Who said Korean hairstyle is already passe?
MANILA -- There are at least five Korean salons operating in the area near P. Burgos St in Makati alone, which could only mean Filipinos are not yet over the crazy spikes and ombre colors their Korean friends love.
And Makati is just one of many places in the Philippines invaded by the pop culture of Korea.
Deep in the recesses of Makati Palace Hotel is O2 Professional Hair Salon, owned by the husband-and-wife tandem of "hair directors" Kevin Kim and Sophia Park, who each have at least 20 years of styling hair to their names.
Kim explained that there are four levels to the hierarchy, with hair director being the highest and most coveted.
During my visit there, Kim – despite his limited English language – was the cool and jolly guy talking about his craft. It took him more than an hour to snip and clean the ends of my hair to target the flow he wanted.
He pulled clamps of my hair up and down, left to right, I couldn’t count how many times he did it. I described him as meticulous, but Kim shrugged it off, saying there is a type of cutting for every type of hair.
“The problem with some stylists here is that they only do a bit of snipping, in one direction,” he said.
So why did he and his wife transfer to the Philippines? Kim said they only wanted the best education for their two daughters, who are both in elementary. The best English education (and Chinese, in addition) can be obtained here, he said.
Kim may have limited English speaking skills, but he sure knows how to listen and asks the customer a second time to repeat the sentence so he could understand. Thanks to a friend, Stella Lee, who was there to also have her hair done, the communication was effortless.
The customer doesn’t even have to talk as Kim knows his job – what works for the face shape, feel of the hair, etc.
But for the nervous customer, he whips out his iPad and shows the client numerous photos of hairstyles to choose from.
Park, who did another friend’s hair, is more on the silent side. This charming lady’s smile will easily make the customer relax, however.
I was lucky enough to also get a taste Park’s homemade kimchi. In the hands of a professional stylist, the kimchi was also divine. And I wasn’t even a big fan of kimchi.
Amid all that chit-chat, I did not even notice the almost five hours of hair styling process flash by.
Kim and Park even managed to cut and style the hair of three more customers while waiting for the perming gunk settle on my hair. Besides an assistant, it’s only the couple in the salon.
The digital perm process I had wasn’t even back breaking. In other salons I’ve tried, the clamps on the octopus-like machine they attach to the hair’s curls were heavy, I had to support my nape.
I even got to eat chips from a nearby Korean store. But I had to respect Kim’s work, I managed to keep my head still.
Kim only had to prompt me to run as fast as I can toward the sink to shower the gunk off my hair. “I don’t want it damaged by exposing it a few more seconds,” he said.
A few more heating and showering, I finally had the curls I wanted -- and the shine to boot.
I can only heave a sigh of relief when Kim said I can already shower my hair in 24 hours, unlike in other salons where one has to wait around two to three days for the perm gunk to set.
But more than the experience, it was the friendly atmosphere that sets it off from the other salons.
Kim was adamant on how I should keep the life of my curls. “Twirl the curls around the finger two times only, don’t keep on twisting them,” he said.
At the end of the process, we were already like long-lost friends.