Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Now, here's something interesting I found in Wikipedia: The services performed by barbers of olden times were not mere hair cutting and shaving off facial hair, but also minor surgery -- stitching of wounds, blood-letting, cupping and leeching, and enemas; as well as dentistry -- the extraction of teeth.

The barber I used to go to when I was a kid was my father's, and performed strictly haircutting and shaving services. He was a kind man who also managed that thriving barbershop with about ten barbers working for him; two were his sons. I would go to his shop with my cousins or brothers usually on a late morning or early afternoon on weekends.

The style of choice for young boys back then was the military crew cut in which besides the usual electric clipper, a pair of scissors, and comb, a sharp razor is also used for shaving the bottom sides and back of the head.

Unfortunately, I was one of those who'd get ticklish once that sharp razor touched my nape. So much so that I'd get goosebumps and would noticeably shiver at times. The old man was cognizant of my dilemma, so before that sharp razor touched my head, he'd warn me about it. You see, he knew that I could get a serious cut and spill blood all over the place should I suddenly shiver while that razor was scraping down the back of my neck.

However, there came a time when the old man had to assign me to one of his sons, Junior -- the unfriendly and grumpy son. Unarguably, Junior wasn't up for becoming a professional barber to begin with; if he had his own way, I was sure he'd rather just hang out at the corner studying the racing forms and drinking gin with his buddies.

Anyway, he made my trips for a haircut a living hell, which I had to endure for quite some time. He'd also sport a menacing sneer as he sharpened his razor against that strip of leather tied to the back of the chair.
I almost peed once in my pants as I fought off that torturous tickling sensation derived from his razor. Junior could easily have been a student of Marquis de Sade.

Fortunately, the moment of salvation came when the Beatles came rocking the world. Suddenly, long hair was in. Even more fortuitous was my high school principal -- she was lenient when it came to the students' hair style and length.

Nonetheless, I'd avoid meeting Junior's contemptuous gaze as I passed by their barbershop when coming home from school, while my flowing hair bounced as if in slow motion with my gait.


posted by Señor Enrique at 8:29 AM


Anonymous dave said...

And that's why barbershop signs have the stripes in three colors. The colors represent the original services of the barber. I remember red is for blood, I forgot the other two.

You're lucky the high school was lenient. Maybe they can't deny the overwhelming impact of the Beatles. When I was in college, I planned to grow my hair long to be "different" (I reckoned it has been ten years since it was last in fashion). Unfortunately, F4 came along and long hair suddenly became in, much to my chagrin.

August 29, 2007 1:04 PM  

Blogger carlotta said...

that is a very interesting trivia about barbers. but extracting teeth? somehow i can't imagine the barbers of today doing that.

this entry also reminds me of sweeney todd, known as the demon barber of fleet street. read about his story on the internet, and it's given me the chills. i'd like to watch the broadway musical of it someday. :D

August 29, 2007 1:06 PM  

Blogger jon go said...

i was a lot like you, when i was a kid i used to go to this barber who knew i was ticklish and teased me about it! that was hell.. thank goodness i don't need to see him anymore.. especially since i've been shaving off my hair with my own clipper.. hehehe..


August 29, 2007 1:55 PM  

Anonymous kyels said...

It reminds me of the barber shops I used to frequent when I was little too. Just like you, I shiver too whenever the scissors touch the back of my neck ...

Sweet memories indeed!

August 29, 2007 4:14 PM  

Anonymous Ferdz said...

So Barbers were like doctors before...

Ang ganda ng barber shop dyan sa intramuros. Magkano kaya dyan, I need a haircut right now. Actually naghahanap ako ng bagong barbers since yung barbers ko nagpunta na ng Dubai. hahaha

August 29, 2007 7:18 PM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

I really like the old feel in the first photo Senor....intramuros pala...

your story reminds me of an old Dolphy film...where the barber shop was not just a barber shop but a funeraria as well...hehehe.

