Face to Face with Roger Ramos (SPipol)

This is my first writing collaboration with a work colleague for SPi Writer’s Guild‘s (now-defunct) blog, Project Backspace.

Employee 0002 in focus

The man behind Employee Number 0002 is no doubt a legacy in SPi’s history. For the past 26 years, Roger Ramos has been one of the significant few who has seen SPi grow from a humble start-up company into a global enterprise. Yet more than that, Roger is also the man who had worked alongside SPi’s founder, Alan R. Fraser, whom he considers a supportive mentor and an affectionate friend. Surprisingly enough, Roger started his career in SPi as a janitor; he’s still proud to say that, with a gleaming smile to boot! More than the stories and urban legends he shared with us during those days in Saztec and SPI Technologies, Roger’s untold stories about his life’s challenges and successes are an even worthier read.

Starting Up
Roger Bohol Ramos is the eldest of 3 siblings. He was born in Manila in January of 1959 but grew up in Leyte. At 15, he was working in his grandfather’s farm when his grandmother advised him to go to Manila to take his chances at finding a better job. He then started working for a bakery in San Juan. In 1978, he moved to Gabcor Janitorial Services where he was an all-around janitor.

Early on, one can safely say that Roger was destined to work with the top bosses. His first janitorial stint started in the Director’s office of Don Bosco Makati. In his almost 2 years there, he had no absences, no periods of tardiness, and no reprimands were ever issued to him. Says Roger, “My boss admired my exemplary cleaning work!”

Eventually, he transferred to the Commodore’s office at the Philippine Navy headquarters. In January of 1980, the time he was reassigned to Don Bosco, Lady Fate gave his life a twist. One of his co-worker was assigned to a company called Saztec which was then located in Buendia. Afraid of the requirement to speak English to a New Zealander boss, Roger’s friend turned down the offer. Upon hearing this, Roger, awestruck with the idea, immediately asked his supervisor to send him instead. His boss didn’t give a second thought and instantly asked Roger to take his cleaning materials with him and off they went to Buendia. It was then, at that point, that he felt scared.

As a high school student, as a janitor at the Philippine Navy, at SPi's 25th Anniversary. Roger today.

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Lulu Tan Gan’s Second Coming through L Manila

Another article I wrote about Lulu Tan-Gan’s new store, L Manila. This time around, it is published at The Village Gazette.

The newly built Greenbelt 5 speaks of modern lifestyle as our enthusiasm for all things luxe revs up. The new go-to place in Makati is the home of hip Filipino craftsmen and artists, alongside top-end foreign luxury brands. The unfaltering expert in the fashion industry, Lulu Tan-Gan, is one of the feisty souls who will take on a trend she once created to a rather higher, more different notch with her newest endeavor, L Manila.

I am an avid supporter of Filipino fashion works, and Lulu’s creations have been my delights. I remember strutting along the social circuit in one of our corporate events when a curious expatriate asked me, “Who are you wearing, dear?” Beaming lightly I replied, “I am wearing Lulu Tan-Gan.” Obviously, I was flaunting our very own designer that night. Upon hearing about L Manila, my heart jumped for joy.

Luxury. Lifestyle. Lulu. These words may what the letter L in L Manila stands for.

An extension of iconic label Tan-Gan and perceivably a second giant wave of her fashion design career, Lulu Tan Gan’s L Manila spearheads to creating a global Filipino fashion brand. Drawing inspiration from Filipino costumes, arts, and history rather than from what is cheered at the modern fashion catwalks is L Manila’s newborn philosophy today.

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A Visit to Florence’s Home and Life

another cover story assignment for Forbes in Touch

Here’s another article I wrote about Florence Kho, owner of FurnItalia store, for the January 2008 issue of Forbes in Touch.

Home is where one starts from. – T.S. Elliot

Most people say that finding one’s character can start by simply observing one’s possessions, like asking someone, “What is it in your bag?” From there we’ll get interesting finds that may somewhat describe the person. I also recall this web site I learned from a colleague at which it encourages visitors to show all the things that are living in the pockets of their bag, scan them with their faces on, and send a copy for their project. A way of artistic expression so to speak, it is also fascinating to see and interpret the lifestyle and the personality of each individual with her personal things.

