Sunday, May 23, 2010


(The below story was posted in a company's sports club newsletter)

As a regular customer, I used to go in my favorite barbershop in our barrio to have my hair cut in the traditional service. The years were 1990s where I was still working in one of the country’s top bank and yes, although it was in the 90’s where the so called hair saloons were booming during those times but I usually go to barber shop in a barrio. The typical barber shop in a barrio usually has the old man doing the hair cutting with his scissor and thin knife called razor. While the regular bystanders who are in their mid-life used to read the daily tabloids and the oldies are spending their free times playing chess or dama, there are hypothetical lessons to learn in going to barbershop and watching the chess games.

Most of the times when I go to the barber shop and wait my turn to sit in the barber chair, I had the chance to watch the two old men who used to be the most distinguishing chess players because of their humorous disputes and arguments. There is the 75-year old silver gray hair and veteran of war who still stands straight although he is suffering cough every time he laughs. And the other one is the 70-year old one-tooth skinny man who has a mid-wife daughter and believed to have amulet for long life although he looks sickly because of his prolong addiction in tobacco. The two old men are undeniably great players and their rivalry over the game of chess and exchanges of opinion continues every morning which brings unfading entertainment in the barber shop.

From the first move of the white pawn to checkmating the opposing King, the two old players comically talk the facts and rumors from different current issues. They capitalized their manipulative minds in moving their each sixteen pieces to save the King which actually characterize and represent their points of view about the issues. Their cunning moves were carefully done while expressing their satirical opinions ranging from politics, business, religion and even showbiz issues – these polish their wisdom which make the listening and watching customers laugh, nod and learn. Much of the entertainment are their stories that they are bringing back during the times of World War II and American Liberation, the untold stories during the frightful Martial Law and the compelling People’s Power in EDSA. One time, the war veteran sarcastically remarked on the government that as the most powerful man in the country, the leader must be by all times and by all means fight for the interest of the state – at any cause. And he’s done, he has able to checkmate the black King. Whatever he meant by at any cause, he made to win which the puzzling onlookers responded laughing – I did not know if there was cheating, but surely there were the popular winner and the funny looser on that day.

The chess play of the two old men is a miniature of our true to life battle. Reading between the lines of their argues, more than the satire stories of the two old men while playing the chess are lessons that really outline the structures of our daily situation. The chess play of the two old men intervenes in the real life situation. Because life is like chess, we are moving according to our roles in achieving our goals. We are playing the role of the pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, and the queen or the king – each role has its own weight of control, supremacy, authority and power. Great power is great responsibility. In playing chess, the responsibility of protecting your Kingdom lies in your powerful mind. One wrong move could lead to collapse your army. In life, no matter how great you did in the past you will be only as good as your last deed.

Today, the barber shops in the barrios rarely exist. Like the barber shops in the barrio, the two old men are no longer visible as myself is no longer going in the shop for my hair cut in the traditional way. The two old men may have gone in the shop but time will always have story of the two old men playing chess in different place and different time.

Alex V. Villamayor
June 2009

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