“I was even scared to have discovered during that time their (his relatives) scheme of killing me little by little.” 

From left: Danny dela Cuesta, Carlo Maceda, Boyet Fajardo

Fashion trends, as they say, are meant only for a chosen few, or, solely for those deemed fit to grace a magazine: celebrities, models, or those living  of the so-called “high life.” However, seasoned designer Boyet Fajardo, a successful brand in ladies apparel in Philippine fashion retail industry, thinks otherwise. After a miracle happened in his life, his vision now has totally changed, that is to make lives better for the grass-roots and the ordinary citizens and be one to others.

A Market Need

Boyet Fajardo

After years of working in Singapore (in the 80’s), as an OFW fashion designer, Boyet Fajardo saw in his return, the need for a Plus Size market in the Philippine retail scene. The pre-new millennium of women on the bigger side were not thought of deserving to wear something beautiful, and what is more  insulting was they were treated to unpleasant and harsh jargons. They were offending; as if this segment had no right to wear anything stylish. In fact, no designers tread this segment or were even challenged by this niche as big women were relegated to nothing but dark colors, shabby quarter sleeves and closed necks. They were like rolled sushis!

“So when my Plus sizes got into the market, I may have offered something new, and instantly it became a success. It was a big hit for Robinson’s Dep Store who had enough foresight to sign me up beforehand, and for me,” Boyet narrated.

The Big Hit

As a designer for this market segment, Boyet not only made a mark in the industry, he made his first profitable take. In fact, he was able to transform better sized clothes to styles whom society excluded from the world of fashion.

“I can’t deny that I didn’t make a big catch. That was the time when success came into my head. I was really raking profits that were brought about by my concept of apparel becoming a necessity for the heavy-weight women & men boasting it as compleat: high quality finish, wider color variants, extensive sizes, fabrics of the times and affordable price points. These marketing tactics antagonized and sparked the ire of many designers in my batch and became highly critical to my brand vision! Despite it all, however, I persistently maintained it as my retailing mantra.”

Going blind

Despite all the success on the rise, “All of a sudden, both my eyes went blind! I could no longer see,” he shared. “I was unable to tend to myself. I had to be led, bathed and fed. I could only see shadows and figures. Neither colors nor details.“

As a designer, the eyes are one of the most important tools of the trade, but now, Boyet became legally blind. He was worthless. Even his immediate family became useless at this stage. Instead, they took this opportunity to make a hoard of his resources, to the extent of making him sign documents he could not read. What made him even so furious with his brood was that they knew he can afford hospitalization but they vehemently opposed to do so.

It just kept getting darker for Boyet, not only because of the blindness, but because of the shadows of deep depression. He attempted suicide twice. First, he tried shooting himself, but with the interference of his loyal associate, Vilma Sorongon, it became futile.

The second time had cinematic proportions. It was dawn. He was ditched to a farm in the province. They told him staying in the farm would allow him to breathe fresh air. Little did he know it was during that time, they wanted him to breathe his last. He tried to escape this dire situation by trying to have himself ran-over on the highway, as the heavy rain kept pouring. However, Vilma found him before he could harm himself.

But that was not the end of his suffering. He went round the bend, in extent of smashing his own head against the walls, often. And if not for the several interventions of those around him, he would have broken his head. In truth, his loyal staff (headed by Vilma), patiently wrapped his head day after day with a towel to serve as a buffer in case he encounters another depression attack.

He felt so dejected that he questioned God why He allowed horrendous things to happen to him at the peak of his retailing success.

The Intervention that Healed

 In the course of his blindness, Boyet went to different sources for treatment: doctors, faith healers, and in his desperation to take away the darkness plaguing his life, he even went to exorcists. He became the beneficiary of treatments that cost him a great deal of his savings over the course of two and a half years that worried his bank a lot.

Then, the bright day came when he was attuned to a transistor radio. Intently listening to a respected doctor (an Ophthalmologist, Dr. Maria Dominga Padilla) discussing a case similar to his. Instantly, he made a patch call to this radio program and shared his condition.

