Her first year of operations was a flop as the income from the shop was not even enough to cover the rentals of the outlet space. The positioning of her shop was that of mid-price range customized gowns and dresses. This went on for almost a year without any sign of it ever picking up. Undeterred by this, she asked me for additional capital with the intention of trading up the business from a mass based business to an upscale one. I was hesitant to sink in more money into what seemed to be putting in more money after bad.
Alma was one person who cannot be deterred from pursuing her aspirations. Always the supportive husband, I acceded to her entreaty or should I say importuning. Still hurting from the initial failure I had to warn her that the second investment represents the last of our savings, money for the kids’ education and an emergency fund that would only be used in case of dire need.
This was a major setback in our lives. Despite her strong determination to get back on her feet success was denied her. The vagaries of life are never explained. Just like grace it visits you without any forewarning and for no apparent reason. We have experienced His grace several times prior to this calamity. We had graciously accepted His blessings in the past, so, in like manner we had to endure the trials that grimly faced us. The prospects for the future were dim. We were faced with the problem of making good the delivery of all the contracted uniforms that were consumed by the fire. While the corporate clients were understanding and patient the onus of delivering the goods as contracted had to be faced. It took me three years to completely settle our accountabilities with the various textile suppliers.
Despite the physical setback that almost debilitated her, Alma just couldn’t remain idle. She had so much time in her hands and being a natural born doer she looked for ways of expending the energy that had welled up during the years of inactivity. She found a way of venting her creative fire that was now hissing like a steam boiler by returning to her erstwhile alma mater to take up a non-credit course in painting in the University of the Philippines’ School of Fine Arts. She did some creditable oils but this clearly was not an area that she could excel in. However, the years spent in the college of painting have greatly refined her fashion sketches and had sharpened her artistic sense and these became manifest in the designs that came after her interlude in the arts.
In addition to having found joy in artistic expressions she cultivated friendships in the art circles. Among her close acquaintances were the master abstract painter Benjie Cabangis, the much sought after portraitist Gig de Pio, and the young Michael Cacnio, the son of the watercolor master, Angel Cacnio. Michael blossomed into a masterful craftsman in sculpture. Since she was a non-credit student she joined the art classes of regular students most of whom were half her age. Other noted artists in her coterie were Nestor Vinluan who was the dean of the School of Fine Arts then and the late Jose Joya, the undisputed master painter and national artist who was also a former dean of the school. Her acquaintance with these artists allowed her to add to our collection of art works paintings that were of higher quality. The Joyas in her collection were paid for in easy installments that the master extended only to those close to him. Out of friendship and pure appreciation as well, she included the works of her friends in her trove of art works. After painstaking piece-by-piece acquisition and month-by-month payments the collection is worth a minor fortune now.
It was fourteen years after she closed her business that she decided to reopen at the imploration of a former employee, her master cutter, who desperately needed help after losing all his belongings in a fire that gutted his house. It was easy to empathize with this man’s plight. More out of a desire to help she reopened the shop in a modest commercial apartment in our subdivision, a far cry from the fabulous appointments of her former shop. The second floor served as the residence of the cutter and his family. Much more relaxed and operating without pressure she made the business flourish again. Her short excursion into the art world had a marked influence on her fashion creations. The vibrant colors, their tasteful combinations and classic lines became hallmarks of her new designs. In a few years the business expanded with branches in the main commercial avenue of Alabang and in Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong. She also did fashion shows on a regular basis among the Filipino business and socio-civic organizations in Honolulu, Hawaii.