Philiippine business slow for reopened salons, barbershops

Filipino man get a haircut inside a barbershop, Manila, Philippines. Photo: Aaron Favila, AP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

MANILA, Jun 14, 2020, The Manila Times. Exactly a week since the government allowed salons and barbershops to reopen under general community quarantine (GCQ), many establishments have not seen the eager welcome they were hoping for from their customers following the three-month lockdown, The Manila Times reported.

A.Barbershop owner Austin Asprec, whom The Manila Times previously interviewed regarding the health and safety measures his business undertook to reopen, is disappointed. “We only opened last Thursday and business is pretty slow unlike pre-Covid days,” Asprec said.

The barbershop has not seen many of its longtime customers come in despite investments Asprec had made to bring the possibility of both workers and customers getting sick down to the absolute minimum. He installed partitions to ensure physical distancing is observed, purchased thermometers for use at the entrance and geared his staff in full personal protective equipment (PPE).

“It’s too soon to say, but hopefully things will improve over time,” he sighed.

Asprec admitted to The Times he was hesitant to reopen with the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) still lingering but was forced to do so after employees pleaded with him they needed to earn a living again.

Equally hesitant as Asprec is about the whole situation are many Filipinos who are scared of contracting Covid-19, given the kind of physical interaction haircuts require.

“I usually get my hair trimmed and colored on a regular basis, and I regularly go to waxing salons too, which remain close under GCQ,” Katarina dos Santos, a young professional living solo in Metro Manila, told The Manila Times.

A regular customer at a modest salon where she gets a haircut for less than P500, dos Santos said she was not willing to go to her suki salon, believing it would be teeming with customers.

“I think I’ll be skipping all of these services, even if they will all be allowed to open, until the end of the year. I’ll make do with DIY hair coloring kits and waxing sets at home so I don’t get exposed to too many people who’ll be going to the salons and eventually the spas,” she said.

Similarly, Ray Santiago, an overseas Filipino worker who now lives in Cebu, is determined not to go to a barbershop out of fear of the virus.

“My last haircut was way back on March 2, and I badly need to see a barber. But when I checked the shop near us and saw many people there the day they were allowed to open, I
backed out,” he told The Times in a phone interview.

Santiago prefers to have a relative give him a haircut, saving him from paying only P50 if he goes to the barbershop just to ensure he remains Covid-free.

Originally from Surigao but stranded in the Visayas when lockdowns were imposed, he said, “When I can finally get home to Surigao, hopefully this month, I’ll just ask my lola (grandmother), an expert haircutter, to do it for me.”

For salons and barbershops that fortunately saw an influx of customers in their first few days of reopening, they soon realized the busyness would be short lived.

“Nu’ng umpisa, marami-rami ‘yung dumating, pero pagkatapos nilang pagupit, hindi na sila balik ng balik tulad ng dati (At the start many came for a haircut but after that, we haven’t had many customers again. I guess they’d rather stay safe again),” said a staff of another salon-barbershop who requested anonymity. “Siguro hindi lang talaga nila kinaya ‘yung buhok nila na ganun kahaba, tapos ngayong maayos na, stay safe muna ulit sila (Maybe they could not withstand their long hair, but now that it’s groomed, they’re keeping safe anew).”

The same hairstylist added, “Wala din naman kasing puwedeng pagawa na iba kungdi gupit kaya wala din silang rason na bumalik (Since only haircuts are allowed, they also have no reason to come back for other services).

Kami Studio Salon in Katipunan, Quezon City, is taking the slow stride and has managed to assure customers it is safe to get their hair cut, not just once, but as often as they need.
One of their loyal patrons, Geline Sta. Maria, told The Times she was very satisfied with the salon’s health and safety protocols.

She said the salon required an appointment unlike before, and she needed to wait for confirmation.

“When they got me a slot, they called and told me I needed to bring my own towel and that no companions are allowed inside the salon,” Sta. Maria said.

When she came on her scheduled day, she appreciated going through a foot bath, thermal scanner and disinfection.

“They then gave me a plastic bag where I placed all my things. Only four customers were allowed inside, and at the time, I was the third. But within minutes, the other customers were done and had left already, so I was the only client on the floor,” she added.

She also approved of the complete PPE the staff is required to wear. Everyone wore a face shield, goggles, face mask, gloves and a hooded suit. The combs, scissors and pins came from a glass container filled with sanitizer, and they wrapped her in a disposable plastic cape rather than the usual reusable kind.

Moreover, the various parts of the salon were protected by plastic partitions, and the payment system lessened contact by using a tray between client and cashier and ready envelopes available for tips.

“Yes, I was iffy to get a haircut at first. But from what I’ve seen, I feel confident every visit will be safe. Hopefully other customers will be convinced too so we can all help revive our favorite salon,” Sta. Maria said.

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