MANILA—A botched haircut sent a man rushing to an upscale salon in Makati City soon after the government eased the coronavirus lockdown in Metro Manila earlier this month.
Not used to growing his hair that long, he had mustered faith in his wife, who turned into an amateur haircutter overnight, thanks to a clipper bought online and basic trimming videos on YouTube.
“Muntik ko na ngang hiwalayan 'to eh,” he told Abel Pineda, 42, a professional stylist, pointing to the weird, jagged shaving patterns on the back of his head.
Many salons, such as the one where Pineda works, spent the first week since community quarantine was eased, mostly fixing the mess left behind by desperate clients who had taken hair matters into their own hands.
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But with these establishments allowed to operate only at 30-percent capacity, he said it would take awhile before they could recoup losses incurred during nearly 3 months of lockdown.
The Makati salon, located at the heart of an upper-class village near Greenbelt mall, lost around P3 million during the shutdown, he said, citing information relayed by the owner.
To cushion the impact on its 20 employees, the salon advanced their month’s salary then released half of the next.
In the meantime, Pineda and his co-workers were eagerly waiting for any government announcement of a possible reopening of barbershops and salons.
“Mahirap talaga kasi hindi mo alam kung gaano katagal 'to,” said Pineda, who has 6 children.
Beauty parlors numbered at least 3,600 employing 27,815 workers nationwide, based on a Philippine business industry survey in 2016.
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon, home to 57 million people, on lockdown in mid-March to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
It took nearly 3 months before an inter-agency task force finally allowed barbershops and salons to resume limited operations in areas that shifted to the more relaxed general community quarantine such as Metro Manila.
As in other businesses, they were required to put up strict health and sanitation protocols before they could open their doors to customers again.
Pineda’s salon reconfigured the interior with plastic dividers, a foot bath, hand soap dispensers, electronic thermometers, and PPE sets for the entire staff—a substantial investment that led to a price increase in services.
Following government guidelines, barbershops and salons offer only haircuts, which means the much bigger chunk of revenues from hair treatment and other services would have to wait.
But customers were flocking just the same through a strict system of appointment, with no leeway for unscheduled visits, said Pineda.
“Maraming kumakatok maski walang appointment pero di talaga pwede,” he said.
A common request, he said, was to salvage some of the worst DIY haircuts he had seen in more than 2 decades as a professional hair stylist--a badly trimmed side, for instance, with the other one left untouched for fear the cut might be worse.
One customer dyed her hair not knowing that the preferred color won’t work on white edges just as well on dark portions.
But that, Pineda said, would have to be fixed on another day.