(Ed. Note: Entrevista con Nata. In this section, our correspondent Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna will continue to share us his creamy and delectable stories, 100 % inspiring yet zero in fat.)
“SOSYAL KA! MAY TAGA-GUPIT KA!”
With this deadpan remark, I find myself giggling while nibbling the remaining meat on the bone of the chicken adobo Tita Baby has prepared for lunch for our interview today. She is telling the story about one Spanish guy who came to the parlor for a haircut. It was already closing time but the guy pleaded for consideration. Tita Baby let him in and agreed to cut his hair. The guy wanted to shave off his long locks. After several minutes, the long-haired twenty something lad was looking at a newly and shiny shaven dude in front of the mirror. Tita Baby was still wiping the hair off his clothes when the guy stood up and prepared to leave.
“Gracias.” Was the only word the man uttered as he walked towards the door.
“¡Que?!” Tita Baby shouted at him.
“Gracias.” The guy repeated and completely walked out of the parlor.
And the line “Sosyal ka! May pagupitan ka!” comes in here as Tita Baby shouted at the man. The man ignored her and Tita Baby decided not to run after him.
“Malaking tao siya eh.”
“Meron pa. May Pakistani nagpagupit. Hindi ‘ata nakontento sa ikli ng pagkagupit ko, ang sabi,…”¡Más…Más!”….iklian ko pa daw. Iniklian ko. Aba, hindi pa rin daw. “¡Más! ¡Más!” Sabi niya. “Un poquito más”. Eh di iniklian ko pa. Aba ayaw talaga…sabi , “No quiero, un poquito más”…mas maikli pa daw. Yung time na yun, may isang Pinay na nag-aantay. Nakaupo siya sa tabi namin. Hindi ‘ata napigilan at sobrang inip na…napamura, ang sabi …P_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _! Kahit anong ikli niyan , pangit pa rin ang itsura mo! Biglang lumingon ang Pakistani at nagsalita. “Hoy! Masama sabi mo ha!” Ayun nakakaintindi at nakakasalita pala siya ng konting Tagalog.”
At first glance, Tita Baby, a native of Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, doesn’t come off as bubbly and has a making of a good comedian. But once she starts telling anecdotes and bloopers at work, you can never doubt her impressive comic timing. Tita Baby considers herself lucky to own a beauty parlor. Owning one gives her the chance to meet all types of people and be in several funny situations. Every day is never a dull day for her. With a clientele of not only Pinoys, but also Spanish, Latinos, Moroccans and Pakistanis, she has gone a long long way since she first came here in Spain in 1996.
Tita Baby came to Spain 14 years ago. Not like most Pinoys who came to Spain alone, she did not have enough time to really feel homesick. After 45 days from her arrival, her husband followed soon. They were invited by her uncle to move to Barcelona who had already jobs waiting for them: she, in a relative’s take-away canteen and he, in a belt factory. Later on, she would also hold two jobs at the same time cleaning houses or babysitting children. In between extra jobs, she was busy cutting hair and painting nails of several Spanish clients. This is because Tita Baby has a talent in enhancing beauty, so to speak. However, being a freelance beautician was not that lucrative. She tried working as a stay-in house staff for one year together with her husband.
But her heart really belongs to beauty. Determined to continue doing what she does best, she used up all her savings and rented a space in Calle Vicente and transformed it into her first ever beauty salon. Everything went fine. She was earning 30,000 pts., about 150 euros per month. While running the salon, she didn’t give up her other job. She went back working at her relative’s take away canteen in the morning and would dash to her parlor in the afternoon. She hired an Ecuadoran guy to be her assistant. This went on for seven years. On the seventh year, due to some permit technicalities from the city hall she was forced to move her parlor to another place which has been the current location of the Master Cut Filipino Hair Salon in Calle Erasme de Janer for six years now. Master Cut is one of the few successful Pinoy beauty salons in the city.
