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The Most Challenging Collection I Made... And I Still Need Help

Photo by Teddy Lu Jalandoni

It's my second season with Philippine Fashion Gala. Even before the announcement of the second season, with my experience from the first, I was very sure I was joining again. But I didn't know that the next one would be so different that I had to go through several challenges just to make "it" happen.

Let me start of by telling you a bit about the collection I chose this time. Here's a video for that:

So yah, I mentioned about my hometown, and my disorder.

When my relatives saw my collection last season, they were asking why I chose a different province instead of my hometown. I said there was a right time for that. Very timely, I found out PhFG was taking it a really high notch, so I decided that it was "the time" for Albay to shine.

Researching about our famous natural fiber Abaca, a type of banana plant and is said to be the most durable local textile, I found out that there are several forms of it and the one used for making formalwear was already scarce. It was the "Pinukpok" form, which is, from the name itself, pounded to make it smooth and fine. Another local designer, Dita Sandico Ong, is known for using Pinukpok in her collections, but she sources it from Catanduanes, another province in Bicol. But since I was from Albay, despite the challenge, I was still determined to search for a source. I found a lead, the resettlement area in Brgy. Banquerohan, Legazpi City - that was main target. And I had Camalig and Daraga as my other options.

I went through a personal problem when I was booking my trip to Bicol. I'm not gonna share it here. But anyway, I just went through it. My boyfriend and rode different planes so he waited for me at the Legazpi Airport. And I had my Uncle Richard, mom's cousin, and Kuya Marlon, Uncle Richard's cousin, waiting for me as well. They guided me throughout my first stay.

Kuya Marlon, Uncle Richard, Ronel and Me!

I will not share yet in this blog in detail the journey to finding the Pinukpok. I will release it in my vlog, but I went through a lot just to find it. I finally found the right source just several hours before my trip back to Manila. It was the Alemaña Weaving Center headed by Salvacion Alemaña in Malilipot, Albay which was very far from where I was born. I didn't find the ideal colors for my designs, so I made the spontaneous decision to create a bridal collection instead because white was the only color available for my required quantity.

Salvacion Alemaña, my savior!

So yah I successfully brought to Manila 34 yards of Abaca and immediately drew another set of collection. I had to play with mixing fabrics to match the rough texture of Pukpok. The challenge was to make it look elegant and telling the story of Magayon and Ulap.

So this is it. It's actually 9 pieces, the last one is a surprise. ;)

Speaking of the upscaling of Philippine Fashion Gala, we have to go through a mentorship program. The mentor will be the finale of our segment. Since I was in the Luxe segment, I was under Patrick "Pat" Santos, a well-known Filipino designer. Before we showed our sample garment and our sketches, she had a long speech and it included "no indigenous textiles", "no bridal" and "no ballgown". I literally just wanted to disappear because I thought I'm gonna be rejected because I'm using indigenous textiles, the collection is an entourage, and I have a ballgown! So when Pat asked for our moodboards, I came first. And I said (with an about-to-cry voice) "I don't know if I have to be in this category, because my collection uses Abaca, and..." "Show me", Pat said. I took out my moodboard. I told the story, and she was amused. I took out my sample garment from the collection and she gave me constructive criticism and tips to improve my collection. Overall, she said my collection was promising, and I was flattered, because swear, she is a tough one, and she can be very frank. Now how about the ball gown? I reiterated to Pat how important that ballgown in the collection...she ended up telling me to wear it instead. And I took the challenge. Overall, it was a fun mentorship experience. BTW, we had to reduce our collection to create a tableu, so I ended up with 7 including the ballgown which will be worn by me.

Glacy Ricablanca (designer), Janno Novenario (creative director), Artchie Solitano (designer), Mike Tagle (producer), Bernie Ngwe (designer), me, and Pat Santos in her house/atelier

The collection is now under production and my seamstress and I are making a great team in this. Nanay Zenny can be quite forgetful so I really have to be hands on with the production.

While doing this collection, I was going through a lot of personal problems to the point that I had severe anxiety attacks. I finally decided to have myself checked. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Depression and I take meds regularly. Having this disorder is a constant battle. Aside from the obvious triggers, you don't know when the attacks will come. The worst part is, there is a stigma. There are still a lot of people who do not understand the fact that mental disorders, especially depression, are not made up or something we can completely control. It just happens and hits you because of triggers, your environment, and most especially when you're in alone at night. I went to a public mental hospital to cut down my costs, and I owe a lot to my doctor, Leizl Ordonez. She is a very sweet doctor and she sincerely helps me to heal.

