Started from a 21sqm corner room, now we’re at the heart of BGC: The Secret Lounge story

BEHIND THE CHAIR OF THE SECRET LOUNGE. Parlon CEO and Founder Claire Ongcangco video chats with The Secret Lounge's CEO Guiden Faith and Head of Operations Sophy Lalaan

If you’re someone who pampers yourself by giving your lashes and nails some love, you’ve probably already heard about The Secret Lounge—a speakeasy beauty haven that sits like a vacation right in the middle of Bonifacio Global City (BGC). 

A quick scan of their Instagram account and you’ll see that beauty queens Alaiza Malinao and MJ Lastimosa have regularly had their lashes and nails done at this city hideout. Celebrities including Bubbles Paraiso, Arianne Bautista, and Cristine Reyes have been loving their experience as they happily share their post-lounge glow on their Instagram accounts. At one point, Binibining Pilipinas and Miss Universe candidates have also been pampered by this lounge’s beauty experts. 

They might be called The Secret Lounge, but the kind of premium service they provide is certainly not a secret. People who discover this hidden beauty gem immediately make it their go-to nail and lash salon because of the excellent experience they get. 

So when The Secret Lounge almost went out of business because of the pandemic, it was heartbreaking news to the community they serve.

The Secret of Getting Started 

THE FIRST SECRET. The Secret Lounge rented a 21sqm office in Makati and turned it into a tropical beauty haven with two La-Z-Boy recliners and fragrant, soothing scents

Picture this. You’ve just gotten off a client meeting at Cypress Gardens in Rufino, Makati when you spot a cozy little room that oozes pure relaxation. It pulls you in. You walk towards its direction and discovered a tropical haven with two La-Z-Boy recliners. The next thing you know, you’re sitting on this comfy chair, having the best time of your life, as you get a full pamper experience you never knew you needed.

True to its name, this is how people typically discover The Secret Lounge back in 2019 when they first opened their doors inside a co-working space in Makati. 

The overall vibe of The Secret Lounge is exactly what the owner dreamed to experience whenever she goes to be pampered.

Guiden Faith, the mastermind behind this concept salon, says that the overall vibe of The Secret Lounge is exactly what she dreamed to experience whenever she goes to be pampered.

Wala pa ‘kong ever na-experience na lounge where I can go and be pampered and get a full experience. Most of the salons na pinupuntahan natin, they have a stiff chair—masakit sa likod, tapos uupo ka doon nang ilang oras for your nails or your lashes,” she says. “So, we decided to make it a cozy place and invest in La-Z-Boys, and give our clients their personal space. That’s the experience. Hindi natin ma-madaliin ‘yung client. Quality time talaga.” 

MISS GUIDEN. The mastermind of The Secret Lounge

Guiden has always been a part of the beauty and wellness industry. She started as a make-up artist, which eventually led her to open her own eyebrow clinic and launch a beauty-on-demand platform. Long story short, these business ventures didn’t go as planned and left her with only ₱25,000 left to risk. Knowing that establishing a salon requires more than that, she invited her friends, including artist-entrepreneur Sophy Lalaan, to invest another ₱25,000, take one more risk in the industry, and establish The Secret Lounge. 

And perhaps it’s true that third time really is the charm because after only two months of renting out a 21sqm corner office, The Secret Lounge needed to expand because their two La-Z-Boys can no longer cater to the volume of bookings they were getting. 

"When you go to the lounge, the first thing na makikita mo is ‘yung bar. Pinagisipan namin ‘yan. Kasi if ever ang client, kasama ang boyfriend or husband, hindi ma-bo-bored. We offer them wine. Sometimes, I offer my personal whiskey," Guiden tells us, talking about their new place in BGC.

In the third month, they decided to move to a bigger, cozier space in BGC. All thanks to Miss Earth Angelia Ong and entrepreneur Benjie Sadac, who helped Guiden and Sophy make the move and find the perfect secret spot for the lounge. From then on, they became partners for The Secret Lounge, with Guiden as the CEO & Business Development Head, Benjie as the PR and Business Acquisition Head, Angelia as the Partnership and Events Head, and Sophy as the Head of Operations.

