TAGS: alpha right to kill, baron geisler, cebu, gents barber shop, mental health

Once, he was known as a troublemaker and controversy magnet.

That was then. Baron Geisler, 36, has since turned over a new leaf, and now leads an inspired and inspiring life in Cebu City.

For starters, he happily narrates how he ended up owning Gents Barber Shop, which is located at the Gaisano Country Mall in the Queen City of the South.

The idea, he says, came to him at the time when he was still undergoing rehab for alcohol dependence at that city’s facility called Yap Wellness Center.

Baron recalls asking himself, “What can I do after rehab?” He then tells us, “Kasi ’yun ’yung pinakamalaking tanong for recovering addicts or alcoholics na, ‘We screwed up our lives, how can we come back from that?’”

He credits Jhek Yap, the program director and head counselor of Yap Wellness Center, for helping him conceptualize Gents Barber and “find a way to earn money, to look forward to something after rehab.” One day they came to this decision: “Okay, barber shop tayo.”

Photo courtesy of Baron Geisler.

Baron excitedly shares with StarStudio.ph the history of barber shops—and how it has influenced his choice of business.

“[Barber shops] started 12,000 years ago and then, through the years, naging communal place siya,” he explains. “And…’yung mga barbers, sila ’yung mga first surgeons in the world [and] the first doctors. Sila ’yung mga nagbubunot ng ngipin sa giyera, sila ‘yung nagsi-stitch [ng sugat]. Kaya nagkaroon ng barber’s pole. ’Yun ’yung parang emergency light nila. So, when I was in rehab, that struck me.”

Indeed, rehabilitation gave the actor-turned-businessman a lot of time to reflect and realize many things. For six months, all he could think about inside the wellness center was his future—which eventually led him to open Gents Barber.  

Photo courtesy of Baron Geisler.

A ROLLERCOASTER RIDE

It turned out that opening the barber shop was no easy feat for Baron. He had to go through a lot in turning his personal life around before he could get into another field of business.  He mentions a few of his setbacks: suffering from bipolar disorder, trying to take his own life after his mother, Gracia Geisler, passed away in January 2017, getting into a fistfight with his brother-in-law in March 2018, and subsequently being jailed for half a month for allegedly threatening his sister’s husband.

Photo from Manila Bulletin.

“Everything that I did before was a lie,” Baron acknowledges, humbly. “’Yun ang pinaka-painful na kinailangan kong harapin inside rehab. Sometimes, up to now, it’s hard to face myself in the mirror, because I was a liar and a hypocrite because it was always about me, me, me. So, I was a really bad person. I lied to a lot of people, I lied about my recovery back in the day, noong 2011. I lied to the press, I lied to everyone, I lied to myself, [and] God.”  He then adds, in jest: “’Yun nga siguro, kaya sinasabi nilang magaling kang artista. Sinungaling ka!”

Going back to the time he was arrested in March 2018, the troubled actor announced in a Facebook post that he would be checking into a rehabilitation center—and vowed to take this step to recovery seriously.

Screengrabbed from Facebook (Baron Geisler).

Baron made good on his promise. He flew to Cebu and got himself treated at the Yap Wellness Center. “My stay in rehab for six months made me think about my future, about my life,” he says now in reflection, adding that he was confronted with questions, such as “What do I really want ba? Do I want to continue being an alcohol-dependent, or go to jail or die?”

“Parang, it gave me hope that the best is yet to come,” he concludes. “And true enough, nagkaroon ako ng friend [and] business partner who helped me out, that I had to sell my SUV para sa barber shop.”

BEING THE VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS

Baron felt he was being pulled to the right direction when he started speaking out about mental health awareness. He linked up with the Philippine Mental Health Association in Cebu, so he was able to tell his story to more people, most especially the youth, educating them about mental health through his own experiences. Sometimes, he travels to distant places just to speak for free in symposiums promoting mental health awareness.

“We go to different areas here and talk to the lay people about mental health,” he says. “Not [dahil] may problema [sila] pero how to avoid the sickness, just to educate them lang. We also talk to kids who tried to take their lives pero hindi natuloy.”

He explains, “I would just tell them my story because I also tried to take my life after my mom passed away last year pero wala, e. May plano si God for me.”

Photo from Instagram (@baron.geisler).

