Ulo Salon Studio’s Tish Mahtani on Starting Over

Ulo Salon Studio’s Tish Mahtani on Starting Over

Siargao- and Manila-based hairstylist Tish Mahtani shares her thoughts on starting over after the typhoon that wiped out the surfing paradise



Tish Mahtani had to start over when Siargao, the surfing paradise frequented by locals and tourists alike, was ravaged by Typhoon Odette in December of 2021. Widespread destruction left the island, and many locals were uprooted from the place they called home. Tish, a hairstylist and salon owner, would have to go back to Manila, after her home and her business, the very first Ulo Salon Studio, had been destroyed. Siargao was unrecognizable, with infrastructures devastated, palm trees uprooted and power poles toppled. 


Ulo Salon Studio’s Tish Mahtani on Starting Over


In 2017, Tish decided to go to hair school after years of being stuck in the corporate sphere and feeling like she wasn’t reaching her full potential. She would do makeup and hairstyling on clients during the weekends. She loved the challenge. With trends in the beauty landscape ever-changing, she decided to hone her craft. “I feel like hair is more difficult to master. It really took me years to be comfortable doing someone’s hair. Even blow-drying, it took me two years of [blow-drying hair] every day [to be good at it],” she tells me.


After working at the now defunct KAPWA Studio in Poblacion, a hip and contemporary barber shop where Tish learned to specialize in curly hair cuts, she had the opportunity to move to Siargao. There was a lot of resistance at first, with loved ones dismissing her plans and asking, “Magiging parlorista ka lang (You will just work at a parlor)?”


She reveals, “Starting again at 27, I felt old—and it was a huge risk. People were thinking, ‘What are you doing? She’s regressing!’” She adds, “I was just trusting my gut. I’m not even thinking about the money anymore; I’m just trusting my gut and what feels true and authentic to me.”


In time, Tish found her tribe and community in the surfing paradise. Once voted the Best Island in Asia by Condé Nast Traveler, “it just felt like home,” Tish fondly shares. “I was happier there. I could sleep better. In Manila, I had insomnia, but in Siargao—for some reason—I sleep longer, I sleep better. This place is healing me.


She brought her scissors and clippers to Siargao and ended up building a clientele; many were tourists, a lot were friends. She opened the very first Ulo Salon Studio in 2020 during the pandemic. It was the only salon in the area, and she would cut hair at home before transferring to an actual shop. Here, people would come to her barefoot and with sand on their scalp post-surf. She recalls, “I’d spend 45 minutes trying to brush out one knot in a person’s hair.”


Ulo Salon Studio’s Tish Mahtani on Starting Over


In December of 2021, the worst happened. Tish narrates, “Typhoon Odette happened, and I lost everything. I lost all my life savings from my corporate job and everything I’ve earned because I invested it in Ulo Siargao. I lost my home, I lost the clothes on my back, everything. I didn’t have money. Imagine that you’re stripped of everything—your dreams, your home.” 


She came back home to Manila wearing mismatched flip-flops: one blue, one green. She had nothing. This challenging and crushing season (to say the least) brought her to her lowest point. She suffered from depression and her hair fell out—this would later bring her to develop Ulo’s Scalp Oil. Tish would travel from Manila to La Union to do the occasional pop-up while healing. She couldn’t find the light at the end of the tunnel until she had the opportunity to open Ulo in Manila after finding generous investors who believed in her talents. By June of 2023, she opened shop in San Juan. 



This year, Tish hopes to share her story of loss with more people to give them hope. “You only have to believe in yourself,” she says. With all things, she works with her intuition, gut and  feelings. “That’s one of the advantages of being a woman; I trust my gut and that’s how I make most of my decisions,” she tells me after an hour-long conversation across the newly built Ulo Salon Studio in Manila. I would never have guessed that the woman in front of me, at one point in her life, lost everything. She is looking forward but always honoring her past.


Stay updated by following Tish Mahtani and Ulo Salon Studio. Book your sessions with Tish at Ulo via Parlon here. Visit Ulo Salon Studio at 187 N Averilla, San Juan, Metro Manila.



Art Macky Arquilla

Share to


You may also like

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get weekly updates on trending topics

Ⓒ 2018 – 2023 Wonder ™ | All Rights Reserved


Discover More


Don't miss a thing

Stay up to date to the latest news and articles.