The Business of Wellness and Bringing Health to City Living

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“I didn’t really have any experience in entrepreneurship,” says surfer, vegetarian, and yogi Noelle Hilario. Her professional background involves art and design. But she certainly knows how to live well and this passion for a healthy mind, body, and spirit became the foundation for her three wellness businesses that are thriving in The Philippines: Flow Retreats and two health food cafes, Makai Bowls in La Union and Hillside Café & Juice Bar in Manila.      

Her entrepreneurial endeavors certainly fill a gap, especially in the city, where it can be harder to lead a healthier lifestyle. Some places easily allow for wellness in a holistic sense, but others, like her own city of Manila, prove more challenging.

There is a pervasive culture of simply “getting on with it,” which means people simply ride the wave of the rat race unconsciously. Not a lot of thought goes into nourishing the self because work and other responsibilities are higher up the list. This neglect then creates complications that lead to an unsatisfying life.

“A lot of people especially those living in the city are stressed and sick,” Noelle explains. “It’s about time to prioritize and bring health into importance. How can we continue with our jobs, spend time with family, or travel and do things we love to do when we don’t feel well?”

Self-care requires awareness. She consciously decided to make the effort to look after herself and her 10-year old son, Kai. Even better, she is an active wellness advocate and creates plenty of opportunities through her businesses to get people started on it, too.

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“All my businesses are a reflection of the lifestyle I lead. It just came naturally. I’ve been vegetarian for 14 years and my businesses are all related to wellness. I am proud of all these companies I run specifically for the reason that these have provided avenues for me to inspire others to be their best healthier selves,” she explains.

Flow Retreats in particular, her boutique wellness company, is at the forefront of the wellness industry in the Philippines. Pangea partners with Flow Retreats for the next Thriving Life micro-retreat, too. It is happening in Green Canyon, a luxury art and eco resort in Clark, Pampanga on November 24-25.  The collaboration resulted from parallels in vision that both companies have.

Noelle elaborates, “Flow Retreats is a boutique wellness company that focuses on pursuing a conscious, mindful, and passionate lifestyle through yoga retreats, fitness and movement, healthy eating, alternative healing, and travel. Our retreats are held in inspiring venues such as organic farms, eco resorts, surf spots, tropical islands and beaches and include mind, body, and soul-nourishing workshops and sessions.

Besides wellness escapes, Flow Retreats has branched out to events in Manila, such as wellness workshops, moon gatherings, and a weekend market called Flow In The City, which features natural products, local designs, holistic workshops, and wholesome food.”

The company was built in 2009 with two other friends who also promote healthy living. Noelle shares, “It was all born out of our passions. I established it together with two good friends of mine and we were all new moms as well. Each of us had our own passions in surf, yoga, and dance and we all wanted to try out each one’s activities. One afternoon while we were hanging out together, we came up with an idea to make it an event where we can do what we love and share it with others. We planned the whole retreat, and everything fell into place.

At first, we offered surf, yoga and samba in all our retreats, that was the usual formula. Then we added different activities that nourish the mind body such as meditation, reiki, hiking, earthing, and health food workshops.

We wanted our retreats to be a stepping stone for people who want to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. We show them ways on how easy and simple it is to take care of your own body and how little steps can make a huge impact on overall well-being.

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When we started 9 years ago, everything we did – yoga, using natural products, and eating organic food was quite new. There are many out there who want to be and eat healthier but just don’t have any clue on where to start.  Nowadays, wellness has gained more popularity in The Philippines and a lot more people are open to it now, which is a good thing.”

Noelle further makes the case that the events Flow Retreats put together create an excellent opportunity to rebalance and destress. “Many people deal with toxic jobs, consume processed food, or even are stuck in unhealthy relationships. Many are getting sick here and there, it’s an epidemic. Joining retreats create space for them to take a back seat, rethink their lives and relationships, and learn new and healthier ways to deal with their current situations.”

This is a sentiment echoed by Pangea and is one of the main reasons why the company continues to create offline transformational experiences to help people grow and realign their lives. Connecting with the self and living a thriving life does not happen automatically. Space must be made for it and active participation is required, much like in creating a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Unfortunately, many people are consumed by their busy lives and fail to focus on what truly matters. But Noelle says work and a hectic city life are not excuses for not being healthy and grounded. She is a prime example, running three successful businesses simultaneously and still managing to keep everything in check. Of course, it is not easy, but she does not feel any drag.

“Although it can be challenging, I really do love my job because I get to meet new people, collaborate with like-minded brands and companies, and it takes me places,” she says. “I find a sense of purpose knowing that I am helping others lead their best, healthier lives or find something they are passionate about and I don’t even have to make an effort. It comes naturally.”

In addition, Noelle identifies simple things for better health that can easily be squeezed into city living. “Simple steps such as including more fresh veggies and fruits into your daily diet and drinking 8-12 glasses of water a day can already make a difference. If you can buy organic produce, then better. Get exercise, move and sweat! Meditate, read a book, or have quiet time. Yes, it takes effort, but being mindful about practicing these leads to habit then being healthy wouldn’t be so difficult after all.”

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And it all works out well. By investing in self-care, people become more functional, grounded, and balanced. Wellness businesses create all the opportunities. For those who are keen to make a positive change, it is all a matter of participating. Soon enough, life transforms into a lighter and healthier one, every new habit or activity, no matter how big or small, contributing to growth.

Noelle aptly concludes by summarizing, “When your mind, body, and spirit are healthy and happy, anything is possible.” With this thought, there is really no argument against not getting into wellness!


Learn more about Noelle’s wellness projects by visiting her company’s website and following her on IG @noelle_hilario. To kickstart your healthier, more conscious, and connected life, join our upcoming holistic yoga retreat with digital detox in Bali this November. Click on this link to learn more.

Micah Fajardo