BARBER’S CUT

kwentong barbero? i had a haircut recently. very interesting. the best barbers here in singapore are malay. why? ewan. why are the best barbers in the philippines, kapangpangan? ewan din. if you visit the good barber shops in manila – there’s a very good chance that most of them are kapangkapang. its just that way, i guess. how do you spell necktie in kapampangan? hen-hee-si-kitty-hi-hee! hehehe… coffee? si-ho-hef-hef-hee-hee! hehehe! hay nahkuh! takshapoka… where was i? oh, okay…

the malay barber asked me: “are you pare?”

“huh?”

“are you pare? are you filipino?”

“ahh! yes, i am pare.”

and then i realize these people have a name for us, like we have names for them (indonesian:korokan, indian: pana, chinese: check-wa, japanese: japok, caucasian: “wannabuywatch joe”) – they call male filipinos “pare”. siguro naririnig nila yung mga lalaking pinoy na mag-usap dito parating may “pare”. Pare, pre, tsong, hoy, pssst… all you need to hear to confirm that there’s a pinoy nearbye. minsan combination: “psssst, hoy!”, “hoy, pssst!”, “hoy pare”, “pre, psst, hoy!”…

a haircut here costs $ 9.00 – about 250 pesos. it’s like going to ricky reyes for a trim. but i dont go there. i still like to go the traditional kapangpangan barber. i pay 50 pesos for a barber’s cut (what else?), a razor job on the side burns, baby powder on the raw spots, a hair tonic massage at the end and probably a hot towel thrown over your head – aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! ang init! ang init! ang init! aaaaang sarap ah!. isapanga!

hair tonic…. one whiff of that smell and i’m suddenly a kid of four, having a hair cut with my dad. we always had our hair cut together with the same barber. i think his name was omeng. he had his “gupit binata” and i had my “beatles cut”. it was always on a sunday afternoon. there’s nothing like entering an air-conditioned barber shop on a hot sunday afternoon and being arested by the sweet smell of hair tonic. hehehehe… melancholy lesson: lovemwhiletheirstillalive!.

says the organ grinder.

“…its funny how the time goes,
and you never seem to notice till they’re gone…”

the massage is my favorite hair cut ritual. it’s the barber’s way of telling you: “tapos ka na bata, alis ka na diyan sa silya” – or as the filipino barber (still holding his razor blade) says to his american customer (scared shitless): “pano bang sabihin ang tapos na…ahh…ehh…this is your ‘THE END’, joe!”. the massage starts with noisy clapping as the barbers hands comes into contact with your back. it’s followed by a neck rub and then the finishing touch: the barber pours hair tonic in his hands and massages your scalp. mapapa-“wow” ka sa sarap (at mapapa-“ow” ka naman sa sakit kung tumulo ang tonic sa raw shaven skin…”aray, aray, aray! mama, paki lagyan naman ng pulbos yung gilid ng tenga ko. nagsugat na yata yung inahit nyo eh!”).

in davao during my mt. apo days, we went to a local barber shop (whose barbers were not even remotely kapampangan) that charged us 30 pesos for a hair cut, complete shave, ear and nose cleaning. it takes 2 hours for the complete job. you take a nap and awaken, totally refreshed and looking good. i give the barber 100 pesos. it would be a shame to pay him 30 pesos for a major job like that.

the older barbers told the best stories. they talked about everything – politics, showbiz, local tsismis. in the barber shop, the topic of the story is not that important. what counts is the telling. of course, the ultimate turn-off is a barber with bad-breath.

my barber here in singapore does not use scissors. he starts and ends with the electric razor. he is good and does his job like an ice sculptor creates his (what else?) ice sculpture! hehehe… he does it in a flurry and is finished in 15 minutes. this is where i miss my filipino kapangpangan barber. in manila, my barber looks at me like he’s drinking brandy. he takes little snips like taking little brandy sips. he relishes every “close-open, close-open ng close-open” of the scissors (bugtungan: eto si kaka, bumu-buka-bukaka? sagot: gunting!) and he takes his time and doesn’t hurry.

it takes 15 minutes para lang pantayin ang side burns ko.

hi!hi!hi! hi!hi!hi! hi!hi!hi! (opening lyrics of the yano song, banal na aso)

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