THE Department of Health (DOH) encouraged massage therapists to get a license to erase the stigma of prostitution in the profession.

“DOH administers this licensure exam to make massage therapy (MT) a profession, and we aim to move this to the Professional Regulatory

Commission (PRC),” said Dr. Josie Hipolito of the DOH during the oath-taking ceremony of the newly licensed massage therapists (LMT) last Friday at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

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With more spas sprouting, especially in Cebu, massage therapists are sometimes marketed as providing more than just a massage to their customers.

“To remove the thinking of spas being more than what they are, we want MTs to be professionalized,” said Hipolito.

Licensed massage therapists can also compete for better jobs in the country or abroad and equip themselves with the proper skills through training in DOH-accredited institutions.

There are 12 accredited training institutions for LMT in the country, with 32 accredited training providers directly trained by the DOH.

“Examinees will first undergo a 160-hour lecture-training on the scientific massage service, and then they have to attend to 10 clients before they can take the exam,” said Hipolito.

Applicants should be high school graduates and at least 21 years old to take the licensure exam.

The exam, established in the 1950s, is composed of two stages—the written and the oral or practical exam. It is conducted every June and December in Manila or in selected regions.

This year, out of the 136 that took the exam, 65 therapists passed and 24 of them were from Cebu. There are more than 4,000 licensed massage therapists in the country.

Of the 12 accredited institutions, the International NKYR Academy (INA) is the only DOH-accredited training institution in Cebu that offers the DOH Licensure Preparatory Course.

A total of 17 INA examinees passed the exam conducted almost a month ago.

“I am very happy that more than half of our students made it,” said Tess Tatara, executive officer of INA.

Most of those who passed work in different spas in the city, including Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, Yoga Thai, Marco Polo Plaza, K1 Spa, Hilton Cebu Resort and Spa and Lingam Massage Venture.