMA. They might mistake you for a visiting Indonesian bureaucrat."

Every time we go on a trip, my wife has more clothes than needed. After trying on three different all-white resort outfits, she put on a long red batik skirt and a white top. "So I’ll complement your batik shirt," she said, making it sound like she was doing me a big favor.

"Oh, women, why do you do this to us?"

We were finally at the lobby and made it just five minutes before the guest of honor arrived. The guests, mostly from chi-chi Cebu City society, looked very excited to have PGMA back and in their new baby. I do not know what to call their attire, but they surely looked more formal than our batik.

After a very short welcome speech by Tom Zita, chair of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Philippines, and PGMA’s response, they both led the guests on a tour of the spa village.

I prepared my camera to take a good shot of her as she cut the ribbon. But no ribbon cutting took place. Mary Ann later found out that one cannot have scissors when the president is around. It is obviously for security reasons. I wonder why they didn’t just make a very big bow tie for the president to untie. It would even be more appropriate for the spa. But then again, a big gong was on hand by the entrance to announce the formal opening of the spa.

Chi, the spa village at Shangri-La Mactan, is the Philippines’ first and largest spa resort covering a 10,000-square- meter area featuring the most luxurious private villas and suites, open-air treatment pavilions, vitality pools and extensive gardens. It gives one the luxury of personal space and timelessness to indulge one’s senses, soothe the body and revitalize the spirit.

Drawing inspiration from the masterful gardens of China’s highlands to the hallowed halls of the Patan Museum in Kathmandu, the Chi design team worked with local artisans in the Himalayas and traditional elements were incorporated throughout the design. The teakwood detailing throughout the spa village was inspired by traditional Tibetan and Nepalese architectural features. Philippine elements, like the Mactan stone in the villas’ façades and interior furnishings, were also used, all handcrafted by local Cebuano artisans. Lattice work reminiscent of the capiz shell window pattern is used extensively throughout the spa. Ceiling fans using native anahaw leaves are used in the treatment villas, including capiz shell accents on furnishings.

Chi’s extensive menu of treatments offers over 35 specialized body, water, massage, and facial therapies developed by a team of experts in traditional Chinese medicine and Himalayan healing philosophies based on the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire and earth that work in balance with the yin and yang energy within the body. And as spa junkie Miriam Katigbak, Ayala Land top honcho, says, "That is the big difference between having a massage and going for a spa."

After everybody had a cursory tour of the spa village, we all headed back to the hotel’s Mactan Ballroom where a sumptuous (albeit healthy – spa food teaser, maybe?) cocktail buffet awaited us. Wine and congenial conversation flowed freely during the evening.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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