I discovered Tatay Robert one afternoon while I was looking for a proper therapist for my nagging Achilles Tendinitis.
That search me led me into the bowels of the sunlit city of the BGC, inside one of the glass towers that shimmer in the afternoon sun. I enter their spa, tucked away in a nondescript corner, their receptionist all make up and glitter.
I asked for their best therapist and they call Tatay Robert. He comes out, a huge old man, a veritable goliath dwarfing me by at least a foot. His craggy old face has a tired weariness, one of a man who has seen everything. He reminds me of a Filipino Abe Vigoda.
Tatay Robert leads me to a room, bringing with a wooden bowl filled with water. He tells me to soak my feet in the bowl, and I found the water to be hot enough to be considered uncomfortable, just below a scalding temperature. In a quiet voice, he asks me what’s wrong and I point to my ankles, describing the pain in minute detail, and my shoulder which was injured in a long ago basketball game.
He makes me lie down and his hands go to work. Whereas an ordinary therapist would use slow movements that relax, Tatay Robert’s hands are fast and machine like, not caring if the pressure was too intense. His hands kneaded, pounded, destroying and remaking my tired aching muscles and cartilage into something else. He takes my feet and he manhandles them, kneading bones and reworking flesh. It was painful, the sensation shooting up through my whole body. It was exquisite, excruciating pain. This was not a massage, this was closed skin surgery and his fingers were the scalpels. He stands up on my back using his large, prehensile feet which were like another set of hands except they felt like cracked leather.
Throughout the whole session, he talked to me. He gave advice on what to eat, to avoid beans and to give up organ meats. For my feet he prescribes hot water and a handful of salt every night.
After the session, I walk out a new man with a spring in my step. I thank Tatay Robert and I go out again into the BGC, ready to take on the golden city. I think I’ve found the best massage in the city.