Showing posts with label barber. Show all posts
Showing posts with label barber. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Of barbers and barber shops

My favorite barber passed away earlier this February. I only learned of this a couple of weekends ago and was a bit sad that I wasn't even able to visit the wake. I considered him a friend even though we met only on for my regular haircuts typically at the end of the month. However, "regular" here actually spanned roughly 30 years since I could remember as my father first took me to this makeshift barber shop at the Cainta Public Market sometime in 1983/84. The only significant break from the regular haircuts was in 1996-1999 when I was studying in Japan and I had my haircut at another barber shop.

I was introduced to this barbershop in the Meguro district of Tokyo in 1996 by one of my good friends. I helped that the barber shop was a few minutes walk away from the JR Meguro Station of the Yamanote Line and I could easily go there whenever I was in Tokyo. Being a creature of habit, I made the effort to go there for my haircuts even though I lived in Yokohama, a good 45 to 60 minutes away by train. My Nihongo wasn't really good so I always asked them about the pictures they had showing different haircuts in front, side and back so I could point to how I wanted them to cut my hair. I remember that I never had a bad haircut there and always got my money's worth. They even had a promotion where each haircut a customer was given a coupon indicating points earned. You could exchange the points for a haircut or perhaps items they had on display that you may exchange the points for. I still have the nail cutter and nose hair scissors that I got from accumulating so many points

I remember at least 3 barbers who usually gave me a haircut. One was a mute, one was a woman and another was a young man sporting long hair. I'm sure I picked up their names at one time but I forget them now though I do remember their faces. The last time I had a haircut there was in 2008 when I stayed in Japan for 1.5 months. That was good enough for 2 haircuts and again, I made the effort to travel the distance from Saitama to Meguro just for the haircut and shampoo that's always been my routine whenever I was there.

With all the changes in Tokyo from 2008, I wasn't sure that the barber shop would still be there when I made the trips to Japan from last year. I really didn't have time to go for a haircut last October as I wanted to re-explore Kamakura and Yokohama. This time though, with some time on my hands and feeling a bit sentimental because of the passing of my old barber, I decided to go around Meguro and check on the old barber shop there. I did find the old barber shop but it was closed and there was a sign there saying it had moved. I couldn't read Japanese well so I couldn't get the details from the sign. However, after crossing the street at the next junction and walking along the other side, I quickly found  where the barber shop had relocated - just across the street from its old location.

The old barber shop is now closed.

And that's because it had reopened just across the street from the old one.
Peeking inside, I happily saw that at least two of my old barbers were still there - the woman and the guy with the long hair. Surprisingly, they looked the same as when I had last been there in 2008. With this knowledge, I now look forward to the next time I could be in Tokyo and maybe have the time to get a haircut at Meguro.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Requiem for a barber

I learned over the weekend that my favorite barber passed away last week. Mang Alim was my barber from way back. If my memory serves me right, way back is freshman high school (1983). The only long spells from that time when I had my haircut elsewhere were the times I was in Japan studying (1996-1999) or as a Visiting Scientist (2001). I had no choice but to find a good barbershop there and was fortunate to have a suking barbero in Meguro, Tokyo.

I remember Alim had no questions or never contradicted the instructions given to him by his clients, whether they were suki (regulars) or new with the barbershop. He was always the silent type and seldom spoke or related tsismis (rumors) or other stories such as people would expect from traditional barber shops (i.e., kwentong barbero). We were regulars for a long time that whenever I or my father arrived at the barber shop, we were always given preferential treatment, going ahead of other customers except other regulars who were also familiar faces.

He always knew what to do when I sat on the barber's chair
Middle of last year, Alim wasn't around when I came for my regular, end of the month haircut. When I returned the following weekend, he was there and related that he was sick. He shyly asked me if I could help him with his medicines as the doctor prescribed several including expensive antibiotics. I didn't think twice and gave him money to purchase medicines. The following month he seemed better and asked me to grant him some time for him to repay the money he borrowed. I told him he didn't have to pay me and jokingly told him to give my father a free haircut when he comes to the shop. That was the last time I had a haircut with him as barber. 

Here's a toast to a decent person whom I consider as a friend. May your soul rest in peace Alim!
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

A week of chairs

I'd like to think this week was about chairs starting when I had my chair given to me by the Clairoyant sometime in 2008 or 2009 re-upholstered. It wasn't a total re-upholstering and I didn't have to bring it to a shop. I was lucky that one of our staff, our driver Bert, was knowledgeable of such things as upholstery. I remembered this as he had already fixed some chairs and the conference table at one of our laboratories at the center. He did a great job on those so I consulted him on my chair. And so we ended up dismantling the chair and replacing parts of the leather that was damaged from the weathering effect of use the past 4 years. The result is the chair in the photo where the damaged leather (on the seat, armrests and upper back parts) were replaced with better material. My two-tone chair should last more years.

