Friday afternoon. Robertas calls me and suggests that we finish his intense week on a high note with a relaxing massage. That’s great. My annoyance at another wastefully squandered day in the Philippines turns into a smile. Within seconds, I am furiously checking online for a good massage salon. People in the Philippines can call a masseur to come to their place, and they can relax in their beds, but we want a change of space so it would be better go somewhere. Also, we still haven’t changed our spring-loaded mattress, which roars in a variety of pitches and tones every time we shift our positions in bed. So, after a couple of minutes, I have several options. We can choose between paying around 100 Euros for a luxury massage, or we could go to a more modest massage salon and try two hours of Filipino-style relaxation for approximately one-fifth of that. We go with the obvious choice, naturally. I call the salon and try to make a reservation, but they refuse and assure me I don’t need one. “Just come here, po.” – a soft voice says. She adds something else, but it is in that mixture of Filipino and English that everyone speaks here.
When evening finally comes, Robertas arrives to pick me up. During the drive there, I try to avoid looking at Robertas because I already know how he looks. It was not the best idea to go to that place at this hour – everyone knows the rush hour is the worst. My love curses in every language he knows, and I make some silly jokes to try to calm him down. I tell him that the salon is open until 4 AM, so there is no rush. Confused, Robertas looks at me, dearly wondering whether it is THAT kind of place. I hope not.
I tell him that the salon is open until 4 AM, so there is no rush. Confused, Robertas looks at me, dearly wondering whether it is THAT kind of place.
After an exhausting battle against Metro Manila traffic, we eventually manage to reach the place, and it only takes an hour. We arrive at a somewhat run-down neglected district where children walk barefoot, and you don’t want to be knocked down by hanging live electrical cables. We easily find a parking place – awesome! When we look up, we see their signboard. A couple of very large women usher us inside. Once inside, we are welcomed by two smiling ladies and relaxing music. After choosing massages, we proceed into the dimly lit interior and many small rooms. A different pair of ladies wash our legs and show us two rooms with mattresses on the floor separated by a thin piece of material. Then… they leave us. I am sitting on the mattress, waiting, and five minutes, ten minutes go by… Masseuses don’t show up. I pull aside the curtain and try to talk to Robertas. He gestures at me to be quiet – I shouldn’t talk and disturb others’. All right, I turn back to my mattress. It takes a while, but, finally, my masseuse decides to show up. It is one of the ladies from earlier, and her size worries me a bit. I have chosen the Thai massage, and it means that this stout lady manhandles me. I try to calm down – she is a professional, and there is no danger of getting crushed. Probably.
My masseuse starts the massage. I know the music is supposed to help me relax, so I close my eyes and try to do just that. Over on Robertas’s side, it sounds like his masseuse, who is at least as big as mine, has started as well. His breathing grows louder as if he is in pain, and I hear the lady ask if he is okay. Between his ragged breaths, Robertas manages to murmur that he is, and for some reason, I find it very funny. My beloved one continuous to breathe heavily while I struggle to continue my mirth. I try to stifle a chuckle, causing my entire body to tremble. I fail to hold it in. This time, it’s my masseuse, who asks if I am all right. I assure her I am fine. “Robertas is very funny…” – I try to explain to her before trying to relax once again. My masseuse tries to shift her position, and, I am sure everyone hears her thunder across the floor like a small dinosaur. Despite her clumsiness, she does her job well – the lady finds the most painful areas of my back. Sometimes it hurts, but I try to distract myself by thinking about the heavenly cake I had last night. Abruptly, she stands up and leaves. A masseuse takes a really long time, so I start to get bored. When she finally returns, she puts what feels like a hot water bag on my back, before starting on my head. She was eating instant noodle soup when she went out to take a warmer! – I think to myself and begin to giggle again. I can literally feel the oil and spices from the soup being rubbed into my skin. After about ten minutes, the masseuse loudly drags herself across the floor again to return to the foot of the mattress. But before actually starting on my feet, she lets out a thunderous belch – something that still surprises me even though it is pretty standard here.
I can literally feel the oil and spices from the soup being rubbed into my skin. After about ten minutes, the masseuse loudly drags herself across the floor again to return to the foot of the mattress. But before actually starting on my feet, she lets out a thunderous belch…
I hear Robertas’s breathing intensify, and when I look over, I can see him making an excellent impression of gnocchi. I find it hilarious and sad at the same time. I close my eyes, trying to hold back the tears of laughter. Somehow I can keep from just bursting out laughing for the entire 2 hours.
“Did you see how much that lady weighs? She climbed up on me!” – his eyes widely opened Robertas shares his experience with me while I am trying to tie up my oily hair after the massage. I still smell my masseuse’s fingers on my face.
But, as surprising as it may seem, we still leave the salon with smiles on our faces.
That doesn’t mean we are ever coming back, though.
The next morning I find myself rushing to the supermarket to buy a pack of instant noodles to make sure my olfactory receptors weren’t playing tricks on me. They weren’t.