August 29, 2007 7:57 PM  

Anonymous iskoo said...

kkung may chance ako dumadayo sa ako sa quiapo para magpagupit as barbero, bukod sa mura mas gusto ko ambiance sa tradisyunal na gupitan lalo na kung mya libreng masahe

August 29, 2007 8:30 PM  

Blogger minotte's notes said...

hi eic:

minsan lang akong nauuna sa comments mo, i will take advantage.

i have 3 boys and i used to haul them to the barber shop. but during the older ones adolescence, they preferred the salon cut.

it was the end of an era for me, when they did not want to sport the uncomplicated and clean cut 2X3 na nga lang. they looked like cute, clean boys.

now in the states, i get to cut their hair. but i am very careful to keep the style (!)

i miss the barbers in manila, mura na, malinis pa. now we take them to a vietnamese parlor for $12 a head. and then i maintain the style for 8 months.

may secondary career na ako!

come and visit soon:


August 30, 2007 12:14 AM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

...Ala-ala ng gupit-ahit sa Barberya...I went through the same experience with the sharp razor blade sa Barberya ni Manong in Dapitan and Maria Cristina St.
What I hated the most was the green after shave lotion (Three Flowers?)that Manong would slap on my nape and portions of my lower head that was just shaved! That stung like paper cut! And the scent of that lotion, whoa!..suffocating! barberya sa kanto was always the hangout back then for the adults to play dama and talk about girls and tell dirty jokes which amused us kids while having our haircuts for a measly .50 centavos for a crew cut or .75 centavos for "Gupit Binata".

It was like a tradition to get smacked(batok)on the back of your head when the older kids and bullies sees your freshly shaved head.

Love your shots of the barberya facade.

August 30, 2007 12:22 AM  

Blogger Francesca said...

When visiting Philippines, husband frenchman always have a haircut from a barber shop in Cubao.
They are the best, in compare here in France.
May massage pa, libre, sarap feeling daw!

August 30, 2007 5:45 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I did notice that F4 had quite an impact on young men's hair styles, Dave. As if overnight, they were letting their hair grow.

Nevertheless, I kinda like the latest trend these days derived, I think, from some anime characters -- spiky and stylish.

August 30, 2007 7:57 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Sweeney Todd was a long-running Broadway musical, Carla. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see it. Does Little Shop of Horror share the same theme?

I can't imagine it either how barbers back then would perform certain medical and dental duties.

August 30, 2007 7:59 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yup ... that wasn't fun at all, Jon, though some barbers may get a kick out of it. Like I said, I almost peed in my pants while that razor scraped my nape ... hehehe.

August 30, 2007 8:00 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You're right, Kyels -- even the feel of that cold pair of scissors could precipitate some shivers. Very uncomfortable feeling, right?

August 30, 2007 8:02 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I have the same problem with you, Ferdz. Seems like before I knew it, my hair cutter would leave for abroad; leaving to once again start looking for a new hair cutter. Ayayay!

I think this shop in Intramuros doesn't charge all that much for a haircut.

August 30, 2007 8:05 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Would you believe, G. Mirage, that there is a beauty parlor in Quiapo at the back of which they serve beer? The room is simply partitioned by a curtain. It has a few tables for drinking and a videoke machine!

August 30, 2007 8:09 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Marami ngag barbershops sa may Quezon Boulevard sa Quiapo, Iskoo. The photo at the bottom was taken in that area :)

August 30, 2007 8:10 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You reminded me of the barbershops in New York's subways that charge 10 dollars only for a haircut, Minotte!

My sister, like you, used to cut her son's hair. Nowadays, when up for it, she'd cut her grandboys' hair. She does quite an impressive job, actually.

August 30, 2007 8:13 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I must admit, Pete, I really appreciate your sharp memory. As I read your every sentence, I felt like I was actually reliving those old times at the barberya :)

And yes ... those after shave lotion that gives young boys a distinct manly scent of just having come from a barbershop.

Thanks, Pete!

August 30, 2007 8:16 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Aha! So Frenchman was also spoiled by our local barbers, huh, Francesca? They do give a soothing massage, don"t they? At libre pa nga!

August 30, 2007 8:17 AM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

When the two boys Marco and Aypee were just tots, hubby used to shave their heads clean, para mas kumapal at gumanda ang tubo ng buhok. I assisted him in shaving while they were asleep.

When they started going to school, I cut their hair myself - "bunot" style. haha! Wala silang reklamo. Siyempre, mga bata, wala pang kamalay-malay.