Refurbished chair
This morning, I also sat on two special chairs. First was the dental chair when I had my regular appointment with our dentist in Marikina. I had my teeth cleaned and one filling fixed. Next stop for me was a visit to the barber shop and another special chair. I had my hair cut a week earlier than usual as I would be on trips in the next two weekends to conclude summer - a long-planned return to Panglao in Bohol and my regular visit to Singapore where the Clairvoyant is based. I expect to be seated in another chair in Panglao, the folding type and facing the excellent beaches at the resort.
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Haircuts at Mulong's

When the Clairvoyant came home last weekend, she took advantage of her open schedule to book an appointment for hair treatment. Haircuts and other procedures are quite expensive abroad and since she comes home quite often, she makes it a point to have her hair done at her suki at salon in a nearby mall. I think she must have been going this salon for a couple of years now and this after finding a good stylist and manicurist/pedicurist at that salon. She is quite picky when it comes to her hair and nails, and I understand this based on her having not so pleasant experiences with other stylists in the past. Of course, she also found good ones before but most of them eventually leave her old salons and either she couldn't trace them or the salons where they transferred to were not convenient to go to (e.g., out of the way, too far, etc.).

In my case, I have entrusted my hair to only one barber in the past 22 years, not counting the time I was in Japan from 1996 to 1999, when I found my barbershop of choice in the Meguro District of Tokyo. Not counted also are years when 2 or 3 barbers were giving me haircuts, particularly since in the years preceding my meeting my suking barbero I had no choice or was not the one who made decisions on who will cut my hair. Those years, it was my father who took me to the barbershop and who made the decisions (usually good ones) on who would cut my hair.

I remember I met Alim back in 1984 or 1985 at a makeshift barbershop at the Cainta Public Market. The barbershop, Mulong's, was named after its owner/proprietor Romulo Santos, who I remember was a fixture of sorts at the munisipyo, being identified with the Felixes who were the political clan to beat in Cainta until a TV news personality decided to run for mayor. Mulong's then was somewhat seedy, having wallpapers made up of a collage of magazine covers and centerfolds showing scantily-clad or nude starlets. Back in the 1980's, those starlets included the softdrink beauties, the Seiko talents, and those who acted in films produced by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines (ECP). In fairness, some of those starlets were good actresses and we know them even today as the likes of Jaclyn Jose and Anna Marie Gutierrez. Wallpapers like that were supposed to attract the men, and that was how Mulong's barbershop was in those days - a rite of passage of sorts for teen-aged males who obviously enjoyed being taken by their fathers for haircuts and practically sanctioned our feasting our eyes on what may be considered as soft-porn.

Alim was always the silent one among the other barbers and was always made fun off by the others for his not engaging in chatter, the kwentong barbero that people seem to expect when having one's haircut. He would just smile and shrug off the jokes. He would always mind his own business and talk only to ask the customer what kind of haircut and/or how short the latter wanted it. He was one to always follow instructions and that was how I came to be his suki. During my ROTC years when I was a freshman and sophomore at the university. The rule then was for maxtol (maximum tolerance) haircuts; the equivalent of 1/2" (side) by 1" (back) cuts. I found the barbers at the university to be somewhat hardheaded and gave us 1 by 2 or 2 by 3 haircuts. Meanwhile, the other barbers at Mulong's (2 others aside from Alim) couldn't seem to find the consistency for giving me a maxtol haircut as I described to them. Only Alim knew what I wanted every time I sat on the chair every other week to maintain my maxtol (Note: ROTC was 16 Saturdays per semester over my first 2 years of university.). That was when I probably realized who was to cut my hair from then on.

Flash forward to more recent times and the old barbershop was eventually demolished along with other shops, stores and eateries to give way to the expansion of the market. The barbershop relocated to a formal stall where it is now located and I continued to go there for my regular haircuts. In fact, it was Alim who cut my hair when I needed a good cut for my yearbook photos, university graduations and yes, even my wedding. I would always just come to the barbershop, now named Romulo G. Santos Barbershop, and he would always know what to do when I sit down on the chair.



It's not only me who has been a suki of Alim for quite some time now as I also see former neighbors and other familiar faces who go to him for a haircut. Then, of course, there is also Tatay and my brother who also have their hair cut by Alim. We usually have small talk about anything under the sun and he still is the silent type who focuses on the task at hand once you're comfortable on the chair and have already given instructions for the haircut. And oh, did I mention the price of a cut is only 60 pesos?