my story . . . in a nutshell (unrated)

I was born in the Philippines to a middle class family. Growing up, I had nobody to call mom and dad. My mother left to join my grandparents (her parents) and the rest of her siblings, and relatives to the States when I was only over a year old. My father was never really around. My grandparents (dad’s side) took care of me until I was fourteen. I’ve come to know my grandmother as my “mom”. She was there for me, for everything and no matter what. As far back as my memories would allow me, I can only remember having to spend a few hours with my father, if and only whenever he was around. Every now and again, I would hear from my mother via letters, mostly. I’ve come to learn of what she looked like only in photographs. She would send me “packages”, mostly a box full of clothes, shoes, toys, and chocolates, intermittently, and sometimes money, or “dollars” as we called them. As I got older, I learned how to acknowledge and be responsible of my feelings. I learned how to appreciate what was around me and wished for nothing more and nothing less. There were times I went to school without anything to eat nor had lunch money and for the most part, walked five miles to and from school through six grades. My younger years taught me that LOVE is far more valuable and powerful than any form of luxury material. I knew deep inside, though my grandparents were not wealthy with riches, they had a wealth of LOVE and COMPASSION for me. These traits stuck with me until now.


Long story short, I was reunited with my mother when I turned fourteen. Needless to say, our relationship was estranged. We didn’t get along and we hardly connected. Suddenly, I felt INVISIBLE. Lost any sense of belonging. I felt alone, sad, and unwanted. After a few failed counseling, I turned my sense of loneliness towards my studies. Worked hard, studied hard and finished high school as an A-student. Determined to free myself from feeling unwanted I decided to move out and be independent, I was eighteen. Got a job, bought a used car and rented my own studio apartment. Suddenly, I’m an adult. Living on my own without my mother’s assistance was difficult, but it made me stronger inside. After three years had past and without seeing any effort of reaching out from my mother, I made the conscious decision to reach out instead. I officially “came out” to her and reconciled. She apologized about the past and I thankfully accepted. Never once I pointed finger and blamed her for any of what happened. I just convinced myself that everything happens for a reason. The struggles she and I encountered during our low point taught me the true importance of CONNECTIVITY and staying CONNECTED and the power of PATIENCE and HUMILITY.


As time past, my relationship with my mother grew richer and stronger, but there was still one thing missing. A career. Ever since I was a boy, I’ve always liked hair. Played with my cousin’s hair, my grandma’s and my hair. I was always picky about my haircut. Cosmetology has always been my career of choice, but time and financial burdens obstructed me from pursuing it sooner. Instead, I turned to my next career choice and pursued nursing. Working full-time and going to school part-time enabled me to complete all necessary requirements for the nursing program to one of the community colleges in Phoenix, AZ.  Deep inside I was dying because I knew it wasn’t my first love. I questioned myself, “If you were to die today, would you be satisfied?” The answer was an easy NO. My voice hasn’t been heard, I have not inspired anyone and I have not made a difference in peoples lives. This feeling of dissatisfaction gave me the courage to take a risk and enrolled at Penrose Academy. My first week of school, I found myself. My first week on the clinic floor, I found my voice; I made connections with my guests. You see, our industry today is changing drastically. We are losing the connection we used to have with our guests. Most services and their ethics are now manipulated by low-priced and heavily discounted deals found on Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. It’s cheap, fast and convenient. Whatever happens to the total experience? To feeling special and well taken care of? Its been deteriorated and at times, non-existent. Personally, I no longer receive handshakes from my guests, instead, I’m always provided with a hug, a smile, a twinkle in their eyes, and a most appreciated “thank you”. I know this is due to the consistent high level of customer service I provide to each one of them. My job as a hairstylist is to make my guests feel extra special.


I would love to be chosen for the Spread The Love 2013 because I possess many of the characteristics of a great Matrix Ambassador. I desire to be a part of something bigger than myself. Invest your trust and belief in me and let me be your vehicle of spreading love, inspiration and compassion to others. Allow me to connect with people of all walks of lives and be your storyteller. I’m not so much focused on being successful; I’m focused on making a difference and being significant in people’s lives. Together, let’s make the invisibles feel visible. I want to be the best ambassador not only for myself, my school, Matrix family and our industry, but most importantly, for everyone I will be meeting along the way.








. . . more than just a hairdresser

According to Wikipedia a hairdresser is a term referring to anyone whose occupation is to cut or style hair in order to change or maintain a person’s image. I couldn’t agree more.

But let’s dig deeper, shall we?

On an average busy day, most of my clientele are women (of all ages), although men are not far from being our frequent guests. Each of my clients is greeted with, “Hi. Welcome to Penrose Academy, my name is Erwin and I will be your stylist today.”

I am a counselor. First, I ask how your day is going. Next, I ask what brings you in to the salon. Then I consult with you and we talk about the pros and cons of your hair. We explore your daily routine, the type of products you use, what works well and what doesn’t. Together, you and I create a plan on your haircut, color and style.

