Wednesday 16 May 2018

Picture Post 68 - Tagbilaran's Tailor and Barber Shop, a postcard from the Philippines

Tagbilaran is a major town in the Philippines on the Visayan island of Bohol. A town of over 100,000 inhabitants, it is a busy place with a great indoor market, some beautiful ancestral homes and easy access to the historical churches and natural sites on rest of the island. 

During my recent stay in the Philippines I spent a few days in and around Bohol. When walking in Tagbilaran I noticed a sign advertising an unusual business combination - Syvel's Clothier and Barber Shop. I have only come across this combination once before, several years ago when I had a haircut in a dry cleaners' shop in Nandi, Fiji. Syvel's is an open fronted establishment and as I passed there was no-one in the front of the shop. I went in anyway to see if anyone would appear and a man came from behind a curtain to tell me that the barber had gone to eat but would be back soon. 

The curtain separated the salon from what at first looked like a family living room. Three young people, two teenagers and one little girl, were sitting at a table enjoying their lunch. They smiled and said good afternoon as if it was perfectly normal for a stranger to be there. There were also two men on the other side of the room, both of them sitting at sewing machines. They also greeted me before resuming their work. The first man invited me in to wait and we chatted briefly, him teasing me about whether or not I was looking for a wife. I told him I was only looking for a haircut but there was something else I would like. I am fascinated by the tailoring profession. It is an ancient, portable skill, disappearing in the west but still important in many parts of the world. One of the tailors was wearing a Tarsier t-shirt and sitting in front of a red curtain which was decorated with yellow flowers. The colourful backdrop and jolly t-shirt brightened the room which was otherwise devoid of natural light. Of course, I wanted to photograph him. He was happy to oblige. 

At this point the barber returned and showed me to the chair. Friends know that cutting my hair is not a big job but in the 15 minutes it took him to "tidy me up" as he said, he gave me a rundown on English football, Filipino basketball and one or two other sporting matters. I've been to barbers' shops in many parts of the world and almost all of them want to talk about English football. I grew up in Middlesbrough so football has no interest for me. As I was about to leave the first man reappeared and asked me to take his picture together with the barber. So I did and they were happy. 

You might also like Picture Post 66 - Faces of the Philippines.

You can see more pictures from the Philippines here.

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