A Hidden Must-Do in Cebu

I took my first trip to Southeast Asia in October of 2019 alone. As with every solo trip, my travels included an abundance of self-care.

Prepared with my Philippines bucket list, there were numerous sites that I wanted to visit and experiences I refused to miss. With every Google, YouTube, and Instagram search, not once did I come across what ended up being my favorite pastime.

My hostel was a short habal habal (motorcycle taxi) ride from Ayala Center. The largest shopping center on the island. I fell in love with this mall as it had everything I needed in an open indoor-outdoor setting. On my second visit, I came across one of their massage centers. With numerous to choose from, it caught me by surprise. I’m not sure what was aching me on that particular day, but I was desperate for a massage. Overwhelmed by all of the choices, I went to the concierge to inquire about the various options. He informed me that the hearing and visually impaired make a living by becoming massage therapists. Initially confused and not sure if there was a language barrier, I asked for clarification. I then asked him for directions their locations and never looked back.

That same day I found myself at A Mother’s Touch, a spa that employs only deaf individuals (apart from the individual who greets customers). The woman at the desk gave me the massage oil options and asked what pressure I would like. Following my decision, she signed to the unoccupied massage therapists what I required. My therapist then gestured to me to come to sit in his chair. Within the first 5 minutes, I knew that this was one of the best massages that I’ve ever gotten in my life. I even began to doze off. Up until that point, I have never received a massage that did my body so well. There is no exaggeration when I say this was life-changing, and I soon became obsessed. I am not sure if I enjoyed the experience or the price more. My 30-minute head, back, and arm massage came to P 150 (Philippine pesos), give or take 3 USD. Yes, $3 for half an hour of pure bliss.

The following day, I woke up feeling phenomenal. I needed more. I quickly concluded that day was the day to visit Healing Hands Therapeutic Blind Massage. I called a habal habal and made my way. The location was more remote than any other place I’ve seen in Ayala. There weren’t many people there, so it threw me off. Little did I know what was in store for me. I spoke with the receptionist, and he directed me where to sit. After sitting down in the chair, I waited for a few minutes before I heard someone approach me. I talked over what I wanted with my masseuse, and she immediately got to work. Moments after her hands touched my body, I knew. I could’ve shed tears because no one has ever felt my back or the aches that I have the way she did. She laughed at me a few times as we conversed and told her exactly how I felt. With a heightened sense of touch, she believes massages from the blind are typically better than the deaf, but of course, she’s biased. (But she wasn’t lying.) When my half an hour was up, I directed her to continue. Thirty minutes felt like 5, so I extended my time. The experience cost me P 200, approximately 4 USD for an incomparable massage. I’d do it every single day if I could.

For the remainder of the trip, I had a massage every day. I alternated between A Mother’s Touch to Healing Hands. $3-4/day on myself for a week was nothing, just an act of self-care. I cannot recommend this enough. There are so many beautiful things to see and do in Cebu and neighboring islands. Be sure to pour into its local economy and support the lives of the disabled people in this community. These massages are simply a must-do.

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