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Lifestyle Business

Women’s Month: Investing in ‘nanays’ helps Tagaytay business grow despite pandemic

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
Womenâs Month: Investing in ânanaysâ helps Tagaytay business grow despite pandemic
Mothers or 'nanays' like spa therapist Jacqueline Mendoza (left) and Lola Evangeline (right) help keep Nurture Wellness Village alive despite the bites of the pandemic.
Philstar.com/Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo

MANILA, Philippines — When Mount Taal erupted in 2020, resort spa destination Nurture Wellness Village was out of the danger zone, but it was ruined by ash fall anyway.

After weeks of clean up, the resort was about to reopen – but then had to close again because of another disaster: COVID-19 pandemic.

More than losing their business, Harvard Medical School-trained wellness expert Catherine Brillantes-Turvill feared the worst for their employees – many of them are mothers or “nanays” helping their families earn by working as Department of Health (DOH)-licensed and certified spa therapists.

At the height of the pandemic, when the establishment was closed and the staff had no work for months, Turvill said they provided assistance through a community pantry and the likes. Turvill herself and her family lost at least a farm and their house due to the pandemic.

“It was tough on a personal level because we had to sell our house. First coming here in Tagaytay, ang sabi ko, ‘Anong gagawin namin dito sa Tagaytay?’,” she recalled in an interview with Philstar.com.

What seemed at first to be an endgame for her social life turned out to be better as Turvill and her family became closer to their community in Tagaytay. And with the spring of new plants and trees after the ash fall came the budding of friendships forged with their community’s nanays.

“The pandemic was really tough for the industry – spa, wellness, hospitality – but we’re grateful we’re still here… We’re happy to see our people come back," enthused the founding president of the Spa Association of the Philippines and Asia Pacific Spa & Wellness Coalition board member.

Among the nanays who returned to the spa is Jacqueline Mendoza, who, from a masseuse, has rose through the ranks to become a Department of Health (DOH)-certified wellness trainer.
Turvill named others in Mendoza’s row: Sally, who now owns a five-door apartment; Sol, who started with them homeless but now has a two-storey house; and Anabelle, “a girl who could barely speak,” but now teaches Tai-Chi to a multinational company’s 2,000 employees.

While many companies are adamant to hire nanays for fear that their motherhood duties could get in the way of their jobs, Turvill said that in Nurture, the opposite is true.

“We look for the heart. We don’t look for skills,” she affirmed.

“Nanays are naturally good-hearted and caring. Ang nanay na taga-baranggay meron nang inborn care.”

Thus, although many of the nanays did not finish school and repeatedly failed and cried over their intensive trainings and accreditation exams following international guidelines set by a United Kingdom spa school, many of these nanays still persevered — and with the regrowth of the shrubs in Tagaytay came the nanays’ blossoming that is also bearing fruit for Nurture.

“Anabelle used to say, ‘Nanay lang ako, hindi ko kaya ‘yan’,” Turvill recalled one of the hardships of their “spa therapists from the barangay.” Her eyes sparkled as she recounted how giving jobs and growth opportunities to nanays moved the nanays from low self-esteem to a higher quality of life.

“Inclusive growth is our definition of profit – not only about money but how we touch lives… We’re very proud to say na kahit na papano, we’re able to uplift the lives of the community… You are giving dignity to other people who would otherwise feel ‘ganito lang ako, hanggang dito na lang ako’.”

Partly thanks to these nanays, businesses like Nurture are slowly recovering from the negative impact of the pandemic and Taal eruption.

“Certainly, we’re very challenged but we believe, just like other entrepreneurs in the country, you just keep on bouncing and bouncing.”

Among the spa’s bounce back programs is Stress Buster, an overnight stay chockfull in relaxation and detox activities that Turvill recommended for nanays. 

“The pandemic has been very stressful for everyone, especially for mothers – imagine, they have to work from home with a laptop in a condo while their kids are online schooling – they lack so much energy… it’s crazy and you are also going nuts, so levels of stress are so high.”

The Stress Buster program, available in the wellness village in Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II West Cavite, Tagaytay (visit Nurture.com.ph for more information), includes holistic massages, exercises, food and workshops for physical, spiritual, psycho-social and mental health support. The best part is that the program is administered by the community’s nanays, which makes the program a way of support for their continued growth and livelihood.

Like how the Stress Buster can help turn one’s stress into a nanay’s livelihood, Tagaytay, said Turvill, is “an example of how from something terrible, something good can happen.” From ash fall gray, Nurture now is so fertile and fertilized by the volcanic deposits that it could even be greener now before the eruption. Turvill said they even had to cut down plants!

“Out of everything bad, something good happens,” reiterated Turvill, who believes that like what happened in Tagaytay, the pandemic also brought some good things – like now that “interest in wellness has gone up.”

“Dati, it’s like talking to deaf ears,” she mused.

“Kaya the big lesson there is trust and have faith. It may seem so bad but actually, trust and it will actually be given to you. Taal volcano, tignan mo – dati super gray. Ngayon, super lush.”

RELATED: Women's Month: Ways to bring spa pampering to your home

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