It was in high school that Tita Baby realized that she has a gift in enhancing beauty. She showed so much interest in cutting hair and painting nails. As the youngest of eight siblings, she got her training from her elder sisters. She recalls how difficult it was for her first days in Barcelona servicing her clients. She had to be imaginative to follow what her clients wanted. With her then pidgin Spanish, she used photos and a lot of sign language to convey her suggestions to them. And it worked. She has now numerous loyal clients from different nationalities. In fact, for her faithful Catalan Señoras, she is no longer their mere hairdresser. They treat her as if she were their daughter; buying her chorizo, telling her family gossips and never forget to stop by just to say “¡Hola!”
“Nakakataba ng puso. Nakakatuwa. Malambing ang mga matatandang Espanyola. Pero siempre mas masarap din ang mga suking Pinoy. May free food ka paminsan-minsan.”
She too has her way of giving goodwill back to her loyal clients by her parlor’s promos like free cut for a wax service or hair coloring. She also once hired a dance instructor to teach ballroom dancing at weekends. But it was just a short-lived gimmick. The dance session attracted people alright so much so that there was no more room for real clients. As some only came to watch the dance class.
“Importante sa akin ang mga kliyente ko. Ako, sinasabi ko sa kliyente ko, kung ayaw ninyo sa gupit ko, okay lang sa akin. Pwede kayong pumunta sa iba. Kung nagustuhan ninyo at bumalik kayo, masaya ako. Pero hindi ako maninira ng kapwa ko para lang makakuha ng mga kliyente.”
But owning a beauty parlor did not only teach Tita Baby to show goodwill to her clients but also taught her to be tough in handling sneaky and shrewd ones.
“Dalawang beses na nangyari sa akin na magpapagupit tapos sasabihin hindi raw nila nagustuhan at saka tatayo at hindi magbabayad. Aba hindi pwede yan. Mga Moroccans na babae. Pumupunta dito at yun talagang kung lulusot, lulusot. Dati siguro pepwede pero ngayon hindi na. Kaya nitong huli, nagpa-unat ng buhok, aba nung naunat na, biglang tatayo. Sasabihing hindi raw ako marunong gumupit. Hindi raw maganda. Ang ginawa ko hinawakan ko sa balikat at pinigilan kong makaalis, sabi ko “ Maupo ka! Antayin mong matuyo ang buhok mo! At magbayad ka! Kung hindi ipapupulis kita.”
With this, the woman stayed put and paid for the haircut. Tita Baby now knows how to deal with this situation where her coolness and patience are challenged by individuals who just want to fool her.
“Mabait akong tao. Meron mga kababayan ng mga Moroccans na kung minsan nagsasabi, oy, pwede bang five euros na lang. Eto lang pera ko. Pumapayag ako. Okay lang sa akin nagsasabi. Hindi yung aayusan mo tapos sasabihin hindi daw maganda. Ibang usapan na yun.
Everything she worked hard for was for the future of her children. With this motivation in her heart, after four years, her wish was granted. She was able to get her two children in 2000.
“Nagdadalawang-isip pa ako nung pumunta ako dito. Maiiwan ko ang mga anak ko. Yung parlor ko. Pero inisip ko ang future nila kaya nagdesisyon akong pumunta dito at talagang nagtiyaga para sa kanilang kinabukasan.”
Yes, she is also active in the Filipino Community in Barcelona. In fact, she is a member of Emprendedores Pinoy and Aficat (Asociación Filipino-Catalan) groups in Barcelona. She actively participates in the annual Independence Day celebration wherein she sells Filipino food at the event.
“Tumulong ako pag nangangailangan ng tulong. Walang problema sa akin yan.”
In the future, Tita Baby is eyeing a karaoke bar in the Philippines or another branch of her parlor in Barcelona or perhaps a bar/restaurant for her children. But this will be in a not so far future. At the moment, she is enjoying all the blessings that God has given her. Her family, her friends and her business.
“Sipag at tiyaga lang. Yan ang panlaban ko dito. Laging kong sinasabi, para sa mga anak ko lahat ng sakripisyo ko. Awa ng Diyos, nagbunga naman ng maganda.”
Gifted by her charisma, a generous heart and estimable talent, Pinoys in Barcelona are not only lucky but also SOSYAL PA, MAY TAGA-GUPIT SILA tulad ni Tita Baby!
PHOTOS BY FREDA CHANGAT