HIS name is Nong. Actually, that is short for Manong. In the Philippines, it’s the accepted conventional title in the local dialects one uses when addressing an elder brother, uncle or any older person. In other words, to be safe, because I do not really know his real name, I just go with Nong as a sign of respect. As far as I know, everyone else does too, and this leads me to believe they do not know his real name either.
Prior to the quarantine period that started in 2020, Nong or Manong used to be my barber when he managed his own little barbershop along the main road of our subdivision. Unfortunately, it closed shop during the early months of last year’s quarantine when people stopped going out, much less have a haircut.
Anyway, I met him once again on the street the other day, after not seeing him for about a year. Probably in his late 70s now, Nong walked with a somewhat tired and slow slide, always staring up ahead and not ever looking down. If one saw him for the first time, one could say his silent walk (or glide) was quite comical to look at, like that of a mime in real life.
In the past, whenever I would visit him in his shop or chance upon him on the street, I would always jokingly ask what naughty things had he been up to lately. That had become our own private joke, one which started when, I once caught him meticulously combing his hair and then sheepishly admitting to me later that he was going “a-courting” some widow down the road.
At every ribbing thereafter, Nong would merely just smile and in a soft-spoken manner, make an excuse about any small chore in the house that needed mending. On our occasional road encounters, even with his slow gait, he’d always be a milli-step ahead, proceeding to open up the shop in the same slow manner as he had gotten there. Everything was slow motion with Nong. I remember once, when I brought my son for a haircut, he narrated when we got home that he had almost fallen asleep and off the chair because the barber had been too slow.
This most recent chance meeting had become something of barometer as to how far we have both fared in the last years of the pandamay. For his part, he said that it had been the proper time to visit his relatives in the province where it was also much safer, Covid-wise. So-so had been my own update, stating that we had opted to stay home instead throughout the duration of 2020 and only venturing out once in a while, when regulations were finally eased.
I told him though that I really missed the iconic barbershop conversations we had with other clients in the past. The barbershop scene had always been the favorite of memes and art subjects like that of works from Norman Rockwell to other visual artists. On the local scene, we’ve even a saying “kwentong barbero”, Barbers’ tales which convey what other type of conversation transpires within the confines of limited space like that of a barbershop. In other words, a tiny social study suddenly limited because of one tiny bug. Nong might merely just be a player in all these, as I am. But thinking back again, meeting him once more has made me miss those unbridled laughter we’ve all had, even as someone has got us by the hair.
HONORING MY MOTHER
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