If we've known each other for quite a while, you should have noticed that I never grow my hair too long. When friends ask me if I have ever entertained the possibility of changing my haircut, I always answer in the negative.
Short hair works for me. It's easier to handle. I can jump straight out of bed without anyone ever noticing I just came from a nap. I can cut my shower time in half—what's there to apply conditioner on, right? And I can save myself from the hassle of applying enormous handfuls of gel or wax or pomade or whatever substance it is that teenagers use these days to keep their hair in place.
And because I need to have my hair trimmed once in a while, barbers are important to me. They're a lot like family doctors: although they rarely get to see me—once a month, give or take—they know what's generally going on in my life.
For example, our family barber in Koronadal, Kuya Rey, has known my brothers and I since we were kids. Every time I go home, I would visit his barbershop. He'd be excited to see me. He'd ask me when I got back. And he'd probe on how med school is treating me, if my Manong Ralph has passed the bar already, and how Sean is doing. It's that familiarity, that sense of being at home, that separates him from the rest of them who work in overly commercialized mall-based parlors.
As I found myself walking along Orosa Street this afternoon, I found a little barbershop. It was nothing fancy, but I loved the clean interiors, the red upholstery, and the distinctly masculine feel. When I got in, I was greeted with smiles and was asked to take a seat. And then I saw the barber. He asked me what cut I wanted, and I said, "Semikal, dos." My standard answer.
"Tatanggalin ba natin ang patilya?"
"Sige po, hanggang dito," I said.
He took out his electric razor, shaved the hair off my head, and apologized if he saw me grimace in discomfort. He knew what he was doing—and he was fast.
At the end of it all, he took out a piece of warm, moist, white clothing, and he wiped my head to finish the session off. It was soothing.
"Ano po ang pangalan ninyo?" I asked.
He pointed to a carved wood bearing his name. "Vio," he said.
"Kayo ang hahanapin ko sa susunod, ha?"
"Sige, bumalik ka. Andito lang ako. Bukas kami hanggang alas nuwebe ng gabi."
As I bid goodbye, I knew I had found my new barber. What further drove the point home was never once, in our 15 minutes of interaction, did he call me "sir."
(Many thanks to Kuya Mike for the camera.)