So imagine me, doing all this work, while fighting a battle in my head. The good side of it is that I am eligible to get a PWD card, so now with that card, I am entitled to a lot of discounts. But then again, there's a stigma, and on the lines of groceries and cinemas, senior citizens would raise their eyebrows on me... until I show them my card. Then they feel ashamed. :D

I forgot to mentioned that I volunteered being the Branding and Marketing Manager of Philippine Fashion Gala because to be honest, last season sucked so bad, (hi sir Mike) so I felt like they needed my help. With that, they waived my joining fee. And if you check now their social media accounts, I will bet $50 if you don't see the big improvement in the branding, engagement, and activity of their social media.

Yes, it's a big help that they waived my joining fee, but it comes with a price: additional stress. I am not in good terms with the creative director, and I feel like the photographers and videographers (not all, but a few), do not trust me.

And the main trigger of my disorder is any sign of distrust towards me.

Thus, more anxiety attacks.

Launching a collection in a show is every expensive, but I know it pays in the long run. It adds credibility to my name and gives me an opportunity to raise my prices. I was literally running out of cash, so if I have to sacrifice my rest, sleep, and even food, I had to. I accepted clients even if me and my two seamstresses were already in full capacity. I had to beg to the both of them, and promised to pay them fairly. So with all this stress and all, the good side is I lost a lot of weight. I am now 48 kilos (originally 55).

I tried to seek financial or even just moral support from the Government of Albay. My cousin Arj Revereza tried his best, but we failed to reach Joey Salceda. And I don't have any means to contact Governor Bichara. So I have no choice but to rely on my own cash.

But the point when I broke down in making this collection was choosing my finale girl.

In every show, you must carefully choose your finale girl because she will be the face of your collection. She will be the one most remembered.

My first option was Lars Pacheco, the second runner up of Ms. Q & A and is my biggest transgender crush. At first, she was kind enough to agree to walk for me in exchange of a dandelion-colored tailored jumpsuit. We agreed on a specific date, but not a specific time because she was unsure what time her event will end. So I went to Bulacan, and waited all day... she did not show up and she would ignore my messages and calls. She even had the guts to post her instagram stories that she was drinking with her friends. That's one whole day wasted, plus gas.

My second option was Kylie Verzosa. I am in contact with the family and they were kind enough to ask in behalf on me. Sadly, Kylie had a prior event scheduled for the show, but she was willing, and was even proud of me and was cheering for me. And that's okay for me. BTW, Kylie Verzosa put up an organization on mental health awareness that's why I considered her. With the way she treated me I fell more in love with Kylie. <3 Thank you so much manong Ari and ate Chelsea Verzosa. <3

My very last option was Maureen Wroblewitz. She is a good friend of mine since 2017. I go to her house, we eat, we joke, and I made a gown for her for free. But she rejected me this time. And that really broke my heart.

My bank account is now down to only P347.00 and I have no idea how to move forward considering I still have to pay my seamstresses, my makeup artist, and the room in Conrad. So I'm doubling the hustle. More clients. More part time jobs at the cost of rest, sleep, and eating the right amount of food.

I called my boyfriend and asked him to accompany me. I drank two bottles of beer. I wanted to let all these frustrations out with the promise that after an hour of two of breaking down, I will move forward. And so I did. I was devastatedI was so drunk, crying so hard, asking him "Bi, does anybody believe in me? Does anybody trust me? Is this still worth it?".

My boyfriend is a gentleman, a rare find.. Even if I was drunk, he did not take advantage of me, and he told me the words that I needed to here. "Yna, andito kami. Naniniwala kami sayo. Matutupad mo mga pangarap mo. At yung mga nagreject o nagdadoubt sayo, wag mo na silang pansinin. Hindi nila nakikita kung anong nakikita naming mga naniniwala sayo."

When I got into my senses, I have decided (actually, I have no choice but) to move forward. All I can now do is to try my best to make my vision happen and trust God.

What you see is the glitz and glamour of fashion, but if you're not lucky to be born in a rich family, being an emerging fashion designer is hard. But like what I said in my video, what keeps me going are my advocacies, the people I love, and God.

Every person who tells me that he/she believes in my vision takes away a pin pricked in my heart. I'm still thankful that there are people who root for me, most especially my mom and my partner.

So yah. Please wish me luck.

More importantly, please pray for me.

P.S. You may want to help me financially by donating in my fundraiser:

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