A Barber, a Cow

Way back in 2010, a barber sought out Ah Kong and narrated a story with a strange twist.

He was Lolo Piskay, barber, aged 80, the time he talked with Ah in a café in Baguio City that 2010. He retired from barbering. But an incident remained from the many years of his cutting hair and shaving beards, that he never forgot.

Before Piskay narrated his story, he extracted a promise from Ah that Ah must one day tell about the barber’s story.

Although feeble with age when he told his story, Piskay’s mind was sharp, sharper than Ah’s enfeebled mind. Piskay merely wanted remembered as Lolo.

Piskay passed away and now in the Happy Barber Shop in the Sky. Ah stands by that promise. Here’s what happened:

Way back in the early 60’s and 70’s in remote village in Nueva Viscaya, Piskay happened to be the only barber in said village.

Now, during those times, cutting someone’s hair or shaving beard in villages can be done anywhere with good shade from the sun, like under a mango tree, in a veranda, below a vacant space of a house standing far up the ground, on the fields.

You may say Piskay was considered a man of importance. Why? Well, by the very fact that he was familiar with all the heads and chins of people in his village, particularly the males.

Besides a scissor and a fine-toothed comb, his chief instrument was a sharp razor, something he wielded absolutely, but with a regard as to safety and welfare of the persons he shaved.

Siyemple naman, ah! Ikaw ba hawak ng matalim na labaha, eh?

Readers, may as well say in many labors for amelioration of other people, you, daily laborers, have aimed to convince the understanding and divines to touch the heart in the pursuit of work.

In like manner that Piskay concentrated himself, labored for the heads and chins and pursued his vocation with as little bloodshed as possible. How’s that?

He made sure wielding the razor blade, he never cut ears, chin or throat of customers. There never was anyone he sliced.

But if he was adept with a razor, he, also had this deathly fear of cows. Yet, on the other hand, he loved goats and raised plenty of them.

We might say Lolo Peskay possessed a queer characteristic.

Oh, Piskay was ok yakking with customers while cutting hair or shaving them, but alas, never developed the comfortable practice of sitting back and whispering sweet nothings to an animal, like a cow for example.

It also happened, in their village was a rich farmer, identified by Piskay as Cortes.

Cortes was industrious, labored on his farm like a man possessed. But if Cortes made lotsa money by farming, he also possessed queer characteristics.

One, he had an attitude of letting loose his pack of dogs on farm animal that strayed on his landholdings.

Second, Cortes was believed madly in love with his hair, having it trimmed and groomed it regularly.  A joke in their village has it that Cortes loved his hair more than he loved his wife.

Third, Cortes had this “fit of anger” of fining (multa) anybody he thought caused him wrong. Madly in love with money, money he will get, and damn the consequence.

It happened one day the goats of Piskay ventured into Cortes’ farmland and the dreaded thing happened.  Cortes let loose his dogs of war and in the melee that ensued, five of Peskays goats were slain, their throats slashed from dog fangs.

Villagers frowned upon Cortes. But Piskay’s feelings were hurt more than anyone. He filed a complaint in their barangay.

“Siyempre met ah,” villagers wagged their tongues, “Sika man ket maam-muwam nga ti taraken a kalding mo ket linapa dagiti aso ni Cortes a baknang? Nu di ka ag-pungtot? Ammo pay!”

The day Cortes allowed his dogs to savage Piskay’s goats was also the day he stopped seeing Piskay for a haircut and shave.

Villagers joked, “Ti salbag a Cortes ta mabuteng agpapukis ta baka ketdin pingasan ni Piskay ti maysa a lapayag na!”

Piskay swore to Ah when he told his story he never harbored any ill-thought of cutting any ear, chin or throat of Cortes, although admitted he was sorely disappointed in Cortes.

A day arrived when Cortes was asked to stand as one of “ninong” in a   couple’s “kasar,” or “kasal” as Tagalogs say it.

So, Cortes was forced to go to Piskay for haircut, to look presentable in church as ninong.

Hesitation crawling up his throat, Cortes timidly asked Piskay for hair trimming. Piskay held his peace and   obliged.

Piskay was exercising his barber functions, when, a cow tethered    on the fields, unloosened its ropes and headed towards their direction.

Piskay’s back was turned towards the cow. The four-footed animal stealthily approached them. Then with its wet nose, the cow unceremoniously kissed the cheek of Piskay then let out a long and mournful moo.

Imagine Piskay’s reaction. Feeling something wet kissing his cheek and hearing a blasting sound near his ears, Piskay metamorphosed into a shrieking woman.

In the course of his frantic jumping, the razor in his hand travelled erratically and cut slightly cut the ear of Cortes.

Cortes leapt from his feet. Bleeding and breathing vengeance he went towards their village, raising hullabaloo as he went.

Villagers were in a quandary as variety of contradictory rumors spread thick and fast. One rumor circulated that indeed, Piskay exacted vengeance for his goats with “the stroke of a razor blade.”

But those who knew Piskay’s hearty disposition defended the old man. They, too, circulated a rumor.

They said origin of the quarrel between the two started with Cortes having a dread of baldness, as indicative of age. Cortes in fact, had a problem of hair vanishing at the top of his head.

In the course of having his hair cut, Cortes asked Piskay if hair at his top have grown thicker. Natcherly, Piskay answered no.

Then, Piskay jokingly hinted it may be judicious if Cortes parts with his money for their farmer’s cooperative since “he certainly would leave the earth without hair on his top.”

Thereupon, Cortes’ “fit of anger” boiled. He threw a punch at Piskay. In reflex action, Piskay parried, with his hand that held the razor blade.  But his parrying hand went further down and the razor nipped Cortes’ right ear.

That’s how those defended Piskay.

Cortes, had in truth, sustained very little injury, wound merely nip in the ear. But not satisfied having his injury dressed by a municipal doctor, he filed a complaint before their Lupon Tagapayapa, intending to claim monetary damage.

Before he filed, Cortes sought advice from a lawyer, although he didn’t retain that lawyer’s service.

Now, in Ah’s opinion, there’s this niggling suspicion that sometimes there may be a lawyer who profit by black eyes and bloody noses. But then, as a whole, lawyers refuse to receive a penny for a cause they believe in and fight for.  Why so?

See here. The lawyer whom Cortes asked for advice told the rich farmer he was shamefully, scandalously and barbarously nearly killed. The lawyer’s advice was exaggerated, of course.

During hearing at the Lupon Tagapayapa. Cortes dwelt upon the value of ears, maintaining he couldn’t get his bread without his ears.

Piskay rebutted, saying Cortes had been deaf in the right ear for years, and asked the Lupon Tagapayapa, “what amount of damage is Cortes asking when fact remains he’s deaf in the right ear, it being useless, even at this hearing?”

Lupon Tagapayapa then asked Piskay: produce a witness. “It’s not in my power to produce the only witness of the fray in which the action had originated, namely, the cow,” Piskay told the Lupon Tagapayapa.

“Why?” the Lupon Tagapayapa demanded.

“The summon couldn’t be served because the cow – that started all the ruckus anyway –   was sold by the owner and made into beef,” Piskay revealed. In short, the cow was butchered for food.

Piskay was able to establish, too, that he suffered from bovinophobia, or fear of cows or cattle, that reduced him into a cowering human being at the time of the incident.

In the end, Lupon Tagapayapa gave a decision. Its verdict? Cortes was instructed to instead give two cows as repayment for loss of Piskay’s goats, the very animals that Piskay dreaded in life.


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