Because most callers were impoverished, that’s why the good doctor granted him an appointment after a month as a charity case.   On the day of the appointed date, accompanied by Vilma, he was diagnosed thoroughly, then a treatment was recommended,

“Are you willing to undergo laser treatment now?” the Doctor asked. “Doc, kayo na po nag bahala. Kahit anong gusto niyo, bahala na po kayo,” Boyet quickly replied.

As if it was so simple after all, the doctor said, “Tara, let’s go to the eye center, but do you have 2,000 pesos to spare?” Immediately Vilma answered, Meron po” The doctor then said, “O sige, P2,000.00 lang ang charge ko sa’yo.”

He recalled being stunned: “I had already spent a load of my savings in the course of the two and a half years, but here, Doctor Padilla was offering redemption for only P2, 000.00,” he claimed.  He doubted the treatment at first, because he was not convinced how a simple 2,000 pesos would really solve his eye problem.

But after the ten-minute procedure, he had gained his sight back in one eye. That was the first miracle of God. He could see and was so ecstatic that he ran to the lobby of St. Luke’s Medical center and screamed with joy.

“Nagtatatalon ako at nagsisisigaw! I just went wild there, that’s why they probably won’t forget him,” he remembered.

He finally got to read the plate number of his car, which he had acquired when he was still blind.

Then the second miracle came when his other gained sight, too. He was given a cornea transplant that turned out to be very successful. However, his full vision could not yet be recovered because of other internal damages obtained in the early part of his blindness, and needed to be healed for a time. As what other doctors claimed that miracles don’t exist, he would still want to acknowledge them and share his experience that a Good God exists and nothing is impossible with Him.

It’s now a Corporate Social Responsibility

Now, he supports an advocacy for Persons with Disability (PWD), and works with Ephpheta Foundation for the Blind. He has a special heart for these people, primarily because he himself was stricken with it.

“There are so many people who are blinded simply because of poverty,” he said. “Hopeless for what I can do, my heart breaks because of this tight spot.  Blindness due to cataract or glaucoma deprives these Ephpheta members medical procedures due to their financial depression. So with my company’s involvement, I invested in a machine that was donated to the foundation in order to restore sight for the afflicted,” he proudly beamed.

Lately, he received recognition for his PWD efforts granted by Innocencio Magtoto Memorial Foundation for his outreach contributions to those who could not see or walk, moreover, to the PWD denied into jobs due to their handicaps.

This is not mere social responsibility efforts for him, or a part of the cliché pay-back time to the deprived section of the society. His efforts for this marginalized sector are borne out of understanding on how it feels to be badly treated because of disability. He himself struggled with bouts of this sort.

Returning the Glory

When both eyes can finally see, Boyet went back to his cutting table, created an outfit, and gifted it to Dr. Menguita Padilla, the surgeon who treated him, and eventually became his confidant.

While his vision is not back to the perfect 20-20 yet, it can get to 20-50 after another treatment, and he definitely sees life in a perspective much clearer than ever. He completely surrendered his life to God and to the service of others. For him, it is a conviction from a core that has been touched by the Divine. That’s a miracle, he can attest to.

As a designer, competition is already out of his career. “I am breathing a new life. My intention now, is to spread the news that transformed the whole of me. There is a reason why I’m still here. God has a plan for me, a plan not to hurt me but to prosper me.

“Now I spread my wings and soar high with the good news, that with God, nothing is impossible. For the PWD or for those aspiring designers who want to go into this kind of business as well as keeping  their feet grounded and rise above their difficulties, let me whisper the way in,” Boyet sincerely shared.

“I talk about Plus-Sized fashion and the discrimination that comes with it, too. I want these extra-sized women to come out in the open and say, ‘Ano ba’ng kaya ng mga sexy na hindi natin kaya.’ Discrimination stemming from their physical attribute is no different from discrimination given to the PWD.”

Indeed, it’s Pay-Back time for him. He intends to continue the designs he mapped at the outset of his New Life: to assist the less-privileged individuals and hone their capabilities to be self-sufficient. And when God touches their lives, he assures them these will be a trend that will never warp.

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