EDSA Shangri-La: The city escape in the heart of Metro Manila

There was simply no way I could fit another Wagyu Beef Roll in my mouth. I could feel it almost melting in my mouth, a touch of sweetness spilling out in every tender bite. Unfortunately there just wasn’t any more space. I felt a small pang of uneasiness as I sipped on my champagne resembling Sparkling Sake.

Unlike the empty dishes strewn across the table, I knew my work plate, which remained regrettably crammed, was waiting for me before I could call it a night. It probably wasn’t the best idea to go on a mini-vacation in the middle of a busy workweek, but it was difficult to turn down a night in the iconic EDSA Shangri-La, Manila – a landmark of Metro Manila that I had driven past for years, but never entered. Filled to the brim with Senju’s delectable offerings, enjoying a friendly chat with my two closest friends for the day, Shangri-La’s Communications Manager Claire Hernandez and photographer Don Oco, honestly, there was hardly room for anything else, much less worry.

A perennial procrastinator, it seemed inconceivable for me that on the eve of yet another looming deadline, the usual panic the night before was nowhere to be found. Instead, I was busy thinking how Senju, which translates to “A feast of a thousand pleasures,” was such an apt name for a restaurant whose first class Japanese concoctions I had just promptly devoured.

Within five minutes of dessert I was back in my room, upright on the bed calmly catching up on the numerous articles that still needed to be sent out and the seemingly unending stream of emails that needed responses. It might have been the warmth from the beige walls, the comforting Filipino accents of abaca, banana leaf and mother of pearl, or simply the undeniable snug nature of the bed and covers. Perhaps it was the entrancing view of Ortigas Center’s lights from our room on the 14th floor. Whichever the case, I’d never been in such fine form in front of a keyboard.

Normally, the line between work and play was a clear one, and as I thought, the only division that guaranteed I didn’t end up as the stereotypical 20-something bum that you’d have to peel off a couch. The day’s events, however, proved that the separation was extremely vague. In fact, I was beginning to understand that, if done correctly, the two could coincide quite seamlessly.

The idea originally dawned on me as we settled into our first stop of the hotel tour, the Horizon Club Lounge, atop the Garden Wing. Reserved exclusively for only three floors, armed with daily afternoon cocktails and snacks served by the eager staff, and topped off by a delightful view of the city, it was a setting that simply had no place for a gloomy disposition. Even the flood of emails that were streaming into my inbox over the hotel-wide free Wi-Fi could do precious little in dimming my mood.

A look at the newly finished rooms in the Tower Wing soon followed, with Assistant Communications Manager Angel Velasco leading. The area was still undergoing massive renovation, but you’d never guess, given how quiet and out of mind the operations were being carried out. Although the temporary loss of the Lobby Lounge and the pool area, which are expected to reopen early December, was evident, the hotel’s guests seemed largely unperturbed.

Transformed from its green walls and more “traditional” installations, the new look of Tower Wing embodied the spirit of a beach resort, far away from the advances of an overbearing metropolis. Although the scenic view of Mandaluyong City stretched out below shattered the illusion, it did little in diminishing the feeling of liberation and revitalization that often followed a city escape. The light hues, the fl oral headboard, and the distinctly Filipino accents almost demanded a sunny temperament.

Back in my room there were no more articles left to finish, nor a single email without a reply. Barely midnight and rather pleased with myself, I pondered a nightcap. But before I could seriously consider the thought, I found I was sinking, slowly dissolving, enveloped in a shroud of warmth. Fighting it was futile.

When I opened my eyes it was still dark. Managing this time to fight away the clingy sheets, I peeled back the curtains to reveal the city was already in full swing. Somebody must’ve tampered with my alarms. Quickly crossing “Sleep on a marshmallow” off my bucket list before I stepped out the door, it was off to HEAT for the breakfast buffet.

After a couple of croissants, some scrambled egg and a serving of some of the best freshly cooked tapa I’d ever had, I was moving on to my main endeavor of the day – a visit to CHI, The Spa for the Two-hour Philippine Hilot.

It felt like I stepped into a teleporter as I walked into the Outer Sanctum. The tranquility set in immediately, robbing me of any thoughts and feelings that even remotely resembled work or stress. The real treatment happened a floor above though, in the Inner Sanctum, where I was promptly whisked. As the elevator doors opened and the sound of sitars filtered in, a dim corridor emerged, leading into a large chamber where the numerous treatment rooms lay in wait. Although CHI, The Spa had already started adopting a more “sense of place” approach in the traditional Filipino treatments it offered, the interiors were still largely Tibetan in their inspiration.

After a quick steam, and a short exfoliating foot ritual, I was face down on the massage table of the Khotan treatment room. Translating into “healing oasis on Silk Road,” I couldn’t help but feel I was once again in the most appropriately named room possible. In the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world, here I was hidden away in an extraordinary sanctuary, a portal seemingly direct to the Himalayas.

From the vacuum ventosa and the Dagdagay sticks, to the warm banana leaf placed on my back, I was getting an education on my country’s own traditional healing method, all the while I slipped in and out of dream states. Feeling unbelievably loose, relaxed, but full of energy, I couldn’t resist a hint of guilt. I hardly deserved such a disposition. The hardest I’d worked in the last day was failing to fit in an extra Wagyu Beef Roll in my overflowing stomach.

As much as it pained me to leave, unfortunately my mini-vacation was almost at its conclusion. But not before, of course, visiting Summer Palace, as no visit to EDSA Shang would be complete without one. It would be a brief visit, though. After some of the best prawn balls, and panfried codfish I’d ever come across, it was time to bid farewell to the 21-year-old landmark.

Finally I’d set foot in the famed urban oasis, and I understood why it’s been a pillar for over two decades. Everybody needs to escape from the city’s madness once in awhile, but nobody said you had to go far.

Two-hour Philippine Hilot

With EDSA Shangri-La Manila adopting the “sense of place” approach, Chi, The Spa now boasts traditional local treatments. The Two-Hour Philppine Hilot is the staple of this new development.

Performed in the serene confines of Chi, The Spa, the Philippine Hilot is a healing massage based on a deep inner knowledge to release imbalances for one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. The treatment involves Dagdagay, a traditional foot massage from the northern mountain tribes of the country, utilizing bamboo sticks, guava leaves and sambong leaves. Aside from a deep tissue rubdown with virgin coconut oil, a vacuum ventosa and warm banana leaves are used to detect and heal blockages in the body.

Chi Privilege Card

With CHI, The Spa’s new focus on Filipino healing and wellness traditions, CHI now offers two Privilege Cards – Katahimikan (solitude) and Kanlungan (solemn refuge). Cardholders will receive a host of exclusive benefi ts and savings, along with fully transferrable treatment vouchers. Priced at P15,000, the Katahimikan Privilege Card offers P9,200 in savings on CHI treatment vouchers while the P25,000 Kanlungan Privilege Card provides a total of P13,900 savings on treatment vouchers. Perfect for those who frequent CHI, The Spa, cardholders receive 25% savings on any CHI treatments, 15% savings on any CHI, The Spa retail items, 30% savings on CHI Signature Massages and a birthday massage which cardholders may avail within his/her birth month.