A cube of various colors organized in 3 by 3 set with the rest of its color clan at their respective sides sits daring anyone passing by to mess up its neatness. A daredevil comes along, picks up the the cube, light in their grasp, dared to twist the colors off various sides. A row of red would sweep to the left, with the rest of the red would go the other way. A blue would break the rows up. A yellow enter the scene. There’s a green that popped up in one corner. Oh the white says hello. The orange slides through. Utter chaos of colors as the daredevil jumbles to cube in his hands, tongue out. Twisting up, twisting down. One row to the left, a column to the right. He pushes his hand as if daring anyone to organize it back. Everyone would look at each other. One by one they’d twist one row to the next so the colors would return back to its family of colors. Often one side would return to its organized state, but the rest still in chaos. As the next side gets reorganized, the first one would go ballistic, then back. Nobody got it right back up. Then again, til someone, experienced enough to know the pattern of each colors, would push one row after another. He’d twist the cube so swiftly, calmly nothing’s getting organized. He’d stay at one side of the cube, only turning to other side to check his progress. Back to the same side he’d twist each row. As he’d twist, the colors start to build back up and soon, the Rubik’s cube was back to its organized state.

It’s the only way I know how this year has unfolded. I began my year, organized and well planned, then something came along to add chaos (yeah, I’m talking about coronavirus), then it was a game of twists and turns trying to organize one side, then messing it up while reorganizing another. In the end, I just had to focus on one thing, look at the progress, then keep going.

I didn’t find that focus until late this year. I started pattern making my dresses, knowing exactly how to do it. I organized my weeks making sure I’ve toiled enough, so that by the time I’d get to making the final garment, I was ready. Turns out, something was still against me. The fabric choice was a curveball, french seaming was unprepared for, weaving was too overwhelming. It was utter chaos. As the project progresses, a lot of what I know in garment construction and patter making, had to be unlearned so I can accomodate to some mistakes and mishaps I learned. The weaving, most especially, was the part of the project that was all learning along the way. I never worked with a nail and a hammer, I suddenly have a 1m x .7m loom with 70 nails on one side, 50 nails on the other. Did it without breaking a fingernail. I never designed my own textile, here I had to weave a whole lot of panels to make a garment. I just had to keep doing new things, don’t I? It was this newness of the method and the project that always led me to ask, am I good enough with what I’m doing? Am I really pushing the limits more? Why am I still holding back when I’ve tipped the edges up a bit? Am I really a designer? Am I pushing boundaries here? Do I provoke questions? Am I designing to solve a problem? Which problem needs solving?

I have gone through all of those questions and until now I never know the answer. All I know is that I enjoyed the game and I’m getting addicted to it. I wanted more Rubik’s cube, some made in white frames, plastic, wood, glass, I want them all. Small size, big size. A marathon, a relay, a competition, give it to me. I want to keep going. Further, I want to make this research into reality. With coronavirus hitting those on the lower end of the social status harder than the 1% who can pay 900,000 Philippine pesos for a lockdown worth of grocery (that actually happened, and made it known on social media), there’s a need to keep the people thriving and alive. Fashion has changed in the face of Covid-19. It had pushed the conversations to actions. We’ve only been talking about the problems, but rarely do we make it a reality. Instead, companies keep searching for loopholes to stay profitable than ethical. The Philippine fashion industry is not as innovative as those making names in the world stage. But, as in true Filipino spirit, we take the negative and make something out of it. Rajo Laurel staged his latest collection digitally, making it the first digital runway, seen live by millions on Facebook, elites and the mass, Filipinos and foreigners alike.

I don’t know where I will find myself after this year. I have ideas that needs a lot of confidence to make true. But I am hungry to do more, to learn more. I am hungry to make this project’s ideas into a reality where I can bring more Filipino craftmanship to New Zealand, then the world stage. It’s a collective work, and designers are doing their own part. I want my works to contribute to making this a reality. But it is such a big dream, and I have just finished four years of introductory learning to such a large industry. Fashion is so vast, and culture is so wide. There’s so many ways forward.

If I had to learn only one thing the whole time I was at Massey, is that with the right support and great environment, we can do anything. While Massey showed me a snippet of what the industry looks like, I had to also go out there and experience it. I’ve left a comfortable job at a coffee shop to work in menswear retail. I’ve volunteered in cultural foundations. I’ve met new people. I was pushed to text people I barely speak to. I learned to be specific with what I need and want. I learned to step on rocky ground so I get to the other side. I have met great friends that walked with me, some have left me, some said hi, others watched. I met great mentors, that although I barely picked their brain for ideas and suggestions, I will always have their guidance to help me throughout a new endeavor. I know I’ll always take every opportunity to come back to Massey and remember everything the past four years have allowed me to take in. I’d bring these learnings to the Philippines, so I can bring the Philippines back to New Zealand. It’s about time people, and I mean the world, to know about the Filipino art and design. We’re not just singers, we’re makers too.

So, thank you for a crazy final year. It was intense, it was invigorating, it was creative, it was vibrant. And it was never depressing. Off to the next one.

And no. No more studying. Just yet.