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The First Pandemic Year: JURO On Learning, Adapting, And Resilience

The First Pandemic Year: JURO On Learning, Adapting, And Resilience

Beauty | March 30, 2021
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Take a trip down memory lane as husband and wife tandem of JURO, Jude Hipolito and Rose Velasco, share their experiences and lessons during the pandemic then and now.

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2020 started off just like it always had for the past two decades—working on clients the day after New Year, with spillovers of clients for JURO Salon who were unable to come during the December holidays, as well as of some out-of-the-country regulars who get their hair done prior to flying back to their respective countries.

Our busy schedule continued until we flew off to our usual after-the-holiday break in Los Angeles for a few weeks to attend a three-day International Salon and Spa Exhibition and to watch the North American Hairstyling Awards in Long Beach, California.

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After that, we were officially on vacation! We remember driving to Long Beach one early foggy Sunday morning on January 26—down the 405 South Freeway—when we heard on the news that Kobe Bryant, along with daughter Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash.

Pre-lockdown, 2020

Perhaps that was a premonition of events to come last 2020. Thus, we shortened our usual three-week trip to two weeks. We flew back to Manila in the first week of February, wearing our N-95 masks during the flight where about half of the passengers did the same.

February went on as usual. We accommodated our backlog of back-to-back JURO clients—some of whom came from out-of-town, while others from other countries and provinces—as soon as we landed. As ambassadors of L’Oreal Professionnel Philippines, we had so many events and trips—both nationwide and international in 2020—which were all canceled due to the global pandemic.

Concurrently, while handling JURO clients, we were preparing our hair models for our Look-and-Learn show at the Hair Asia March 10th event at the World Trade Center, Manila. Additionally, we were also supposed to be judges for the Hair Asia 30th National Open Championships. But a few days later, on March 15th, the entire Metro Manila and Luzon were placed in lockdown—enhanced community quarantine and strict home quarantine, that is until April 13th.

JURO Under Strict Home Quarantine

Prior to this strict home quarantine lockdown, we had very busy morning-until-night schedules. But all of a sudden, everything came to a complete halt.

We weren’t really used to not doing anything. Plus, our work is not really the kind of job that you can work from home. Thus, Rose kept herself busy by doing all types of house cleaning, cooking. She even got into a plantita phase with her garden.

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I, on the other hand, just stayed in our bedroom, watching both local and global news about COVID-19: the symptoms to watch out for, news that the hospitals are full, and the like. No Black Lives Matter, no brush fires, no Trump-Biden—just news about COVID-19, 24/7.

The next thing I knew, I was asking Rose to take my temperature every 15 minutes because my throat started getting itchy. I felt like sneezing and coughing, plus I was getting headaches and sleeping at 3 AM every night. Turns out that for the first time in my life, I experienced anxiety.

Anxiety And Pain Amid The Lockdown

To make matters worse, on the third week of lockdown, when I’d usually do nothing and just watch COVID-related news, I woke up one morning and could not get up. My back froze and I felt extreme pain in my lower back—as if a nerve was being pinched. Pain shot up to my lower neck every time I tried to move. This was the first time in my life I experienced something like this—I was helplessly immobilized.

Rose was panicking and didn’t know what to do. She asked if I wanted to be taken to the hospital. Of course, I said, “no,” especially with all the news going around that if you catch COVID-19 there, no one can visit you. In the worst-case scenario, if you die, you’ll be returned to your family in an urn. And I didn’t want that.

The pain continued on for several agonizing days, especially at night. I’d always worry that this might be permanent and if so, it would mean that I will never be able to cut and do hair again, which would also mean early retirement. And I can’t even move during retirement. This sucks!

Of Answered Prayers And Learnings

Tears ran down my eyes and I’ve never prayed to God as deep in my life as I did during that time. I made several promises between Him and me.

The next day, I still couldn’t move. It was during that time when L’Oreal called us and asked if we could do a Facebook live talk on positivity since the hairdressers in the Philippines were on lockdown and were not doing anything. Positivity—that’s what I needed as well during that time. We then asked if we could do this after a couple of weeks, hoping that by then, my back would be better.  

Eventually, I called my neuro-muscular therapist, Lib Wong, and asked if he was in his clinic. Of course, he wasn’t. He advised me though to put an ice pack on my lower back several times a day and once the pain decreases, I could start alternating with heat and ice packs.

After seven days, I was finally able to stand up. But like a 100-year old rice farmer, I could only stand and walk at a 90-degree bent angle. Oh, this still sucked, but I was happy that I could somehow stand and move. I continued to place ice and heat packs until the pain was gone and I could finally walk straight. What. An. Ordeal.

I learned a lot of important lessons during those first three weeks: one, do not listen to bad news 24/7. Two, never be idle. Do something—anything—just do not do nothing. I’ll remember this especially when I retire. Three, use this time to spend real quality time with family, reconnect with friends, find ways to inspire others, and improve ourselves. And four, have faith in Him! Plus, I remembered all the promises I made during that time!

Keeping Busy During ECQ

We were waiting for news on the quarantine status every two weeks from April until June. Meantime, our JURO clients kept calling us to reschedule their appointments for months, which caused a lot of anxiety for us. Editors kept asking for DIY cut and color tips and we held our position to just wait for their hairdressers until salons re-open.

Are people going anywhere? All meetings are online Zoom meetings anyway. “Just wear a cap or a bandana,” I’d tell them. People would understand. Worse, if you make a mistake on your DIY cut and/or color, it becomes corrective work and will be harder for hairdressers to fix—not to mention, very costly.

