Hope and style: Sampung Libong Pag-asa uplifts barber amid pandemic

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Taking on the pandemic is one thing. Getting through it with style is another.

Ernie Santillan, a barber from Navotas City, happens to be an expert in grooming and style for his neighbors and loyal patrons.

While he does not have his own barbershop, he would use any open space and transform it into his very own grooming station.

 “Ang ginagawa ko tuwing umaga, ganito po. Naglalabas na po ako ng gamit, kasi wala naman po talaga akong puwesto. Naglalabas lang ako ng gamit,” he said. “Yung mga customer po, sila na lang po ang pumupunta sa puwesto ko.” 

(In the morning, I would bring my equipment outside because I don’t have my own barbershop. I bring my things outside and my customers would come to my place.)

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Santillan earned between P300 and P500 per day. When the virus hit early last year, movement restrictions forced barber shops and personal care services to close down.

But for Santillan, the word “surrender” did not exist in his dictionary. One opportunity would eventually turn his fortune around.

On August 10, 2021, he was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s Sampung Libong Pag-asa program, which seeks to provide P10,000 each to the pandemic-stricken households.

Noong natanggap ko po yung P10,000, inisip ko po talaga yung mga dapat kong bilhin. Umorder ako ng rechargeable na razor, nagkakahalaga po siya ng P1,950. Tapos po, yung spray, hindi ko na rin po alam kung magkano,” Santillan said.

(When I received that P10,000, I thought about how I should spend it. I ordered a rechargeable razor that cost around P1,950. Then, I bought a spray. I can’t remember how much that cost me.)

The said cash aid made it possible for Santillan to improve his income and even surpass his pre-pandemic earnings. 

Ngayon po na nagkaroon na po ako ng mga sariling gamit, kagaya po ng rechargeable na razor, naging maalwan po yung paggupit ko. Ngayon, kahit papaano, kumikita ako ng P500-700 o P600, depende po sa dagsa ng customer,” he said.

(Now that I have my own equipment, like this rechargeable razor, making a living out of cutting hair became more comfortable for me. Now, I am able to earn between P500-P700 or P600, depending on how many customers come to see me.)

Aside from buying himself some new equipment, Santillan used the remainder of his cash aid to support his family and their basic needs.

Yung iba naman po, talagang nagamit din sa pang araw-araw, gawa ng minsan po ay talagang walang pumapasok na kita,” he said. “Yung kinikita ko po sa araw-araw na paggupit, iyon po ang panggastos namin sa araw-araw.”

(I used the remainder for our daily needs, because there are days when we don’t earn anything. What I earn from cutting hair, I use it for our daily needs.)

Launched on May 1, the Sampung Libong Pag-asa campaign took off from the advocacy of Cayetano’s 10K Ayuda Bill, which seeks to distribute cash aid to Filipino families to help them purchase their basic needs and revive their sources of income amid the ongoing pandemic.

Around 100 beneficiaries, most of whom are pandemic-weary parlor workers, were announced during the program’s episode on Saturday, December 4, 2021. 

Beneficiaries included 40 pre-selected recipients, 25 commenters on the program’s Facebook livestream, and 25 random beneficiaries from the host’s tablet. 

The episode was led by Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani Cayetano, one of the proponents of the Sampung Libong Pag-asa initiative.  

To date, the program has reached more than 14,000 beneficiaries across the country.

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