The Alchemist

Photographed by Mark Philip Dales / Model: Pepper Olvido / Makeup and Hair: Andy Bernad

Early morning in November, I sobbed to her that I would have to cease writing in the newspaper after 12 years.

I met Jul Oliva right here.

I stalked her first on Instagram while I was residing in the Middle East in 2015.

The wedding dress had had an odd bustier in a black mannequin. Strings that I have not seen beforehand were crisscrossed to a high polo neck through the waistline; a coffee-colored floral lace cutout was fixed on one side.

For a time—and for a lack of moral grounds—I thought it was ugly.

But the designer was beautiful. I thought she was a tall woman with long dark locks, fair-skinned, and languid.

I thought, so too, that I had a crush on her. We laugh together now: Had we been in the same
college, we would have been married now.

In the 10 years of covering designers and their shows, neither had I heard of her name nor encountered any of her item.

She was a fashion designer in her little world. She dressed up her whole family. And by the looks of how she has curated her posts, Jul is fine where she is at.

Or where she would be next.

In her little world, too, fashion is alchemy in 2019. It will be as transformative: how women feel in an engineered skin. Like alchemy—the ancient purgatory of natural science for all things impure—fashion has been polished to its truest purpose. The proliferation of trends every six months makes our world round; yet, we are no longer shackled to their dictate.

Society is not frazzled by the latest anymore.

In the last three years of being together, I have understood the woman’s body—and mood.

Our relationship has had the best of times, collaborating with both her interior design projects and two fashion shows last year (Inquirer Lifestyle’s OOTD in Cebu and Manila Fashion Festival). She tells me of the importance of the woman’s figure in the dress: under no circumstance must we hide the waist.

The crisscrossed strings, I found out, are her interpretation of the Filipino weavers. It’s a fabrication technique that heralds the most memorable: manipulating materials in obedience to the landforms (the Banaue Rice Terraces), the aviary (the Philippine Eagle).

As she furthers the sphere next year—textured, sculptural, and a brand new way of weaving—I will be just right here as thrilled and optimistic.

No matter the shape, the stature, the color of the woman—fashion remains to be cultural, a transmutative power. This, to all of us in the waiting, is the biggest trend of 2019.

I met Jul Oliva right here, in an assignment for Cebu Daily News after I came home from the Middle East and began writing again.

A print platform like ours now may take a long time to turn around—or it could mean an end to my 12-year journalism career in different print media companies nationwide. But I will adhere to the upcycling of nature, a personal period of alchemy.

And to Jul—who is all else that I am.

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