THE SECRET SQUAD. From left to right: Sophy Lalaan, Guiden Faith, Angelia Ong, and Benjie Sadac

Now, The Secret Lounge resides at The Fort Strip, with an amazing city view and a bar reception that makes the entire lounge experience even more worth it—not just for their clients but also the people they go with. 

COZIEST LOUNGE. The cozy, tropical haven that welcomes The Secret Lounge customers in BGC, giving them a fantastic city overview straight from the lounge

“We decided to go full blast na. Bahala na kahit hindi namin alam magkano ang gagastusin sa BGC,” Guiden recalls. “Kaya when you go to the lounge, the first thing na makikita mo is ‘yung bar. Pinagisipan namin ‘yan. Kasi if ever ang client, kasama ang boyfriend or husband, hindi ma-bo-bored. We offer them wine. Sometimes, I offer my personal whiskey. We have a TV there na pwede sila manuod ng Netflix, mag-chikahan, mag-lounge… while their girlfriend or wife have their pamper time.” 

LIKE A VACATION. The lounge bar that completes the experience of The Secret Lounge VIPs

Since their move, The Secret Lounge was able to take care of more people. Celebrities and beauty enthusiasts flock to their space and help them promote the lounge even if they don’t ask them to. Guiden’s dream was unfolding before her eyes.

And then, the pandemic happened. 

The Secret of Survival

A FULLY BOOKED LOUNGE. Pre-pandemic, patrons of The Secret Lounge gather in this cozy space to take a break right in the middle of the city

When the first lockdown in the country was implemented, Guiden was not too worried. 

“At first, we were like, ‘Okay sige, one month.’ And pre-pandemic, sobrang holy and glorious ‘yung nangyayari sa The Secret Lounge,” she says. “Pero wow, dumating ‘yung second month, third month.” 

KUMUNIZEN HIDEOUT. Founders of the streaming app, Kumu, visit The Secret Lounge for some manper time pre-pandemic.

During this time, Guiden felt anxious already. But then the government released an advisory that rental fees for business owners must be waived. She felt relieved. 

“Okay, at least hindi kami sisingilin ng rental.  ‘Buti naman,’ sabi namin. Kasi sabi ng government para support, parang bayanihan ‘yon ‘di ba,” she says. Confident that they will be given the leeway to settle rent as soon as they go back to operations, Guiden didn’t check her bank account during those three months, not knowing that her monthly rent is still being charged to her account. 

AGELESS BEAUTY. The stunning moms of BGC strike a pose with Guiden, Sophy, and Benjie at The Secret Lounge
For one and a half years, The Secret Lounge paid for their rent in full. And they still were not allowed to operate at 100% capacity. 

“I contacted the landlord and asked kung bakit ako nababawasan, when sinabi nga ng government na hindi muna [maniningil ng rent],” Guiden narrates. “Sabi nya, ‘Ma’am, sorry. Hindi po kami kasama sa mga malls na kayang magbigay ng discount or hindi kayo sisingilin.”

For one and a half years, they paid for their rent in full. And they still were not allowed to operate at 100% capacity. 

THE SECRET LOUNGE EXPERIENCE. Even during the pandemic, this beauty haven makes sure that their clients get the best premium service

“For the first time in my life, I literally cried. Kasi ubos na lahat,” she shares, saying that it came to a point that she had to shell out her personal money and work 24/7 online just to fulfill another rent payment for the next month. “And at the same time, ‘yung staff namin, hindi na ako makapagbigay masyado ng support.” 

The repetitive lockdowns and uncertain quarantine statuses have also caused great impact to their business. 

SAFE LOUNGE. The ladies of The Secret Lounge in action, wearing full PPE gear, while they pamper a client sitting on their famous La-Z-Boy chairs

Hirap na hirap kami, kasi on and off. And during that time, we don’t get many clients,” Guiden says, revealing that sometimes they only get one client in a week. This is when they start to really think about the future of The Secret Lounge. 

