Real estate broker eyes slice of local hilot market

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva November 26,2017 - 10:17 PM

Myrna Cabrera-Ybiernas (front row, 5th from left) says her differently-abled employees are like her children. Ybiernas runs and owns her two-month-old express massage kiosk at the Ayala Center Mall. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Whenever her kids would get fever or just simply start coughing, Myrna Cabrera-Ybiernas would apply vapor rub on their chests or shoulders and start massaging them to ease their discomfort.

While medicine helps, she believes there is nothing better than a “mother’s touch” to make her children’s pain go away.

“Two of my aunties are traditional manghihilot. As a mother of three kids, whenever they get cough or fever, I use vapor rub on their shoulders and do the hilot. I wasn’t influenced by my aunts, but I guess it runs in our blood,” Ybiernas said in an interview.

Manghihilot is used to refer to a person specializing in hilot, an ancient Filipino art aimed at healing muscular aches and pains through massage.
This, along with her love for getting massages herself, prompted the 46-year-old real estate broker to open her own spa business called Mother’s Touch last September.

P1M capital
Using her savings as a broker in the last 10 years, Ybiernas shelled out over P1 million to acquire a kiosk, massage chairs imported from Thailand, and a spot at the New Wing of Ayala Center Cebu, one of the busiest retail establishments in Cebu City.

“Real estate gets quite stressful at times. Getting a massage is always my go-to reliever. I would get a massage two or three times in a week. I found out that there are many like me who go to spas to relax. I thought maybe I can make a business out of it and so I did,” said Ybiernas.

Unlike regular spas, Mother’s Touch does not have its own establishment but rather carries out its operations in an express kiosk with several chairs where customers can have their backs and feet massaged.

Ybiernas said that in any given weekend, they can cater to more than 100 customers in a day.

Express massage
As the pioneer in “express massage” in Cebu, Ybiernas said Mother’s Touch caters to on-the-go businessmen and professionals, athletes, senior citizens, tourists, and practically anyone who wants to feel better and in need of complete relaxation.

Full body massages, comprising of service on the back and feet for one hour, cost P200 while a 30-minute back or foot massage costs P120.
Hilot is characterized by slow and deliberate strokes with a little pressure to remove blockages in the muscles locally known as panuhot.

“We care, we nurture, and we definitely know how to love, the way a mother does her child,” she said.

Differently-abled
More than being a trailblazer in this kind of service, what’s interesting about her business is that almost all of her employees are deaf.

Ybiernas currently employs 17 therapists, all of whom are deaf and aged 20 to 30 years old, and three receptionists who are able to hear.

The entrepreneur took her employees in upon the recommendation of her friend, an educator at the Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U) who teaches deaf students.

“At first, I was hesitant. But I eventually decided to give it a try,” she said. The businesswoman said her staff graduated from college and are even accredited in massage therapy by the Technical Skills Education and Development Authority (Tesda), but no company would hire them because they were differently-abled.

If it weren’t for her friend’s recommendation, these graduates wouldn’t have found employment.
Barely two months since she opened Mother’s Touch, Ybiernas said she already considers her employees like her own children.
“It wasn’t hard for me to love them like my own. For them to be loyal to you, you have to treat them as if they part of your family,” she added.

Expanding concept
However, she admits that it is still difficult to supervise differently-abled employees, but that she is now slowly learning sign language so she can communicate with her staff better.

As she goes along, Ybiernas said the more she realizes that at this point in her enterprise, seeing her employees happy is better than making profit.

The express massage owner said she plans to eventually open a full-blown spa, but that would take a lot of capital.

For now, she is keen on expanding the concept to other malls in Cebu City starting next year.

Ybiernas said she wants to bring back the authentic hilot massage that originated in the Cordillera mountains and hopes to contribute to the thrust of making Cebu a prime tourist destination in this part of the world.

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TAGS: business, Cebu‬, disabled, disables, Enterprise, entrepreneur, hilot, Myrna Cabrera-Ybiernas

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