Nothing will ever really beat grit and determination if one desires success. Filipinos are famous for these traits, especially when they go abroad for work. They are dauntless and their go-getter attitude always prevails when opportunities come to them.
When Dagupan-born Phillip De Vera came to London in June 1975, there were only a few Filipinos in the United Kingdom. The only jobs available for Filipinos like him were limited to domestic ones: nannies, chambermaids and the like. Since this was the case, he started off as a waiter—something he did not overly-appreciate since he was inexperienced and the job itself was difficult. He also took other jobs like cleaning and caregiver to salon staff members. Regardless, he recognized the fact that it was at least something he can start with. He said, “I didn’t lose hope…I was only earning 27 pounds a week. I told myself, I’m already here in London, the place of my dreams.” Despite his meager earnings, he still sent money back to his family in the Philippines. He was, after all, the eldest son and felt it his responsibility to contribute for the family’s welfare.
Young but Dauntless
With a positive attitude and a determination to make something out of himself, Phillip stuck it out in the city of his dreams. Initially he wanted to become a nurse but his parents could not afford it so he took up Political Science instead. Still, life was hard and young Phillip had no choice but to drop out. Around this time though, he started to realize that cosmetology was what he truly wanted: his passion, so as to speak. In Dagupan he had already worked as apprentice in local hair salons where he learned the rudiments of haircutting—mainly by observing the hairstylists. Although he moved to London for the quintessential greener pastures that many Filipinos dream of, Phillip never forgot about his real passion.
In two years or so, he started to take classes in Robert Fielding School of Hairdressing. Always the hard worker, Phillip earned his diploma while working his regular job. At that time, this was still the primary source of his income. But he has found his passion hence he would do haircuts and make-up gigs after his shifts as a waiter. He started out with his friends, doing home services for them. It was not long before he gained a following in the local Filipino community. His clientele expanded mainly through referrals and recommendations but for a good reason too because he was really good in it.
Phillip was busier than ever. He had two jobs to juggle and he could only manage to sleep a few hours every day since he did home service even until 1 a.m. In his small flat in Earl’s Court, he sometimes had clients come over for haircuts and make-up. The hard work paid off and he was able to bring his sister to England in the 1990’s.
“When I got my residence, I declared myself self-employed,” he stated. “After many years of working hard for other people and after acquiring skills, I began to dream of working for myself: to be my own boss.” The dream was quickly fulfilled, all thanks to his diligence. Clients were, after all, flocking regularly to his home salon to avail of his services. In addition to that, he was also starting to gain more connections that will soon lead him to becoming the stylist of the biggest stars.
The opportunity to officially expand his salon came in 2003. Earl’s Court Road, the home of his small salon was naturally, still the best choice—it being the growing hub of the Filipino community in London. In fact, Phillip was one of the first Filipinos to open a business there.
The expansion was a momentous event in the Filipino community with then- Philippine Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu and his wife in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. This does not signify, however that Phillip’s clientele is composed solely of Filipinos. While they do make up the majority of his clientele, locals as well as those of other ethnicities also flock to his place. As one of his clients posted in his official Facebook page, “Phillip does hairstyles that look like magic.” Another even lauded his salon for its “great haircuts and accommodating staff.”
Styling the Stars and contributing to the Community
At present, Phillip De Vera is recognized as the “hairdresser to the stars”. This is nothing new because he has been styling stars and beauty queens since the 1980’s. He has even earned the title “the Ricky Reyes of London”.
As he said, “I was able to meet famous people like the first Filipino Yves Saint Laurent couture model Tetta Agustin, Miss World Evangeline Pascual, Miss International Melanie Marquez and Miss Universe Margie Moran.” He is also the go-to hairstylist and make-up artist for famous Filipino actors and actresses as well as singers whenever they are in the United Kingdom. He mentioned Les Miserables sensation Rachel Ann Go and ABS-CBN stars like Angel Locsin, Regine Velasquez, Martin Nievera, Vina Morales and Lani Misalucha as his other star clients. Posted in his official webpage is a myriad of other stars he had worked with through the years.
While Phillip considers having worked for them as a dream come true, his real fulfillment lies the fact that he has been able to help his family back home, especially in terms of education. He proudly recalls, “I helped my nephews and nieces; now all 21 of them have been able to graduate.”
Phillip does not limit his generous nature to his family members. In 2009 for example, he was tapped by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) to share his expertise to domestic workers in London. He trained them in a five-week course of hairstyling and make-up. On Sunday mornings, he even opened his salon to provide the participants exposure and to give them practical training.
Phillip declares that mentoring his fellow Filipinos has given him the chance to give back to the Filipino community that has always supported him since Day 1. He reiterates to his ‘students’ the importance of gaining skills since these can help them establish themselves in self-employment—the way he was able to do so when he first started out. As he declares emphatically in his interview, “education is my big investment.” Nothing can be truer for him. After all, he came to London with nothing much but a dream and the determination to make something of himself. He took the challenge of working and studying simultaneously back in the day and now look where it got him: a well-established businessman, a stylist to the rich and famous and a mentor and inspiration to his fellow Filipinos.
Indeed, Phillip De Vera’s ascent to success was not an easy climb; but then again, it never is and it never will be. Still, we can take heart from the stories such as his; because at the end of the day, willpower and perseverance will always give you the fruition of your dreams. And the sweeter the fruit of that success too since you worked so hard for it.