I’m very picky when it comes to barbers and barbershops. I’m not very OC about it though, what I look for are very simple.
A warm atmosphere, first of all. From the outside, I want the barbershop to invite me in with smiles from the barbers and the warmth of the place.
A good comfortable chair.
A friendly barber, one with a theater stage manager’s sensibility. He must know when I’m in the mood for a discussion about the city’s environmental woes or whether Judge Claravall is giving the mayoralty a second try, or when a plain hi or hello or good morning along with my haircut or shaving preferenced is enough conversation for that visit.
Not too much Vick’s for the facial massage, a sharp razor, a nice smooth shave, a good quick backrub, and avoid conversations with me nor fellow barbers while giving me that shave.
I’ve forgotten the name of the barbershop somewhere along Abanao St. just beside Sunshine Supermart where I met Egay, but he was my barber for a while. He’s meticulous, making sure he gets every stubble, and I like that he spreads shaving cream on and shaves my whole face from my forehead to my neck, exfoliating your whole face with that razor. Getting a shave from him gets you a free facial. HE even eventually agreed to do home service, but I only asked him to come over once for haircut for the boys and a shave for me. But without a good old barber’s chair, the experience isn’t nearly the same.
One day, I arrived at the shop while he was still attending to a client. He was midway through a haircut, so when he handed me a newspaper and asked to just wait a while, I obliged. After the haircut, he pulled the backrest down – the client was also getting a shave, apparently. I got a bit annoyed, thinking he should have told me the guy was also getting a shave so I can decide if I was willing to wait that long. Anyway, I did wait. The last straw was seeing him finish that shave, putting a towel over the guy’s eyes and reaching for the massager. I left, and that was the last time I saw Egay. Yeah, I’m matampuhin that way.
B & B Barbers
After my break up with Egay (that’s what it felt like), I jumped from one barbershop to the next searching for a new fave and stumbled upon B & B in La Azotea. They had around a dozen chairs in there, the first two manned by veterans of the trade, judging by how old they looked. I chose one of the seniors.
First I was surprised by his toiletries. They were not your usual generic stuff, most were Old Spice and he even used an old-fashioned, leather strap-sharpened razor. I’m still hating myself for not remembering his name, but he was one of the best barbers that ever laid a hand on my face.
He was slow, he must have been in his 70s already, at least. But it felt good. A shave with him takes almost an hour, so a haircut and a shave is basically a whole morning’s affair. And you get up from the chair recharged and light and happy.
In that same barbershop, I met Dennis, a much younger barber. At times when I didn’t have the luxury of time, I would politely ask permission from the old-timer if Dennis can do my hair or my shave. He understood. So Dennis gets 1 out of every 3 or 4 visits from me.
Dennis was young, and adept enough to give one either a traditional barbershop haircut or any of the more modern hairstyles.
One day, B & B closed down and was turned into a restaurant. That was the only time I learned that the shop was owned by good friend and Baguio old-timer Rhey Bautista and his good friend Damaso Bangaoet. And for a while, I was lost again, a sad man with a bad haircut and an unshaven face.
Then walking down Session Road one day, I happened to look inside Bronx, a barbershop located at Laperal Bldg. and there, inside, was Dennis. I walked in and sat in his chair. “Buti sir nahanap niyo ‘to.” I was glad too.
I asked about the old-timer from B & B, where he could’ve moved, and Dennis said that the old man retired already. He also shared that the veteran didn’t really have to work anymore, as his children were all successful professionals who supported him. But he just couldn’t put those scissors down, so the children let him continue working and one of them who was based in the States would send him those Old Spice creams and aftershaves he used on his clients. But after B & B closed, the old man just didn’t have the drive to look for a new chair anymore, so he retired.
I didn’t like Bronx very much. The owner, a sulky old lady who seem to not like having to sit at the cashier’s table all day, always had a frown on her face. I didn’t like walking up to her to pay for Dennis’ services.
But Dennis was worth the old lady’s kasungitan, so I endured her.
Dennis had a daughter in elementary school, and he was so proud of her for being a part of the school’s drum and lyre band – they were Panagbenga street dancing parade champions a couple of times. He asks about my daughter who was also a participant in that same parade as a member of Baguio City National High’s dance troupe.
He also sympathized with our struggle to save those trees in Luneta Hill that SM City Baguio wanted to eradicate for a parking building. Funny thing though… one day I came into the shop and was informed that Dennis has resigned, pirated by an upscale barbershop, Kwento ng Barbero, SM City Baguio branch.
And since I’m on my 5th year of boycotting SM, that meant goodbye Dennis.
I heard about this hipster haunt along Military Cutoff Road, Stache, so my youngest son and I tried it out.
