We are almost done this cluster fuck of a year, can you believe it?!
It’s safe to say that we, every single person, on the VINTA team has been on a roller coaster ride all year.
We started this year so READY and excited. After I came back to Toronto from Manila, after finishing the details of the Spring/Summer 2020 collection, I worked on an elaborate strategic plan and a huge new marketing plan, and literally one day before our big strategic planning meeting with the whole team, the world shut down. It was like the rug was pulled out from underneath me. So many questions that I could not answer. All I could think of was, I have 12 people relying on the full time employment VINTA provided to feed their families.
This year was not boring! I was never bored!
The whole world was going through it. But it was a great year of LEARNING, all caps.
We did a lot of it. There were the dark moments of the learning too. And the fatigue of dealing with your own dark moments and seeing the dark corners of humanity also being exposed at the same time. The mood was heightened by way of incubation in this global quarantine, the changes that people (and businesses) had to face came hard and fast. And what has come out is light! Well... we found the light anyway.
I am not going to sit here and say everything is cool everywhere. It’s just not. But the amount of enlightenment we have gotten out of this time, even just within the Filipinx community in the diaspora, and well as our people back in the homeland, well, it’s really nothing short of inspirational.
When the uprising in the US started in June, I was watching from behind my screen weeping. I saw so many Filipinxs get behind our Black kapatid on the streets and online. Since I started VINTA I haven’t tried to assert my political leanings and beliefs on any public platform. This time I really wanted to say something. The reaction that we got from my Letter To Filipinxs in the Diaspora was pretty unexpected. The underlying message in that letter was the main driver of my previous career of running a Filipino arts and cultural centre here in Toronto — who knew the message was still new for so many? It was at this moment that I realized that the foundation of my work at Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture is still at the heart of what drives VINTA Gallery. I mean, I think I knew this, but it is truly inspiring when the universe reminds you that you’re doing alright.
In the weeks following, we were still chugging along and just trying to get the business to survive this pandemic when a group of young Filipinxs start this online campaign to take down my whole business and me personally. Honestly, the first thing I thought was, I am not gonna go on IG live and cry for forgiveness after I got bullied about a questionable choice I made that I apologized and atoned for within 24 hours. It’s interesting how online life can turn your actual core value into a hypocrite in one moment. Context, intention, access, possibility, knowledge and open mindedness were themes that were highlighted for me during this call out that dragged on for more than a month. Look, I don’t shy away from looking at my own mistakes. I strive to be held accountable — I wouldn’t be a good entrepreneur if I didn’t. I was caught making a choice that was not ideal, but what played out was a hunt to ruin me and my business and the livelihoods of my employees in Canada and the Philippines. That whole drama made me recall my letter just a few weeks back, about how we are all carrying generational trauma as Filipinos period. And as Dr. Christine Umali Kopp (a Filipina cultural psychologist) said to me, “Where there is anger, there is pain.”
We are all living through an intensely challenging time, and the pain that was wielded upon me is something that I know intimately. I dedicated my life to my culture because of that pain. I want to shout out my friend Robin Lacambra, who reached out serendipitously in the middle of that circus, and gave me much needed light. She provided guidance for me toward sharing privilege and finding radical compassion. The universe once again gave me a gentle pat and nudge to just keep going.
Because of all the online “callouts” of a few other FIlipinx culture bearers, artists, and practitioners in the diaspora, Culture Aid in the Philippines, organized an unprecedented event: The Voices from The Field panel series. Listening to the diverse and knowledgeable experts and Indigenous culture bearers’ voices on the panel series gave me great insight on what really did not feel right with me, outside of just being cyberbullied. It comes down to my own values of pakikisama, pakikiusap, which are tried and true Filipino cultural values.
This panel and the new paradigm of dialogue between Filipinxs in the diaspora and Filipinos in the homeland incited by this conflict was really needed and became the silver lining to all the anger and pain we are feeling as a community.
Speaking of community, there were so many brilliant and inspiring conversations this year! All on either IG live or Zoom. Had an awesome one with the uber talented Bay Area-based rapper and musician, Ruby Ibarra on her IG Live, early on in quarantine. I also had the honour of hosting one of Entrepinayship’s Kumare Circle, as well as being a part of their EPIC Global Virtual Retreat speaking on the Indigenous Made and Ethical Sourcing panel. Truly inspiring Filipinx women that gave me such a boost. And fun, casual Zoom chat with the brilliant and thoughtful young Filipinxs at FLOW, Fordham University Lincoln Centre in NYC’s Fil-Am students org.
With all of that in our pockets, I’m running into 2021 with my dope ass VINTA team with such optimism and hope. I am reminded of the immense privilege I have to work a creative living with something that is deeply meaningful to me. I recognize my privilege to produce, perpetuate, represent, and in most cases, introduce our rich and diverse cultural heritage to a global audience through fashion. Fashion, like food, is an entry point. I am not an Indigenous culture bearer, even if I claim my Kalinga family name — I don’t have a tangible connection to Kalinga culture. Today I am just a regular Filipino immigrant, a fashion designer and entrepreneur — that’s the place I share our cultures from. Because I have always wanted to represent and be inspired by our rich cultures and our inherent swag and style, beyond Miss Universe, Jollibee and Manny Pacquiao. I and the entire VINTA Gallery team are just playing our part as best we can.
The entire VINTA Gallery Team and I want to thank all of you VINTA Lovers for your support — it means the world to us! We hope that this holiday season brings you enough light to balance out the darkness and carry you and your pamilia into a bright and hopeful 2021! Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon! Much love and stay safe, everyone.