But when Marco was in Grade 4, and started getting conscious of his appearance, ayaw na ng bunot na buhok. So I had to find a barber. I found one that became our suki, aptly named "Hercules".

When they reached high school, sa isang unisex salon na sila. Of course, they went by themselves. Siguro, para maka-display sa mga girls. LOL!

Nang mauso ang kulay-kulay ng buhok at hikaw sa mga lalaki, they wanted to color their hair and pierce their ears too. I vehemently objected. I threatened them: If they insisted on having their hair colored and ears pierced, I would have my arms tattooed. They took my word seriously. Nanalo na naman ako. hehehe.

August 30, 2007 8:26 AM  

Blogger Sidney said...

I definitely agree that the barbers are better in the Philippines.
It is cheap, you get a free massage and they know their jobs.
Last time I had a haircut in Belgium I was very angry. The barber (who was a girl) cut my hair in a very strange way. Till the next haircut I was ashamed to walk outside...

August 30, 2007 10:43 AM  

Blogger pusa said...

that's pretty interesting, they can extract tooth as well, yeah scary too.

anyways i was also planning to shoot some old school barbershop, coz most men are metrosexual now, but still most men prefer the old school barbers.

August 30, 2007 12:05 PM  

Anonymous sardonicnell said...

what i remember from the nearby barbershop was that green liquid they would use after a haircut or after shaving someones beard. i can still remember the smell...

and whenever my dad would bring me to the barbershop, i'd get scared when they start using the 'labaha'. hehehe =)

August 30, 2007 1:27 PM  

Blogger BW said...

Very interesting fact on the barbers of the olden days. Looks like the only thing they weren't able to do was deliver babies :)

I always hated that "alponsiput" haircut where my skull was scraped by the razor save for the bunch of hair on the top :) When I grew a little older, my lolo used to bring me to his barber and had my hair cut like his, yung sinusuklay pataas hehe :) Man, I do miss the masahe though :)

August 30, 2007 1:35 PM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

I remember going to the barbershop with my Lolo when I was a kid. He had a suking barbero who sported a pompadour hairdo and had the smirk of Elvis Presley. He was a real character. He even used to slap the labakara with matching hip thrusts. Elvis na elvis talaga. And the smell of that place...geez..I remember!! Alcohol, powder, aftershave and pomada!!

August 30, 2007 2:23 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

The barber from hell eh..I once had encountered one who had always solicited but one that I didn't like beause for one, I thought he hadn't enough skill to make one good haircut. I had always hoped he was busy whenever I came in at my old favorite barber shop; otherwise he'd be so makulit and I can't asily turn him down...for not wanting to hurt feelings..

August 30, 2007 3:44 PM  

Anonymous Rey said...

A very familiar experience. I remember back then when my nanay would send me and my younger brothers (I have 4 who directly follows me)to the local barbero every two weeks. Our father liked us to have the clean "PMA" look which has only hair at the top of our head (my friends would call us Bunot patrol becasue of our husk-looking heads). Those barbers were properly briefed by my father not to give in to our request of not shaving the sides of our heads.

I guess it was only in grade six that I was actually allowed to grow a bit of hair.

August 30, 2007 3:45 PM  

Anonymous lino said...

yep, barbers are cheap but very good...
that's why when i knew i'll be having a months trip to the US, i had my haircut 2 days before my flight... :) haircut are quite expensive in the US...

August 30, 2007 8:18 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Growing up, one recurring chore was the agonizing trip to the barbershop. And as kids, we never understood why we had to do it. We were only too happy with our hair growing. Until, we got teased as girlie boys when hair got to be too long.

But still, my avid curiosity about barbers and their trade started early. Thus, tried to learn as much as I could and even started cutting my own hair. Which I do to this day. Even my 3 boys when they were still under our care got conscripted and received the same treatment from me.

Thus, learned early that that strip of leather used for honing those scary razors is called strop and the barber's traditional lighted pole originally stood for blood and white bandages (as Dave intimated).

August 31, 2007 12:54 AM  

Blogger cacofonix said...

love the first photo SE, at first glance you'd think it was taken in a village alley in Rome. very paintable.....:)

August 31, 2007 4:15 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank God your boys didn't take you up on it, Rhoda; otherwise, your arms will be similar to those of some female punk rockers -- adorned with intricately designed tattoos. By the way, Groucho Marx once had a song, "Lydia the Queen of Tattoo."