Warm yellow LEDs, an attempt to look and feel rustic with wood panels and what not, stylish barber chairs and seats for waiting clients… and a magazine rack of FHM back issues. Oh well, the tagline says “man hive,” so I guess porn is a necessity. Though in the presence of minors, very inappropriate.
Shave was so-so according to my humble standards, though Aeneas did like his haircut. But they lost me as a potential returnee when one of the barbers on stand by puffed on his mod (is that what it’s called, those vape thingies?). Right inside the barbershop, enveloping the whole place in migraine-inducing vapor. They do have a nice line of artisanal hair care products. We a got a couple.
But the search for a new barber for myself continued.
One reason I preferred barbershops to salons – they’re way cheaper. Although I did try a couple of sessions at David’s Salon in Porta Vaga, and particularly enjoyed the shampooing and the head massage that came with it, I felt my testosterone levels drop to uncomfortable levels. So I tried the barbershops along Gen. Luna and Mabini. Not one convinced me to go back a second time.
Then I learned that Kwentong Barbero, the shop that pirated Dennis, had a branch along Abanao Extension cor. Carino St.
Another upscale barbershop, and on my first visit, seated right behind me was my good friend Morris. That’s Mauricio Domogan, Mayor of Baguio City.
Place was clean, I was offered coffee, the toiletries smelled nice. And they re-purposed Ginebra San Miguel 2 X 2 gin bottles as water sprayers. Nice.
The shave was not as close as I preferred it to be, but I liked that the barbers were very professional. Too professional in fact – they wore face masks while attending to you. And the place was really quiet, and the few times I went in for a shave I actually fell asleep on the chair. But at P200 on average per service, that meant a P450 expense per visit for a haircut, shave and tip for the barber. I was assigned a different barber every time I went, which meant I didn’t particularly like any one of them.
Living in that particular part of town, Newtown Plaza was our go to place whenever we didn’t have the time to prepare food at home. That mini food court they have is so convenient… there’s a burger joint, a Korean stall and another that offers lugaw and batchoy. One night I read a flyer – launching of a barbershop at the second floor and for the next few days, a haircut would only cost P1. I missed the promo, but finally had the chance to try it out just last week.
Another hipster place. If one Starbucks offered shaves, this could’ve been a branch. A receptionist greets you when you enter.
I wasn’t feeling very well that day. Not sick, but sick of staring at the computer monitor trying to get things moving with this projects and nothing. I needed a lift, and usually, a session with Egay or Dennis would do the trick. Not that afternoon.
The barber had a conversation going with the receptionist when I entered, and that conversation never stopped even when he started giving me a shave. Which meant that his face was right in mine whenever he said something back to the lady. The razor was blunt, and he knew it… any barber or person who shaves would know – it’s rough, it makes that scratchy noise. And it hurt. I guess I didn’t deserve a disposable blade refill.
One minute into the shave and I almost just asked him to stop, but I thought I’d give him another minute’s chance. I ended him letting him finish the job, also because the shave cost P200 and I was hoping that at some point I would get my money’s worth. Nah.
I wrote a review on their Facebook page, and immediately they replied with an apology and an offer for a shave on the house. Never mind the freebie, I responded, but I was willing to give them another chance. Besides, like I said earlier, they’re located in our part of town, very convenient.
I knew it won’t be nearly as quiet as Kwentong Barbero, but at P60.00 for a haircut, you can’t expect too much. The TV’s always on and if you choose the right chair, you could have a nice view of what’s on.
I’ll be having my passport photo taken tomorrow, so I thought it was time for a trim and a shave. I’ve been to Ram’s along Mabini St. before for a shave, and it was OK. But this morning, I was Ric was assigned to service me. I cold tell by his cool haircut that, well, he knows good haircuts. Too bad I didn’t want anything “stylish,” just a trim on the sides and a little on the back. And a shave.
I was impressed with the way he wielded that hair clipper, and he worked fast finishing my trim in less than 10 minutes. They’ve got to work fast in there, I thought, for at P60.00 per head, and who knows how much of that actually goes to the barber (half, perhaps?), they have to be able to do a lot of heads to be able to bring home enough. And then the shave came next…
Watered down Vick’s for that initial facial massage, two pats with a hot towel and just when I thought he was ready to start shaving, he started popping my white and blackheads, scraping them with his nails, giving extra attention to the area on and around my nose. He struggled with one particular blackhead and apologized after several tries because he just couldn’t get it out. I said that’s OK, I’ll give it a good scrub at home.
The shave was smooth, comfortable, comforting, relaxing. For a moment there I forgot that I was, in fact, there, in that usually noisy joint. The shave was so nice that the noise seemed to dissipate into a gentle hum. I woke up when he rubbed aftershave on my face, which he immediately followed with a facial massage to lessen the sting. A hot towel again. A short head massage, then the arms and after he raised the backrest back up, a short back rub.
My bill: P140.00.
For now, I have found my barber.