"Kwentong Barbero" -- My Barber is 93 Years Old
My regular barber is now 93 years old. And he still comes to give haircuts.
Manong Rey Cabacar celebrated his 90th birthday three years ago at Harborside Hotel in Oxon Hill, with more than 300 well-wishers in attendance -- including distant family members who came from afar for the occasion, friends in the community, and some fellow Filipino-American veterans of World War II.
His four children honored him with that big party at which they lovingly spoke about their father, extolled his virtues as husband, father, grandfather, and recalled memories of his sacrifices for their family. His grandchildren also gave loving tributes to their grandfather. In all these, they at the same time talked lovingly about their mother and grandmother, his wife Carolina of 63 years. Manong Rey was visibly touched by his family's glowing tribute to him and to his wife, and could not contain his emotions. In his speech, he acknowledged the two women who shaped his life: his mother and his wife (his number one, he said). I believe he was the happiest man in Fort Washington that day.
The barbershop is not simply a place where one gets a haircut. When you sit in the barber's chair and the barber uses his clipper and scissors to make you more handsome (hopefully), you often get to engage in conversation with him, about current events and things. You get to know him more than his being a barber. He can give you more than a glimpse of his life story, and even bits of practical wisdom, and can share the beauty of his faith, as Manong Rey often does.
To be successful in life one does not have to have a college degree or practice a higher profession (no one has the license to turn your head around except a barber). Manong Rey is a successful man, even by ordinary worldly standards. He really does not have to give haircuts to support himself and his beloved wife in retirement.
At the party, we learned his family was poor as his parents were both "no read-no write" people. As a teenager, he walked 32 miles to the U.S. Navy Base to fulfill his dream. After the Navy, he worked with a couple of federal agencies and retired. Even if the U.S. government takes care of its personnel well in their retirement, he put up a barbershop that gave employment to some people. At that birthday event, he also received in advance a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, an award finally given to Filipinos who fought under the American flag during World War II.
But Manong Rey does not feel that it is only these career accomplishments that define his life and success. Sometimes he would disappear for weeks from his barbershop. The other barbers would say he went to his native province in the Philippines to check on the construction of a school building which he donated to a poor barrio, or to give a donation to his former parish church, and to poorer relatives. When he came back he would tell me about the needs of the barrio children, and about his desire to help more. There are also charitable causes in our community which he immediately and willingly contributes to when his help is solicited. He could never say no to worthy appeals for help. Instead of a birthday gift he suggested that his well-wishers contribute to the FilVetREP, an organization that works for Filipino veterans and their families.
Manong Rey is one of the founders of the Mrs. Philippines Senior Citizens Home in Oxon Hill. For many decades now, it is the home of elderly men and women who need affordable housing. The home serves not only elderly Filipinos but people of other races.
Manong Rey does not forget the Source of his blessings and he is grateful. He is always present at the 8:00 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. Columba where he also serves as an usher welcoming church-goers, passing the offertory collection basket, and distributing the Church bulletin after Mass with a smile. (This was before the pandemic. )
"Friendly" is the name of Manong Rey's barbershop. That name aptly describes him. He is friendly, not only to his customers but also to other people, especially those in need.
Rey Cabacar's story is the story of a dreamer who fulfilled his dream. It is one of hard work, love for family, service to those in need, service to country, and above all, of faith in God and of service to Him. It is the story of a man who knows how to give back.
We each have our own life story. But there is a least common denominator in them. It is that our life and all life's blessings are gifts from God. And for these, we owe Him honor, praise, and thanksgiving. . .
. . . and by sharing . . . #
"All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change." James 1:17
"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34
"Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" Luke 17:17