Ask a Filipino-run beauty salon in Bandar for an appointment on a Sunday! Most likely you will be asked to come down some other day unless you are working. On Sundays, the beauty salons open at 7 am to cater to Filipinos ammas (house helps). Since the beautician was leaving for a holiday, she granted me a Sunday appointment. I am glad that she did it because I got to witness so much hustle-bustle and laughter in otherwise quiet salon.
A beautician’s salon is a place for many ammas to gather, get their hair and nails fixed and catch up with others. Just like their work, they are also impeccable when it comes to their hair and nails. They have mid-back to long hair. Very rarely I have seen them with short hair or bob hair. Wearing jeans and platform like sandals, you just cannot miss noticing ammas. When I reached the beauty salon at 9 am, there were already few of them enjoying cakes and rice and meat. Also, there was a constant flux of them coming in and going out. I guess the food was prepared and brought in by the beautician itself. Seemed like her treat to her loyal Filipino customers every Sunday. the salon looked like a happening place. One of them went out and bought sodas. When other received a call, she put her on speakerphone for everyone to hear. They all burst out laughing when they heard the other person on the call. Looked like she was lost and was asking where they were! They mostly spoke in their language which I did not understand but I felt they were having a good time talking and sharing things among themselves. They were all so well mannered that I had to ask my beautician if some of them were officers!
One of them brought out a pair of new shoes and other tried them on. The same lady slid a packet of tablets in the beautician’s pocket, indicating it was free of charge. She was also talking about her (imitation) Bonia bag with other friends. I guess these small gatherings also serve a hotspot of mini-businesses among them. There were some bits of advice also thrown around such as rubbing a peeled onion on nails is a remedy for fungus. When I complimented one of them on her dress, she mentioned she got it for $2 in Pasar Malam.
I have all my admiration and respect for these working Filipino women workers. Most of them share an apartment with other Filipino workers. They earn somewhere in the range of 500-600 BND a month. They pay a rent of 80-100$. They are always available to help out each other by offering a small amount of money or suggesting their fellow worker potential employers. When they go on a leave, they provide a replacement. They are a close-knit immigrant community with a high level of trust among them that ensures the replacement will give back her job on her return.
I felt very proud when my beautician broke the news that she was going to be the owner of her own salon after she comes back from holidays. She also showed me the place which was just opposite of her current workplace, her new salon going to be. She said she has a big client base and she will thrive on that. She hopes to earn three times (She was paid 450BND +10 % commission) what she earns now working for someone. Although I have been going to her salon for more than two years, today I found her addressing me with my name whenever she had to ask me something. I joked about it that today she remembered my name. She also softly touched my shoulders when I left the salon showing warmth. I guess the ownership suddenly elevated her.