My nephews in NYC had their ears pierced.

August 31, 2007 7:15 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Unfortunately, Sidney, there are hair cutters who'd insist on doing their own thing on peoples' heads; not on theirs. I've had my own share of similar upsetting moments as you had experienced.

August 31, 2007 7:17 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I notice that traditional barber shops seem to be springing up in malls, as well as in certain Manila neighborhoods, Pusa. Is this a growing trend?

August 31, 2007 7:19 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Even to this day, Nell, I'd shy away from using one of those razors to shave my face. I stick to those plastic disposable ones that are much safer to use.

August 31, 2007 7:21 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Can you imagine if the barbers of olden times did in fact act as midwives as well ... hahaha! Hilarious thought, BW.

Yes, I've seen strange hairdos on young boys. That style you speak of were quite popular in my elementary school.

August 31, 2007 7:25 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I used to wonder how often those guys with heavily pomaded pompadours wash the lines of their pillows, Scrooch.

I would love to take photographs of your lolo's barber. He seems to be quite a fascinating character ... hehehe.

August 31, 2007 7:27 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I actually thought of your entry, Major Tom, when I was preparing this one.

Darn, I'd hate to run into barbers I don't particularly like who'd insist on cutting my hair. I promise myself that Junior would be the last person I didn't like to ever cut my hair.

August 31, 2007 7:30 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Bunot patrol ... that's funny, Rey, but I bet you guys looked so clean cut and fresh ... hehehe. There was also three brothers in my elementary school who looked just as how you described yourself and your brothers when you were very young.

August 31, 2007 7:32 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I sometimes go to those hair salons along Recto that charge only fifty pesos for a haircut, Lino. Now, in the states, the cheapest would be like five hundred pesos ... hehehe.

A month vacation in the States, you lucky dog :)

August 31, 2007 7:34 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! many thanks for the information, Amadeo :) So that leather strap is called "strop." And Dave was right about the barber's striped pole.

I've also at one point cut my friends' hair when I learned how to do it by just watching hair cutters cut my hair.

Wish my father cut my hair when I was a kid instead of grumpy Junior.

August 31, 2007 7:39 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Cacofonix!

Know what? I forgot exactly where this shop is located in Intramuros :(

August 31, 2007 7:40 AM  

Blogger dave (",) said...

Speaking of kwentong barbero, I almost forgot to mention this barber in our college dorm. A boastful fellow, a chess player, a Marcos and Erap supporter, he has a tale or two to tell about his past glory days with celebrities. I only tried him once. He gave me his signature Neck Twister wherein he would loosen the bones in my neck and jerk my head to the left and then to the right. He says it's relaxing, but I find it unnerving.

September 02, 2007 2:53 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

In America, Dave guys who do those bone realigning maneuvers or manipulation, if you will, are referred to as chiropractors. Most who want to have the title of Doctor without ever attending medical school, get a degree in such. And how on earth this industry was able to swing this, God only knows.

September 02, 2007 6:51 AM  

Anonymous niceheart said...

When my oldest son Reggie was still little, he wouldn't let the hairdresser cut his hair with a razor. No razors, scissors only. Sometimes it was quite hard to do with the scissors only, pero ayaw niya talaga. I can't remember now what made him scared of the razor. I don't think it was because it tickled him. His skin must have been nicked once. But now, all three boys are fine with the razor.

September 04, 2007 10:42 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Truth be told, Irene, the sight of that glistening sharp razor could also be the stuff of horror films ... hehehe. But would you believe that as old as I am now, I haven't handled a razor as that used by barbers?

Yes, these days, I don't get as ticklish anymore, either :)

September 04, 2007 11:53 AM  

Anonymous Bubbas girl said...

I just love reading everything you write, you are so knowledgeable. I wonder if this picture from 1945 is one of the "barber/dentist". The diploma on the wall says Far Eastern College, don't know where the office was.

March 09, 2008 10:42 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

He could've been one of those dentists/barbers. Many thanks for sharing this photograph with us - awesome!

Thank you also for your constant visits, Bubba's Girl :)

March 09, 2008 11:16 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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