One of the country’s top stylists, Victor Ortega, has a vision: to make Boracay known as “Victor Ortega island.”
As it is, he’s the most popular supplier of massage services, not only in his spas and salons, but also in deluxe resorts. He started with two salons at Station One at D’Mall, and established the island’s only luxury salon at Boracay Shangri-La.
While most of the famous spas in Boracay cater to high-end clientele, Ortega created a niche by catering to the middle-class tourists who came in droves. Last year, he added the two-story, 600-square-meter Victor
Ortega Salon and Spa Premier to his portfolio.
It’s one big communal space with 42 beds and 40 full-time massage therapists to accommodate tour groups, corporate accounts and bridal showers. The massage area is one big open plan, where you are relatively on view, with only muslin curtains obscuring you from other clients.
One of its special services is the signature maracas body massage, sometimes referred to as the African Khanya energy balancing massage. It uses the hands and maracas to rub the muscles with long, gliding strokes along the pathway of blood returning to the heart.
But beyond relaxation and moisturizing the skin, it boosts the oxygen level in the blood, reduces muscle toxins, and improves flexibility while easing tightness. Marula oil is used, formulated by Babor, a German organic skin-care line. The rattling of the maracas also has a soothing effect.
The spa offers a range of Asian massages such as Thai, Balinese, shiatsu, and hilot at an affordable P500 per treatment. When clients get sprains from walking on the rocky path, or beach volleyball, or swimming and diving all day, the hilot is the choice. It uses lavender, peppermint and jasmine, which also rehydrate the dry skin.
Customers with sunburned faces opt for a facial with a cooling menthol. For those with sunburned bodies, there’s the shiatsu with a body wrap by
Babor or Phytomer.
Ear candling was born of requests from customers who complained of ants or foreign bodies that entered the ear while swimming. Jasmin Labao, spa general manager, explained that ear candling is a therapeutic relaxation method akin to acupressure and aromatherapy. “It cures our clients’ migraines and sinuses,” she said.
When Ortega opened this flagship venture, other spas tried to follow the concept. Nonetheless, because of his experience in the beauty industry, his spa is unique because of the vanity services that others can’t provide. Labao said that the services are “holistic,” such as combining scalp treatments with body massage.
Ortega said tourists soak their hair in saltwater all day, so they come to indulge in a hair treatment while getting a good rubdown. After a thorough shampoo and scalp massage, the hair is wrapped in cellophane. After an hour, the hair is rinsed and styled. The customers feel the head-to-toe refreshment.
Customers can also be pampered for their nail treatment while lying on the black leather recliners. For the facials, they enjoy the gentle cloud of steam on the face, followed by extractions and a rejuvenating treatment that leaves the face dewy.
At sunset, guests can relax sipping iced coffee or kamias shake at the balcony café that overlooks Boracay’s main thoroughfare.
Victor Ortega Salon and Spa Premiere has been getting all kinds of bookings. A Russian and an Austrian group held a bridal shower and provided their own caterer. When Russians stay for a month in Boracay, some visited the spa almost daily. He cited the Taiwanese as the biggest market for the hair wax/massage treatment. The Chinese and Thai tourists like to come in groups.
Since work in Boracay is seasonal, Ortega is smart enough to get good business even during the low season. His manager is able to establish ties with tour operators and guides so that the big groups come to the spa. “When Koreans come off season, we would get a booking of 40 at a time,” he said.
Seven years ago, Ortega started with a modest 15-bed spa atop his salon in Station One. “It was always full. Then the hotels would call me to provide therapists for their room services or for the beachfront. The demand was high,” he said. To this day, outside services still comprise the bulk of his business, with an additional 30 therapists on call.
For his coterie of 70 in-house and on-call therapists, Ortega is happy to provide livelihood. “It’s my way of giving back. I organize courses to professionalize their technique,” he said.
Ortega feels blessed with his success, despite his modest beginnings. He started out as a registered nurse in a hospital in Mandaluyong. Off-duty, he would assist in the beauty salon beside the hospital and get generous tips.
He then decided to shift careers by studying all aspects of salon services, from hairdressing to makeup and manicures. In 1995, he opened his eponymous salon in Mandaluyong, and then was invited to work for the now-defunct BCBG in Makati, where he met one of the top guns, Vicente “Teng” Roma. When Roma opened Emphasis Salon in Rockwell, Ortega became his creative director.
Still, Ortega maintained his Victor Ortega salon along Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong, which provides work to 80 employees. He opened branches in Shaw Boulevard, Cebu, Boracay and Zamboanga. He said there is no conflict of interest with Emphasis. He doesn’t report to work in his own salons, and the services and clientele are different from those of Emphasis.
“It’s my advocacy. I am giving jobs to over 300 people, which means 300 headaches,” he says with a chuckle.
Meanwhile, he plans to add a gym and transform his flagship venue in Boracay into a wellness center.
Victor Ortega Spa Premiere is located at the Boracay Centerpoint Building, Main Road, Station 1, Balabag, Boracay Island. Tel. (036)288-2043 or 2044.