PLANTATION BAY IN CEBU:  LOVING LIFE AT MOGAMBO SPRINGS

MANILA, FEBRUARY 15, 2010
(STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit (The Philippine Star) Updated February 14, 2010 12:00 AM

[Photo is loading... Mogambo Springs Spa resembles a 17th-century Tokugawa village.]

The cool mineral-enriched Thalasso saltwater pool blankets my body in frothy bubbles as I alternate between solitary soaks in the warm jet pool and icy dips in the cascading waterfalls. Then on to an invigorating visit to the dry sauna or steam room to break up this refreshing water routine. Truly, this “bathe and let bathe” kind of spa is a sanctuary for the senses where exposure to contrasting temperatures is at the heart of aqua therapy’s curative aspects. This process moves blood and lymph from one part of the body to another, causing an irrigation and oxygenation of the tissues and finally drainage from the body. The body then becomes the sole subject of pampering as blissful massage treatments are performed.

What’s with a touch that lets us realize that we are not alone? At Mogambo Springs, the Spa at Plantation Bay in Cebu, such loving therapies work wonders for the soul.

Sometimes, I am baffled by the reality that we can actually be too busy or callous to feel. The Taoists have a response to this as they advocate that “to the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”

In this chaotic world of appointments and deadlines, we have a tendency to be numb, to deny ourselves the opportunity to be in touch with our inner selves, to introspect, evaluate what has been, what is and where we wish to go.

Mitch Albom says it best: “The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

However, as we share of ourselves, we sometimes forget that we also need to replenish our energies. How then do we refill and recharge to be able to continue giving?

I recently embarked on a four-day wellness program called Loving Life at the Mogambo Springs, voted by the Asia Spa and Wellness Festival 2009 as the Best Spa Experience in Asia. At the heart of this luxuriant resort, which was also selected by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the top 25 resorts in Asia, I didn’t just have five stars as the rating of the resort. As I embarked on its delightful holistic program, I was blanketed by a thousand more.

Imagine a 17th-century Tokugawa village replete with romantic pathways, lush gardens, charming footbridges, spacious Zen gardens of white river stones and bamboo trees. In this ambience, a healing spa is created, where you are taught how to love the life you have been gifted with. Here, you will learn how to make it your own personal philosophy to take control of what is most essential.

To reach the spa, one must cross a wooden bridge over lush gardens and reflecting waters that connect to the custom-designed entrance. This passage experience somehow aids the mind to shift from the outside world into this inner sanctuary. Treatments such as organic body scrubs using fresh kiwi, mango and melon, seaweed and Dead Sea mud wraps are inspired by ancient rituals, but there is nothing old-fashioned about the luxurious suites, outdoor showers, modern massage beds and the free flowing Thalasso pool that synergizes modern technology in old world charm.

The Loving Life Program is a responsibility that must be taken seriously. While the West tends to look at spas as cures for the excesses of daily life, the Japanese regard spas as contemplative retreats where cleansing of the spirit to ward off disease is a serious preoccupation. No wonder, innovative Plantation Bay owner Manny Gonzalez chose such a theme for his new Mogambo Springs, nearly half a hectare of well-landscaped grounds that thoroughly adhere to the tenets of an authentic Japanese-themed spa.

The Loving Life Program is a wellness routine of nutrition, exercise and detoxification that includes colonic cleansing. Tai chi — the art of dancing meditation that focuses on internal health, relieves stress and improves blood circulation — is taught here by master Luke Cartegena. Yoga, the union of the mind, body and spirit, is also recommended in this program, as well as tennis, wall climbing, cardiovascular exercises at the gym and duo-decathlon around the resort.

You can actually enjoy delightful dishes like poached salmon with herbed butter, mango and prawn salad with pomegranates and blueberries and dark chocolates. The program advocates that healthy eating doesn’t mean boring or bland. It’s also not about calorie counting; it’s about getting the body in balance, inside out. In spite of all the sumptuous cuisine, you can still shed two pounds of real fat and learn to jumpstart the right physical and mental attitudes to keep losing weight long after the program. After this magical nurturing moment, you realize that miracles don’t happen overnight. At Mogambo Springs, they take just four or seven days.

Winsome spa manager Colleen Barcelona, who graduated from Cornell Management School in New York and Chivasom Academy in Thailand, alludes to this retreat paradise as “a sanctuary that offers you the chance to learn how to eat the right food at the right time. The Fit for Life philosophy is based on the idea that eating foods in specific combinations at certain times of the day will result in weight reduction, increased energy levels and improved digestion.

Colleen stressed, “There are certain food groups that should not be eaten together because their combination is hard to digest. Fruits are breakfast fare and midday snack; one can eat as much fruit as one likes. Superfoods used in the Loving Life program are avocados, apples, blueberries, cabbage, fish and fish oil, garlic, mushrooms, almonds, eggs, flaxseed, pomegranates and dark chocolates.”

Traditional healer Bibiano Boy Fajardo introduced the spa’s traditional Filipino hilot massage, a deep-tissue massage employing long and fast strokes with virgin coco oil and ending with a herbal compress from over 10 organically grown herbs. Interesting to note, the Philippine spa hilot was given global prominence during the international I-Spa exposition in Singapore in 2004, side by side with the well-established Thai massage and Japanese shiatsu.

I had a luxurious facial pampering that was followed by a heavenly Thai massage. Jovie, a physical therapist, lovingly taught me the Dorn Method. Mogambo Springs is the only resort in the country that offers this unique treatment. The Dorn Method is focused on spinal alignment. By correcting the joints, muscles and nerves are relieved of tension. The method is highly recommended for individuals suffering from chronic back pains related to poor posture, scoliosis, unequal leg length and joint pains.

There is nothing more gratifying than a colonic cleanse in Mogambo Springs, the only five-star resort spa that gives this kind of treatment in Cebu. Their machine is unique because the therapist can gently control the flow of water. You are cleansed comfortably as years of accumulated toxins and waste are hygienically eliminated. Your blood gets purified as it is in an alkaline state. Your own soldiers within your body are strengthened and immunity system is fortified.

The Loving Life program is certainly a declaration of loving yourself, giving your body mind and soul prime significance. It is taking some precious time away to listen to your inner recesses, chase a moonbeam, whisper a prayer as a falling star approaches and find that answered prayer in the palm of your hand.

To this day, I still dream of my unforgettable massage. The masseuse’s fingers drenched in blended aromatherapy oils gently knead the spine then curves around the shoulders to melt away accumulated tension and pain. Fingers and palms calmly assuage the muscles of the weary body — the arms, rumps, the lower and upper back, calves — until it succumbs to healing and relinquishes control. Your body yields to a complete rest as a hot compress of various herbs and scents cloaks the shoulders. When the seemingly sacred ceremony is over, a soft blanket is unfurled over you and you surrender to sleep.

Mogambo Springs is perhaps the closest to the blessings heaven brings.

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For more information on the Loving Life Program of Mogambo Springs, call 032-340-5900 or their Manila office at 844-5024 to 25. You may also log on to www.plantationbay.com.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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