Nagdecide na ‘ko, na if ever ngayong month, magiging negative pa rin tayo, sabi ko ‘I can’t bid more money,’” Guiden remembers saying with a heavy heart. “Kapag okay na ‘yung market, ibebenta nalang ‘yung brand. That’s what we planned to do.”

It’s because of the stress and the overwhelming pressure to keep the business afloat that Guiden thought about shutting down The Secret Lounge for good some time in May 2021. 

Nagdecide na ‘ko, na if ever ngayong month, magiging negative pa rin tayo, sabi ko ‘I can’t bid more money,’” she remembers saying with a heavy heart. “Kapag okay na ‘yung market, ibebenta nalang ‘yung brand. That’s what we planned to do.”

During this time, Guiden was really thankful of her partners Benjie, Angelia, and Sophy for personally helping their staff and being her emotional support and moral compass. Besides her partners, Guiden also had great appreciation for the BGC community. 

Sobrang na-appreciate ko na kapag nandito ka pala nakatira sa BGC, once you ask for help, they will really help you,” Guiden says.

Sobrang na-appreciate ko na kapag nandito ka pala nakatira sa BGC, once you ask for help, they will really help you,” she says. “We told them our story. Humingi kami ng support from the community and nag-start nang mag-fully booked kami ulit,” she adds with hope that their business continues to survive the pandemic. 

As people reached out to help and offer their support, Guiden realized that there are a lot more who believe in The Secret Lounge and the premium service they provide.

The Secret of a Beautiful Life

THE SECRET LOUNGE LADIES. The hardworking staff who give the best premium service to all TSL VIPs

Guiden always believed in the currency of happiness. 

“When you start a business, make sure na ‘yung currency niyo is not money. Dapat ‘yung currency niyo is happiness,” Guiden says.

“When you start a business, make sure na ‘yung currency niyo is not money. Dapat ‘yung currency niyo is happiness,” she says matter-of-factly. From the very beginning, The Secret Lounge had an unclear future. But because they always made their decisions based on what will make their clients, partners, and staff happy, it helped them slowly bounce back and start dreaming again. 

A SOLID POWERHOUSE. Guiden, Sophy, Angelia, and Benjie work together to keep The Secret Lounge thriving and surviving amidst uncertainties

“I’m excited kasi nangangarap na naman kaming mag-open ng another branch. Kahit we’re still struggling, I’m really hopeful na ma-achieve namin ‘to,” Guiden says, sharing that they’re now thinking about ways to expand their business and open the brand for franchising. 

Understanding first-hand how the pandemic can affect you in various aspects of your life, Guiden boldly says that even if she’s part of the beauty industry, she doesn’t really like to push people to go out and visit a salon if they don’t need it.

“What I always say is ‘If you feel like itong pagpapaganda mo will help you with your confidence, will help you mentally, physically, and emotionally, then go for it. Pero kung luho lang naman and nasa bahay ka lang, as much as possible, save that money. You have to be more practical,” Guiden says.

“What I always say is ‘If you feel like itong pagpapaganda mo will help you with your confidence, will help you mentally, physically, and emotionally, then go for it. And if you’re someone na puhunan mo ‘yung ganda mo for work, then go for it,’” she says. “Pero kung luho lang naman and nasa bahay ka lang, as much as possible, save that money. You have to be more practical.” 

GLOWING INSIDE OUT. The secret to a beautiful life is self-love.

In the end, The Secret Lounge lady boss believes that when you’re glowing inside out, that’s when you have a beautiful life. 

Visit The Secret Lounge at 4F, Fort Pointe Building, The Fort Square Plaza, 28th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, from 10AM to 7PM. Check out The Secret Lounge’s Parlon page to know more of the services they offer. 

Behind The Chair is a series of beautiful and purposeful stories amidst the pandemic as told by salon and wellness professionals. It aims to raise awareness on the challenges faced by the industry that has physical care and interactions at its core, and how they adapted to survive and stay in business. Powered by Parlon, the Philippines’ first go-to platform for beauty and wellness services.