RIVETING: Meet Donna Abrera, Owner of The Balay Spa

Business Features

The Balay Spa is Donna’s, baby.

That baby, which came into this world two years ago, is the result of 12 years spent working six days a week in Metro Vancouver to get the capital to open her own spa, her dream, and the home away from home for her clients. Balay means home in Filipino.

Her dedication has left little time for her to have a family of her own so whatever free moments she does have are spent ensuring she, and her friends (co-workers and industry colleagues), have fun. Donna is the spark, the glue and social organizer of her group – a stark contrast to the shy girl growing up in the Philippines. She wants people to be happy and have a laugh.

Interestingly, a great deal of what she does by day is to help relieve people’s pain. Her spa’s approach is all about active listening in order to create customized treatments. It likely doesn’t come as a surprise that deep tissue massages are her most popular treatments. 

Raised in the Philippines by her mom along with two sisters (her dad worked abroad) she was taught to be strong and independent, and to pursue her passions. Donna became a Registered Physiotherapist, a five-year bachelor degree, and subsequently worked in rehabilitation for the next four years. Then, she took a big leap and left home to work in spas abroad transitioning into health and beauty treatments from physiotherapy and finally found her new forever home in Vancouver 12 years ago. Originally, she wanted to be a doctor (far too expensive) but thankfully, at the time, there was a lot of attention and opportunity in physical therapy and in choosing this route, it allowed her to pursue her ultimate passion – to inspire healthy and balanced living. 

The Balay Spa is a luxurious yet affordable spa that provides a wide range of customized health and beauty treatments which combine traditional Asian treatments with modern techniques. The spa only uses and sells the award-winning organic Hungarian skin care line, Eminence.  Donna prides herself on meticulously hiring and training every staff member to the highest professional standards and to providing exceptional service and advice on beauty and wellness.

Her final goal? To be the best massage therapist in Metro Vancouver.


5 things you don’t know about Donna:

  1. She loves to sing karaoke.
  2. She was afraid of heights until she pushed herself to conquer her fear by ziplining in the middle of downtown Vancouver during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. 
  3. She’s a germaphobe.
  4. She was bullied as a child.
  5. Her favorite food is still classic Filipino dishes (she grew up eating rice three times a day) but she also adores Italian pastas and pizza.


What are you looking forward to doing more of in the future?

My dream is to travel more. In 2019, I visited five countries and I would love to visit even more every year. 


What celebrities would you like to meet?

Jennifer Aniston, Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum.


What are the guilty pleasure Instagram accounts you follow?

Travel + Leisure, The Food Network, Million Dollar Listing and The Bachelor. 


What’s your favourite quote?

“Great things happen to those who don’t stop believing, learning, trying and being grateful.” ― Roy T. Bennett, author of the book, The Light in the Heart.


What advice would you give your younger self or other new entrepreneurs?

Think positive, be optimistic and be appreciative for what does come your way. Also, don’t be afraid to fail, through failure, this is how we learn things to become a better and smarter person.


Need a health or beauty treatment? You’ll find The Balay Spa in The Shipyards District at 104 Esplanade Avenue W, 604-770-0383, www.thebalayspa.ca