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Serving in the frontlines in the COVID-19 pandemic is a daunting task, more so when there’s a serious depletion of personal protective equipment or PPE. One of the challenges many countries face, including the Philippines, is the hoarding and overpricing of PPEs and other medical supplies. This reached the point where the World Health Organization (WHO) called for the industrial sector and governments to increase their manufacturing capacities to meet the rising global demand.

In a local scope, the Iloilo Provincial Government raised concerns about the limited supply of PPEs within the province. In an effort to address the demand, local executives opted to acquire materials and enlist the help of dressmakers all over the region. Ilonggo fashion designers also rose to the challenge to produce PPEs for the local medical frontliners.

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One of these fashion designers is Ram Silva, the designer of the trending Money Heist-inspired hazmat suits as he’s a fan of the popular show. He’s a clothing designer and an event coordinator and wedding planner. What started out as a mask donation drive, Mr. Silva’s efforts expanded to making PPEs for several city hospitals and health facilities in rural areas. He shares that they donated PPEs to the ones who need them the most. “After donating to some hospitals in the city, I decided to lend a helping hand to the hospitals located in the rural areas”.
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Another designer is Adrian Pe. He serves as a full time OR nurse specializing in cardiovascular surgeries. He may not look like it but he is the designer behind the colorful Teletubbies and Power Rangers overalls. Pictures of medical staff wearing his designs quickly went viral on social media3. When not on duty designing clothes, he works as a makeup artist. He started the project as an answer to the great call for humanity.

For Nurse Pe, it brings him joy seeing fellow designers use their craft and passion to help flatten the curve. When asked about his works’ instant popularity, “never did we imagine our colorful PPEs would attract so much attention and praise from people.” He also believes that his colorful hazmat suits help ease his colleagues’ stress, making them feel young and hopeful.

Even with a collective effort to help, these designers also have their own difficulties and challenges. Sourcing the materials to make PPEs is a major obstacle. Due to the lockdown, businesses had to temporarily shut down including the local textile shops. Nurse Pe shared that he had to purchase textiles from Manila with help from the Philippine Coast Guard. Mr. Silva found it a challenge coordinating and distributing work to his team of six seamstresses, all of whom work from home, and one driver. Even with these difficulties, they still managed to deliver.

When asked about the state of the response to the pandemic, Nurse Pe admitted that he’s often saddened by the news of the rising death toll of health workers due to the global PPE shortage. He admits that the adversity motivated him to bring out the best in what he does and fuse his passion and profession. As we ease into the new normal, Mr. Silva encourages people to be hopeful and appreciate life even more. He believes that everything could disappear in a snap and we should enjoy every bit of life while we can.

Not all heroes wear capes; or rather in this case, they don’t wear medical white.

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Kate Vergara

Kate Vergara

Kate is a Xilium writer and a former lifestyle and business assistant editor at a local Philippine newspaper. She holds a degree in pharmacy and literature, so her writing spans holistic and alternative health, medicine blog articles, and advertising and legal services. She enjoys blogging, poetry, and short fiction and has published in indie zines and anthologies.
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