The other night, I was explaining to my Tagalog teacher about the evolution of Filipino American hair over the decades. In the 80s, when mama wasn’t cutting our hair, we’d go to white hair stylists and get gross, janky cuts. Our hair is course and straight, and they are not used to our hair.
Then in the late 80s, we discovered the Korean hair salons, where they understood our hair, and cut it beautifully. That was a brief moment in time, however, when Korean immigrants were working class and cut hair for a living. By the late 90s the Koreans had moved to middle class and the kids had grown into college educated professionals, so good luck finding a cheap Korean stylist. By now they’ve all moved back to Korea, where they enjoy universal health care, efficient transportation, slickly produced pop-music, and internet so fast that you have to be performing several simultaneous astronomical calculations at once plus be uploading feature length IMAX video from your phone before you even see a progress bar.
Nowadays, we can go to Vietnamese barbers, but they have skinnier heads; they’re not used to our melon-heads. I told my teacher, now I go to a Chinese lady; she’s good at cutting my hair, plus I get to practice Chinese.
After that lesson, I walked over to a place called Back Alley Barbershop. Earlier in the day I had made a 7pm reservation online without talking to anyone. When I showed up, they were expecting me. It was a clean, masculine space with 8 barber’s chairs, walls of mirrors, a lounge area, and a small bar.
There was very. Little. Talking. Occasionally I could hear the buzz of clippers, but mostly it was Oasis, David Cook, and a concert album of America, which the old guys dug; “Horse with No Name” and such.
So the dude cut my air and then put my seat back and there was a massage: scalp, face, neck, arms, shoulder, back… and then legs. and I thought, is this still a haircut? When he got to my quads, I thought, this is unnecessary. But by the end of it I was saying things like “This will be our song,” and “I live alone.”
The next morning I got a text from Über that they were comping me the next ride. So I called them up and had them take me to Quiapo church. There was a mass going on at 10am on a Wednesday, and the place was packed.
I went out to Plaza Miranda and started walking through the market; streets and streets of spectacular fruits and vegetables, and smoked fish. I passed by the place where you’re supposed to buy jamón, the place where you’re supposed to get pansit. It was a stimulus overload but still relativley calm compared to the ear-splitting and chaotic streets with vehicle traffic.
I didn’t need to buy anything at the market, so I walked to Intramuros, the old Spanish colonial fortified city. It was a short stroll but everyone tells me it was far. Once inside the ramparts, there are few cars and students everywhere, eating lunch in the shaded street cafes.
After just a brief stroll I started getting a caffeine jones, so I left Intramuros, walked past City Hall, and found myself at SM City Mall. It was also filled with students, the kind the scream when too many of them together. I got coffee and charged my phone at a local shop, and then got lunch at a Korean shop, because I knew there would be veggies in the bibimbap.
After lunch I tried to walk back to Intramuros, but got stopped by a crazy 5 minute rainstorm, with sideways rain and empty jersey barriers blowing into the street. The sun cam out shortly after, and I strolled back to Intramuros, through a tented market, through the pedestrian underpass, back through the centuries-old stone fortifications. Once inside, I found another iced coffee and then decided to Über back to the condo for a nap. The ride back was 40 minutes through traffic.
Later my cousin came and got me, then his wife, and the three of us went to “Pepper Lunch,” which is a Japanese chain that serves you raw beef on a sizzling iron plate, and you finish cooking it at the table. My cousin said that I should bring the idea back to the US, and make a fortune. Me, I thought of all the different ways this dinner would kill an American; they’d eat the raw meat, they’d burn themselves to death on the sizzling iron plate… It’s a good idea, and a fun experience, but I don’t think Americans are developmentally mature enough to handle a sizzling iron plate at this point in history.
After dinner we went to see Antman, which I enjoyed. There was one point in the middle of the movie where everyone was getting emotional in a silly way that kind of bored me. It’s weird to me that I’m the same age as superheros.
After the movie Übered home again. This time I managed to tell the driver in Tagalog to take me to the back entrance on Yakal Street, since Malugay is one-way the wrong way.
I don’t have much of an agenda today, except for my 5:30 lesson. Maybe I’ll see another movie. Maybe I’ll Über somewhere.
Seventeen days left in my Learn Tagalog Summer 2015.