I am a chemist and an engineer/artist. After analyzing your skin tone, your eye color, your style and personality, I use my color and product knowledge to formulate the best hue to compliment all of your natural beauty. I’m an engineer/artist in a way that I use my creative imagination to sculpt the most flattering hairstyle to fit your face shape and personality.

I am a therapist. You know you can always count on me. I don’t hear your problems and concerns, I LISTEN to them. You open up and tell me more about you. You tell me about your bad day at work. You tell me about how much of a jerk your partner is being. You tell me about your date last night. You tell me about your family and your dog. You tell me the meaning of your tattoos. You tell me almost about everything and then you ask to share my opinions.

I am a teacher. Finishing services are always my favorite. It’s my chance to “teach”. I educate you about the products I’m using. I explain the benefits of a thickening spray. Why I’m using it and how to use it. I educate you about the benefits of sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair. I educate you the importance of using salon grade products to keep your fresh color and style long lasting. And in 4-6 weeks, we do it all over again.

Am I just a hairdresser? Think again.


“you have no life”

It’s quarter past midnight (yes, I’m still up) and I’m lying on my bed perusing the pages of, I especially enjoy the “how-to” section. There’s always something educational and very informative. The particular entry I’m reading about is by one of our own Penrose Academy Alumni, Drew Noreen, titled “The 5-minute Updo: Soft and Simple Bun.” Amazingly simple to do…

January 3, 2012, this was the day when I finally took control of my fears and enrolled into a cosmetology program at Penrose Academy, then Kohler Academy. I had a few number of fears going into this program. I feared about my full-time status at work going down to a part-time status, I feared about making less money and having to pay my bills and rent on time. I feared about my health for having to work four days out of the week and having to be in school, eleven hours a day for the other three. I feared about a lot of things.

Eight months have past and I’m still standing strong. I’ve given every passionate time that I can into this program. I’ve given 100% attendance. I’ve studied my brains out and in return, I’ve achieved a GPA of 98% and have been on Honor Roll since school commenced. Everyday is a new day. Everyday is a challenge. Everyday is a learning experience. Everyday is testament that I need to push harder, try harder and inspire harder.

For every hard work and dedication, comes penalty. I’ve lost some time: time away from my personal fitness and time away from my social life. Each time I receive an invitation from friends to join them to go to parties, dinner and movies, my respond is always maybe, followed by “I’m studying for a test, I’m working on a project or I’m doing some assignments.” To them, it’s unbecoming… as one said, “You have no life.” I smiled and accepted the comment graciously because I know that I am preparing myself for my career and that my social life still exists; only now it’s mainly with my books and my clients.

…You get me

It was Wednesday, July 25 2012. I arrived at my school, Penrose Academy, on time and ready to be on the salon floor. As always, the first thing I did was to check the appointment book so I can plan my schedule accordingly.

I had three clients scheduled, so far. One return client was for a color retouch, another return client for highlights and the third one, a new request, for a “haircut”. My first two clients were pretty simple, as I had previously noted their color formula in the computer.

As the day slowly passed by, I noticed that only a few of my fellow students had clients. It was definitely going to be a long day on the salon floor. After providing, yet again, an excellent service to my first two clients, I decided to take a quick break before my last client’s arrival.

Ten minutes had passed and I headed back to the floor. On my way, I took a pit stop at the receptionist area and gently called out, “Marguerite?” She hasn’t arrived yet. Back to my station, I prepared my consultation form and made sure that all was neat and in order.

Moments later, someone informed me that she had just checked in. I walked towards the receptionist area and introduced myself with a firm handshake. The first thing I noticed was a piece of folded paper in her left hand and I immediately felt uneasy. During consultation, I asked if she’s been a guest at Penrose Academy before. “I used to come here all the time and my last visit was nearly a year ago”, she answered. Suddenly, I felt challenged and I thought to myself, “there has to be a reason.” She explained that the last student didn’t understand her desired hairstyle and that she “butchered” her hair.

During our consultation, I learned that Marguerite is an artist with specific desires for her hairstyle. As it turned out, the folded piece of paper in her hand is a picture of the style she aspire to have. In addition, she had WRITTEN instructions on how to cut her hair using a razor and she made sure to ask if I was comfortable with using a razor instead of shears. I assuredly answered, “yes.”

As the time went by, I made sure that she played a role in the sculpting process, encouraged her to ask questions while I positively inserted my ideas. After styling her hair, I gave her a moment to evaluate the haircut. With a smile on her face and twinkle in her eyes, she uttered, “Erwin, you get me.” She then gave me a hug, pre-booked on the spot and bought products. Not only did I satisfy her desired hairstyle, I also gained her as a loyal guest back to Penrose Academy.

Lesson to be learned. A challenge doesn’t have to turn burdensome only if you just LISTEN…