What more when we visit their most important possessions of all—their homes. A bubbly and sophisticated woman named Florence Ko just let us in.

Florence who also houses the rare, uniquely classic and high-end Italian masterpieces in the metro today, opens her doors to give us a glimpse of what is truly inside her home. It is a hard fact that her upscale store, FurnItalia is popular for home designers and urbanites that are in dire search for creations of the hottest names in Italian furniture designs like Carlo Colombo, Jean-Marie Massaud, Ferruccio Laviani and Antonella Mosca; and for the timeless classics of Poltrona Frau and of Fontana Arte.

Yet there is more to Florence’s über chic Italian furniture store or to her cozy modern home in northern Forbes than meet the eye.

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Marga & Bea Valdes: A Myriad Stories in their Bags

Marga & Bea Valdes: A Myriad Stories in their Bags is a cover story in February 2008 issue of Forbes in Touch.

This is a repost of an article for Forbes in Touch about the Valdes sisters, which I wrote many years back.

Yeah, at some point, I miss writing again.

“The business doesn’t work without them. There’s so much emphasis on design,” exclaims Bea Valdes, together with her sister Marga, on a bright, sunny morning in their comfy Forbes home.

The name Bea Valdes does ring a bell all right. She’s a celebrated Filipino designer whose creations have been graciously featured in local and international magazines such as Bazaar, Glamour, Marie Claire, Newsweek, Preview, Philippine Tatler, Town&Country, Vogue, W and O magazines; snapped up in trendy stores like Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue; and worn by high-profile celebrities like Sharon Stone, Kate Hudson, and Rachel Roy. Her collections are getting innumerable while her client base is mounting and growing diverse, too. There’s no doubt that she’s behind all these works. Yet without a great tandem found in the family (a trio, actually), the designer brand beavaldes won’t appear much in full gloss.

Bea Valdes’ tinsel town of beads and semi-precious stones is comprised of 40 workers managed by her mom Pamela and an equally hardworking and enthusiastic sister, Marga, who has been very significant in bringing beavaldes to the high fashion limelight as well as to topnotch foreign clienteles.

Marga in Focus
As Bea puts it, Marga has a more fascinating life. Marga’s been away for eight years, living independently in London and Paris. “What people don’t realize is that Marga’s life is more interesting. She lived in Paris and worked there in UNESCO. Then she went to London, took a master’s degree in Gender Studies in Economics, and worked in the House of Lords. She just came back for business,” Bea elaborates.

“Apart from being very lucrative to come and join my family, I thought I really can contribute. I also want to be home again and be with my folks and Bea. And she was pregnant when I came home! I was also trying to help a bit when I was away, and so is my brother in New York. So it’s a logical conclusion,” Marga explains.

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Mark + Kristi: An After High School Love Affair

The Bride and The Groom

Their love story can be described as something discreet, low-profile, and quite unexpected. Kristi and I have been friends since first year high school, and in our circle, both of us were considerably the goody two-shoes – studious, responsible, and sensible. Nevertheless, Kristi’s demure beauty and attitude is what makes her stand out. She’s known for her childlike sweetness and self-righteousness; yes, her high-pitch voice never fails us to cuddle her instead whenever she loses her temper (as she’d claim).

Mark came around on our third year. As my first impression on him didn’t go wrong, Mark is  a statuesque male of being prim and proper. As usual, every fresh (cute) face in the campus can really ignite an excitement, and Mark was definitely one of the few (respected) heartthrobs.

At that point though, both Mark and Kristi were involved in different relationships. Little did we know, until we moved onto different ways in college, that these two are unassuming love birds in the making. Neither any scandals nor gossips were ever heard about, or had tainted their relationship.  Instead they were silently, patiently building their dreams together. Truly, this is one facet I highly admired about them.

After more than 5 years as a couple, Mark and Kristi finally decided, “This is it, pancit!”

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