Indeed, God’s plan for Baron to championing a cause for mental health delighted many people, some of them from different parts of the country like the Visayas and Davao City, asking him to talk about his experience. Sometimes, he would receive compensation.

“I was able to pay my rehab fee, my treatment fee [because of that],” he says with gratitude. “Isipin mo, in less than two months, nabayaran ko siya just by doing symposiums and giving testimonies lang about my life, talking to the youth. Minsan nagugulat ako na may mga 2,000 to 3,000 na bata na nakakausap ko. ’Yung story ko kasi will not be complete without ’yung healing process [and] si God.”

He adds that in the recovery process, there should always be help from the Higher Power.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but you cannot do it alone,” he points out. “So, tamang-tama sa Cebu, ‘di ba? I don’t know why God placed me here, sa heart ng Pilipinas pero, eventually, na-restore ’yung intellect ko sa kakabasa din, to the point na nagulat na lang ako na I can speak to 2,000-3,000 kids who listen and respond well naman. Kumalat nga ’yan like wildfire na wala naman akong intensyon na sinasabi na nagpi-preach ako ng Gospel. No, I’m not preaching the Gospel but it’s somehow like that kasi I just tell them na truth na papaano nag-work [sa akin].”

Photo from Instagram (@baron.geisler).

HELPING HIS FELLOW SURVIVORS

After Baron successfully opened his barber shop on November 13, it has become a place not just for having 99-peso haircuts but also for forming priceless camaraderie. It has sort of become a haven for fellow recovering addicts and alcoholics.

Gents Barber also offers a six-month barber shop apprenticeship to people recovering from substance and alcohol abuse, and who want to turn around their lives, too. On the first month, Baron and his fellow barbers gave the apprentices a “look good, feel good” treatment, starting with free haircuts. The apprenticeship gives the participants sure work after rehabilitation if, and only if, they are willing to finish the program.

Baron poses with a customer. Photo courtesy of Baron Geisler.

“They have sure work after rehab,” Baron says with assurance. “Kasi, usually, ang mga addict, pag lumabas ’yan, they tend to procrastinate and feel bad and depressed. You know, us recovering addicts and alcoholics, we need to do something [like] community service. We have to earn money for our families kasi, siyempre, before rehab, we were already mentally, physically, and financially broke.”

Gents Barber is also a place where all customers can hang out and banter. According to its website, banter could be therapeutic as it gives “significant residual happiness after men leave the barber shop.”

“Kasi dati, hindi ako maka-connect sa tao kasi gumawa ako ng sariling mundo,” he admits. “So, now, chilling in the barber lounge, I get to greet the people. It’s a very humbling experience. Ako pa nagse-serve sa kanila. Natutuwa ako sa mga reactions nila, you know. So, it’s also teaching me to connect with people. Dati kasi, I don’t have real friends. My real friends were only beer and cigarettes. Now, I get to play basketball, get to hang out, fire guns, [and] just connect."

Photo courtesy of Baron Geisler.

Running his own business has also taught him how to be consistent and be prepared for everything. “You have to be prepared mentally for that and it’s also a good exercise for my head kasi I expect too much,” he points out.  “But there’s a saying in recovery: high acceptance, low expectations. But, still, we would want to expect the best and what is good so it’s teaching me patience, it’s reminding me constantly not to mess up because I also have a contract with my business partner na if I fail, may consequences."

THE NEXT CHAPTER

From its base in Cebu City, Baron plans on opening branches in other provinces like Pampanga and Iloilo. But, lest people assume that he’s retired from showbiz, the award-winning actor makes it clear that he’s very much devoted and passionate about his acting career. In fact, he recently wrapped up work on two movies, including Brillante Mendoza’s drama-thriller, Alpha, The Right to Kill, which competed in international film festivals last year and will open in local cinemas on January 16.

Photo courtesy of Baron Geisler.

Blessings just keep on coming for Baron as he walks on this road to total recovery. His hunger to work urges him to keep on moving, with goals like being signed on as a character actor or any roles in teleseryes on his mind.

“Makatrabaho lang, makabalik lang,” he says. “I really need to take care of myself, my sobriety, and my brain para I won’t mess up the blessings. Maraming doors. It’s up to me na lang [whether] I mess it up again or not. It’s open-ended. This story is open-ended. I don’t want to promise anything. All I can say is if I mess this up, I’m spitting on God’s face and giving Him the finger. I need all the blessings, the love, the support from the people.”