We all know about Tagaytay’s famous ‘secret’ garden. For years now, weary Manilenyos have been going to Sonya's Garden for healthy meals and yummy salads, or for a getaway in the loveliest cottages in a beautiful garden setting. Or just to live Sonya’s philosophy on the ‘art of doing nothing’ for a day or even just for a few hours in this garden sanctuary that everybody has fallen in love with time and again, with its pleasantly, unorganized beds of fragrant flowers, orchids and herbs, eclectic décor and all-too comfy day beds scattered all over the place. Now, people have discovered yet another of Sonya’s many ‘secrets’ and are flocking to the little cottage that houses the spa.
Simply called Sonya’s Pampering Salon, this little sanctuary at Sonya’s Garden is made beautiful by its simplicity yet is able to give you a unique spa experience. It sits quietly in the midst of Sonya’s characteristic English garden chaos, taking guests one step closer to nature, allowing you to savor the peace and tranquility while enjoying the stillness of everything in this place. Housed in a charming cottage adorned with colored stained glass, capiz shells and beads, antique furniture and all sorts of ethnic handicrafts, just the sight of the spa gives you a sneak peek of how completely different this experience will be compared to the other spas you’ve ever been to.
For instance, the spa at Sonya’s Garden doesn’t need aromatic oil burners that most spas use; that’s because all the flowers in the garden already give off enough fragrance to relax you. Also, instead of the typical piped-in spa music, at Sonya’s, to really give you that ‘close to nature feeling.' You do hear relaxing piano playing in the background but the cows’ mooing and the crickets’ chirping is what makes the experience unforgettable. Add to that the continuous trickle of water you’ll hear from outside your windows, also serving as a great natural ‘curtain’ from the outside world as the huge windows are placed right by the showers.
Another thing to consider is the fact that there is no air conditioning in this place. It’s no problem, though, as the much coveted Tagaytay breeze keeps the place cool, and is even a refreshing change as you can actually breathe crisp, fresh air while getting your massage. The only downside of this is that because the rooms aren’t walled up all the way to let the breeze go through the whole cottage, this also means that the rooms aren't soundproof and you can hear everything that goes on in the neighboring rooms. It does get a bit annoying especially if you happen to chance upon loud neighbors who enjoy talking while getting a massage.
The beauty of the garden outside is continued to be brought inside the spa as all the rooms are named after Sonya’s favorite blooms: Lilac, Primrose, Pansy, Cleome, Camelia, and the luxurious couples’ rooms called Sweet Williams and Peony. If coming with a companion, you must book one of the couples’ rooms. There’s only two in the spa so you better make sure you advise them ahead of time that you want this.
They’re a lot bigger than the other rooms, meaning bigger shower space, too, and being situated at the far end of the cottage, you also get a big bay window overlooking the farms nearby, such a perfect spot for daydreaming either before or after your massage. The shower alone is a great all-natural experience, too, as you are given natural products such as Honey-Mint Shampoo and Lavender-Honey soaps (that they also sell in their Country Store, by the way) that smell so good you don’t ever want to stop lathering yourself and makes for a truly relaxing pre-massage shower.
Their menu of services is as simple as it is impressive. Their treatments are also surprisingly very affordable, especially compared to most spas in the area. They offer Full Body Scrubs with a free cream bath, wherein you can choose between a sugar and a salt scrub and from an array of flavors like Coffee, Chocolate or Strawberry, for only P1000 for a 1 ½ hour body treat. Aside from the basic Swedish and Shiatsu massage w/ oil (P600/hr), they also offer Thai Massage (P800/hr) and Reflexology (P500/hr) amongst other services such as facials, hair spa or foot spa.
My personal favorite is the Tui Na (P600/hr), an old Chinese massage without oil, much like Shiatsu only deeper and with hints of Thai, not exactly relaxing but extremely rejuvenating. FYI: Very few spas, even in the Metro, offer this massage so when I’m feeling a little out of it, I make a special trip to Tagaytay just to have this and they make the trip worth it every time (request for Joy or Miss Mitz as they’re the best when it comes to Tui Na). A must-try though is the Sonya’s Signature Massage (P700/hr), a combination of Sonya’s favorite strokes from Swedish, Shiatsu, Thai and Reflex and is great for all first-timers!
The pampering doesn’t end with the massage. After you’re rubbed off all of your stresses, the therapists discreetly leave the room to leave you snoozing and only come back to give you the best basil tea you will ever have. If you analyze it, it’s basically just warm dalandan juice with a couple of basil leaves plucked fresh from the herb garden, but it’s just so good that it makes for a perfect finishing touch!
It’s extremely hard to leave the Quiet Zone at Sonya’s Garden where the spa is located after such a deeply relaxing experience. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to be lazy all day. You can lounge around in their many daybeds scattered all over the garden, next to water fountains and stone frogs and nymphs, spend the entire day curled up in the midst of all the flowers… read a book, nap, daydream or just live the ‘art of doing nothing’!