THE MONT ALBO MASSAGE HUT STORY
GOD CAN PUT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY TO THE TEST
Dr. Nol graduated from UP College of Medicine in 2006. During that time he learned that the finances of the family was down, brought about by various circumstances in their family business. The house where he grew up was sold together with precious memories of the past. There were overlapping debts and paying them was a huge struggle. Instead of pursuing a specialty, he opted to help the family in the soonest possible time. With 3 other siblings where 2 are still studying, there was no other choice but to make the move and support the family. He held on to his faith in God, never letting go.
Mont Albo Massage Hut is a Filipino-inspired spa specializing in Hilot (Filipino Traditional Massage) and Home Therapy. The first of its kind, it started as a small massage clinic on March 11, 2007 in an old apartment in 6842 Washington St., Makati City. Established by a young doctor from Batangas City, the name Mont Albo was coined from the owner’s surname “Montalbo” which means “white mountain” in Spanish. Being able to experience traditional Filipino healing practices since childhood, he became a firm believer of Hilot and various related forms of therapies. Before this brand became what it is now, just like a diamond, it went through all the pressures and harshness before it shone brightly in the Philippine spa industry.
THE WATCH THAT STARTED IT ALL
A vision was displayed to him. Soaps.
He decided that he will start a small soap business but there was a problem – he has no capital. He cannot ask money from his parents because there was none. He tried to borrow money from a friend but money was not that easy. The friend was asking for a collateral. Without any property, Dr. Nol pawned his watch to this friend for 1500 pesos just to have the much needed capital.
He attended a seminar about soap-making and with several trial and errors, he perfected the method of making organic hand-crafted soaps. He started making small soaps with coffee, guava and orangepeel. He personally sold and delivered the soaps to his clients. Borrowing money from friends for additional capital and paying them on time (with interest) was a part of this cycle. A small blender, a knife for cutting and polishing the soaps, and cellophane were his first materials. “Barya lang ang kita pero nakakatawid sa kailangan ng pamilya”, according to him. Selling soaps was not that easy.
THE CRUELTY OF SOCIETY
Dr. Nol had his first-hand experience of how society will treat people who have less. Because of his situation, people see him differently. “Doctor ka nga kahit singko wala ka naman!”, according to one friend. “You are one free-loader.”, from the mouth of another. Only a few people were willing to help. He made soaps in Batangas and delivered them in Manila. There were times when he has to walk several kilometers just to have enough money for a meal. There were also times where he has to wait for a friend’s reply, up to past midnight, just to have a place where he could sleep. Some clients were also lost because he has no cellphone load thereby finding their exact location was impossible. Hunger and pain were part of the process and giving up was never an option for Dr. Nol.
THE MRT STORY
Dr. Nol was in MRT to deliver his soaps to a client. He was carrying 2 paper bags of soaps for delivery in Shaw Blvd. Rain poured making the MRT floor wet and muddy from passengers with their wet umbrellas. When Dr. Nol was about to leave to train, his soaps scattered all over the heavily packed train because his bags were already soaked with water and mud. He has no choice but to pick the muddy soaps one by one, crawling around the passengers feet and placing them in his folded shirt. No one helped. He left the train in Santolan Station where he was helped by a janitor who gave him a plastic bag. During that time, he knew that moment will be written and told.
BLESSINGS CAN COME IN SMALL PACKAGES
After months of painstakingly making, selling and delivering soaps, his hard work and strong faith paid off. A client ordered 70,000 pieces of soaps as Christmas retail products. This was an absolute gift from God that even Dr. Nol was in awe that his family got involved in making this order. Neighbors in Batangas got involved too as they earn 25 cents for every soap they wrapped. The small blender became an industrial mixer and the knife became a huge table cutter. Soaps were being cured in thousands in their home. Mom makes the soaps, Dad cuts them and little brother packs them. All these blessings were brought to the client in Manila inside the compartment of a provincial bus.
FROM SOAPS TO MASSAGE
In 2007, Dr. Nol rented an old 2-storey apartment at 6842 Washington St., Makati City and converted it to a massage clinic. Mont Albo Organic Massage Services was the original name. There were four massage beds at the first floor and he stayed at the second floor with his 10 Batangueno therapists. Mount Sapo was the original planned name for the business. This is the name of the mountain where soaps were said to have originated. His mom suggested, why not Mont Albo instead of Mount Sapo? It was a laugh between the two in the DTI office as Dr. Nol wrote Mont Albo in the form. He chose massage because of the high demand of affordable home service massage during that time and as a doctor, he knew that he will have the edge. He was the product of Hilot – being delivered by a Kamadrona and being healed by Hilots in the province. He also loves to be massaged and because going to spas was pricey, he could not afford it. Spas were considered a luxury that made him do the impossible – bringing luxurious spa therapies to every Filipino, make it affordable as possible. He studied several massages in various massage institutions, researched, purchased books and attended seminars to equip himself with the knowledge he needs to develop this passion of his. Spa owners were never his mentor. No spa owner was willing to share any info to Dr. Nol. He pushed himself even more by being number 1 in the 2008 Massage Therapist Licensure Exam by the Department of Health.
ENTREPRENEURS ARE BORN NOT MADE
Dr. Nol has the natural inclination to sell and earn profit. He used to sell iced candy when he was a kid and saving the money until Christmas. He also has several recycled powder-containers that he used to create a piggy bank. He had much exposure from his mom who had several businesses in the past and very entrepreneurial. During the trial that his family had, he had the guts to borrow money because he knew that he can pay them. He perfected his craft because he knew that the money he borrowed should earn profit, nothing less. When his massage clinic concept clicked, he established his first formal spa at the ground floor of Oriental Gardens in Pasong Tamo with 5 beds and 2 additional beds. He registered the business as Mont Albo Massage Services, trade name: Mont Albo Massage Hut. The business became a family business as almost everyone in the family had their participation: Mom incharge of the finances; Dad in-charge of the laundry and equipment; and brother was a therapist/receptionist. From the logo and uniform to the spa design, Dr. Nol carefully made them consistent with a Filipino, non-intimidating and practical theme. The routine and sequence of every massage were the result of his thorough research and practice. Every massage was designed to satisfy a spa fanatic. He knew the direction where the concept is going. There was no doubt in his mind that one day, Mont Albo Massage Hut will be a recognized brand. A fortune-teller even told him that he can sell mud without him saying a word.
FRANCHISING AND BEYOND
Mont Albo Massage Hut opened its first franchise in 2010 in Park Square, Makati. Franchising was not really part of Dr. Nol’s original plan. But since there was a call to bring this affordable massage concept to every Filipino, he decided to offer it to spa-owner aspirants to expand the brand and bring relaxation and relief at its most affordable. In 2011, Mont Albo Wellness Corp was founded, handling multiple spa facilities including a high-end spa concept Ginhawa Spa and Dining. Mont Albo Massage Hut is the only spa recognized by BPI as a Ka-Negosyo Accredited Franchise brand. In 2014, Mont Albo Massage Hut was offically a Superbrand and Dr. Nol was awarded with the Mansmith Young Market Masters Award for Entrepreneurship. Occuping its special niche in the Philippines, Mont Albo Massage Hut will continue and persist, always being true to its vision:
“Creating a wealthy nation by uplifting health and integrating traditional wellness systems into every Filipino’s way of life”.
Challenges are always present in Mont Albo Massage Hut’s story but having God and love as the authors of the brand, even torments become sweet and easy. All these strength and passion will be the company’s leverage for a much ambitious goal of bringing our very own Hilot to the world.