How salon owner Linda Jimenez built a life from the ground up

She has been fortunate with people she’s met.           

By Vicky Potenciano-Vitug

As a young child, Linda Bautista Jimenez experienced one of the most painful and traumatic experiences in her life: Her father abandoned their family.

She will never forget her mother’s humiliation, anguish and despair.  Nanay Berta suddenly became the sole breadwinner for her three young daughters: Ligaya, 15 years old; Betty, 12; and Linda, 9. Without a high school education and having only limited resources, Nanay Berta learned to improvise.  She collected jueteng bets. She also bought and sold anything and everything she could get her hands on: Pigs, chicken, vegetables, clothes, etc.  Her income was still not enough to support her family of four. 

Eldest daughter Ligaya, though still a teenager and limping from polio, decided to quit school and worked to her their mother.  Their everyday struggles also pushed Linda to look for a job after high school. A friend of her mother introduced her to Nomer Pabilona, a well-known beauty salon owner in the Philippines.  He took Linda in as an apprentice in one of his shops in Makati. She quickly became of one Nomer’s valuable hairdressers because of her social skills, enthusiasm, and for being a quick learner.

In early 1972, Linda’s friend and co-worker, Tita, needed someone to accompany her to travel to New York. Without hesitation, Linda – who was in her early 20s and pregnant — grabbed the opportunity.  

“I was excited and fearful at the same time.  But I have to suppress my fear because my mother and sisters are relying on me.  I must find a way out of poverty,” she told me.   She went to New York on a tourist visa, with $450 pocket money, and leaning strongly on her faith in God.

Nanay Berta (seated, in white sweater) enjoying the company of Linda’s friends. At far right is the author.             

The friend who invited Linda decided to cut short her New York stay and return to the Philippines.  Linda, however, decided to stay behind.  She cannot afford to go back home because her mother and sisters were relying on her promise to provide financial support.  Before her friend left, Linda found a place to stay in Elmhurst, a one-bedroom apartment with two other Pinay roommates.  

As days passed her roommates realized that Linda’s pregnancy was progressing and they started to feel uncomfortable.  They realized the baby would be making noise that could disrupt their peace and sleep. On their second month together, they decided to evict the very-pregnant Linda.  

As she was walking past their building elevator, a Filipino couple emerged with their young son. They saw Linda sobbing uncontrollably.  The couple then asked her why she was crying and what they could do to help.  In between tears, she told them her story. Without hesitation, the couple decided to take her in their studio apartment.  They helped her move in and created a private space for Linda using the ‘aparador’ as a divider. Linda said her host family’s  “sincerity and kindness reminded me of the Holy Family.  They saved me and my daughter from being homeless.”

She started to look for a job after giving birth to her daughter Analyn. After a few months, Linda came home one day and found her host family feverishly packing their belongings.  They told her they were moving to New Jersey because they were warned that the immigration people were coming for them.  Apparently they were undocumented aliens.  They asked Linda if she would like to join them. She refused because her work was in Astoria. 

Again, as luck would have it, she was introduced to another person named Lita Asuncion.  Lita and her husband were also living in a one-bedroom apartment but they were kind enough to accommodate her.  After a few months the Asuncions and Linda  moved into a two-bedroom apartment so that Linda and her baby could have their own room. To this day, Lita and Linda remained best friends. 

With young Analyn, her only child. Analyn is now married and living in California with her family.            

She had difficulty finding a job because she had no connections and local experience.  Her tenacity eventually paid off.  She saw a want ad for a hairdresser in Astoria.  The man who answered her call was the husband of the owner-manager, Maria Marino. After Linda passed the phone interview, Mr. Marino asked her to come for another interview with the salon owner-manager.  At that meeting she was asked a lot of questions and do a demonstration haircut on a willing customer.   Maria and the customer were so impressed and Linda was hired on the spot with a starting salary of $80/week.  To make sure that everything is clear, she laid out her situation to them:  That she has a baby daughter named Analyn and may need to take her to work if she has no baby sitter.  To Linda’s surprise the owners agreed.

The salon owners got attached not only to Linda but also to her baby daughter.  They even had a crib inside the salon for Analyn.  Maria and her husband took care of Analyn including transporting Analyn to and from her daycare.  They treated her like family!

Beautician meets photographer

In 1974 while Linda was doing a wedding beauty package — hairstyle and make-up — she met and worked with the videographer-photographer, Tony Jimenez.  

They immediately clicked. After the wedding, they continued to meet.  They eventually teamed up on projects as beautician-photographer package for special occasions, especially weddings!  The collaboration was successful professionally and personally.  The two fell deeply in love! They tied the knot on February 10, 1980.  

In 1987, Linda and Tony opened Linda’s Beauty Salon in Ditmars, Astoria.  After more than a month, they took over the ownership of a Chicken and Ribs Restaurant in Rego Park. Both worked hard running their new businesses.   After the salon closed at 7 p.m., Linda would rush to the restaurant to help Tony until the restaurant’s closing at 10 p.m. They both worked tirelessly, and still found time to do their Beauty-Photography Wedding package.  

In 1993, they bought a house near Linda’s Beauty Salon and moved her shop there.  The top floor became their primary residence.

Tony would pass away in 2007, leaving behind his beloved Linda, stepdaughter Analyn, three children and grandchildren from his previous marriage. Meanwhile, Analyn, no longer a child, graduated with a degree in Graphic Design.  She is now married and currently living in California with her family.  

With Astoria, Queens Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese at Linda’s 60th fundraising birthday party dedicated to her chapel project.                  

A chapel in Binan

As Linda’s finances improved, she entertained bigger dreams.  She dreamed of having a chapel built in her hometown in Binan, Laguna.  

One day, while talking to her husband’s cousin, Marcelia about her upcoming 60th birthday celebration, Marcelia suggested to Linda to “ask your guests to gift you with cash for the chapel project.”  That was the start of her chapel project.  They shared the idea with their church mates in Astoria. They spoke with the officers of God the Father Church Apostolate of Immaculate Conception Church in Ditmars, Astoria and obtained the approval of their Pastor, Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese.  He gave them permission to open an account where they can put all donations for the new chapel.

On April 13, 2013, God the Father Chapel in Binan was built on Linda’s 1,000-square meter lot through the generosity of friends and family.

Linda, now in her early 70s, can only smile in contentment because she was finally able to achieve beyond her dream.  She said Tony and her Nanay Berta are probably smiling in heaven because she was able to fulfill her promise of a good stable life for her family and realized her dream of building a chapel. God has rewarded her generosity far beyond her wildest dreams.

Vicky Potenciano-Vitug, currently retired after working many years in health care administration, is dabbling in journalism. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from the Philippine School of Business Administration.

© The FilAm 2021

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