During that time, Rose and I conducted online Facebook Live seminars on “Stand for Pros: Pro-Positivity,” master classes on “Precision Cutting and “French Balayage,” and “Say It You’re your Hair: MajiFashion Ash Pure”.

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Additionally, we appeared in “Limitless”, a Facebook Live with L’Oreal Pro and Le Couleur, as well as in Le Couleur’s videos, which were both viewed by thousands of Filipino hairdressers here and abroad. We also continued to review, study and learn at home—from various sanitation and safety practices to hair cutting and coloring techniques, and more.

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A few days before salons re-opened in June, we even had a Zoom live interview with Cathy Yang on ABS-CBN News on how JURO was preparing to re-open under General Community Quarantine (GCQ). When we reopened, NHK Japan even held their interview in JURO Salon, where Hajime Yokota of NGO ACTION (A Child’s Trust Is Ours to Nurture), and Kristine Guinto (JURO’s apprentice and ACTION Power of Scissors graduate) talked about their experiences during the Manila lockdown and after JURO Salon re-opened.

Aside from that, we were able to raise funds from JURO clients, which we donated to our advocacy, NGO ACTION—a non-profit organization that helps underprivileged Filipino children and families through various programs for the past 27 years.

JURO Salon: Back In Business

Upon re-opening in June, salons were allowed to do haircuts only up to a 30% capacity and under strict safety protocols set by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). This caused anxiety attacks for Rose since salons were only allowed to do haircuts for the first couple of weeks. Thereafter, salons were allowed to do hair cuts and color at a limited salon capacity. However, on July 16, salons were allowed to do up to 50% capacity of hair cuts, color, and other hair services, much to her relief.

Our JURO clients were as excited to get their hair done, just as we were excited to do their hair. During that time, we found out that they too felt anxiety. Our clients shared their tough experiences during the lockdown months—from experiencing severe hair fall to having alopecia areata, a condition that causes hair to fall out in patches. That’s why reopening was such a relief for them.

Although they were very cautious about going out, we reassured them that we had safety precautions to make them (and us) feel safe in our salon. Seeing and experiencing this made them feel secure, so would revisit us.  Additionally, we provided special JURO mobile salon services for long-time clients, who would welcome us into their homes. They arranged to have us picked up and dropped off in our salon and would even prepare a feast where we all dine together with their family. This made us feel extra special!

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The Rest Of 2020, A Blur

From August 4 to 18, Manila was placed again in Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) and salons were ordered to close again for two weeks. Eventually, salons re-opened for the second GCQ from August 19th until March 2021.

During that time, we were able to accommodate JURO clients in the salon and occasionally, longtime JURO customers, like two to three generation families who have minor children and/or seniors who cannot go out of their homes. By December 2020, a lot of our JuRo regulars in Manila went out of their way to visit us at JURO to get their hair done for some sense of normalcy.

We had some regulars from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao who were able to fly in or drive to Manila. One remarkable longtime male client from Davao City even drove three days and took two RoRo boats to get JURO!

Usually, from December to January, we’d have a lot of tourists and balikbayans who’d come to JURO. But last December 2020, there were only a handful who were able to get their hair done. Through it all, the most common comments we heard were, “I feel normal again” and “I look and feel young and beautiful again.”

We even had several female clients whose hair we cut, colored, and prepped for their wedding, prior to giving birth and after giving birth during this pandemic.  Though some clients requested “pandemic-proof” conservative haircuts, colors, and styles, we were surprised that a lot of our clients also requested creative and colorful hair as well—saying that they were bored at home and wanted to have the creative hairstyle they’ve always dreamed of.

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Additionally, we got new clients—friends or family of our existing clientele base. We even heard one of our clients tell her mother and sister, “Jude and Rose have been taking care of my hair for almost two decades now and I feel safe that they will do my hair properly and I feel secure inside JURO, especially during this pandemic.” Those words made me happy.

Back Again, 2021

January and February were good months for JURO, although some clients were scared again to come out due to the new COVID strain. And even moreso with the increasing COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

This week, Manila and the surrounding areas are placed under a GCQ Bubble for the next couple of weeks—from March 22 to April 4 to be specific. As for us in JURO, the best we could do is to continue our sanitation and safety practices by wearing proper face masks and face shields, using effective disinfectants and sanitation practices, using the UV-light after salon hours, following proper client safety and sanitation protocols, encouraging cashless transactions, having Team JURO tested frequently using antigen and/or RT-PCR tests, and finally, carpooling with our Team JURO staff.

With the news that COVID vaccines are being produced and that people are being vaccinated here and around the world, it is just a matter of time until we too will be vaccinated. Hopefully, by then, cases will significantly go down and people get to go out and travel with confidence under the new normal.

Thus, we look forward to seeing our JURO clients from other parts of the Philippines and the world. We look forward to doing and attending hair shows and events around the Philippines and the world. We look forward to seeing family and friends, as well as, meeting new clients and friends. We look forward to making our world a better place in our own small, special way.

And when that happens, we will truly get a sense of normalcy once again.

Jude Hipolito and Rose Velasco (known to everyone as JuRo), are the creative and technical directors, respectively, of JuRo Salon Exclusif and ambassadors of L’Oréal Professionnel Philippines and Le Couleur Professionnel. Consistently, Jude and Rose have been named the top haircutter and top hair colorist, along with JuRo Salon Exclusif as the top salon in the Philippines. Both are part of the pioneering faculty and the only hairdressers-to-date of the L’Oréal Business School which aims to help improve salon operations through good business practices.
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