MANY might perceive fashion to be something reserved for a chosen few, perhaps only for those deemed fit to grace a magazine: celebrities, models, personalities living the so-called high life. However, to designer Boyet Fajardo, now a successful name in Filipino fashion design, his work in fashion is a way to make lives better for more people. As a recipient of miracles himself, he desires nothing less than to be a miracle to others.
He pioneered plus-sized fashion in the Philippines. He says that, before, women who were on the bigger side were not regarded as deserving to wear something as beautiful as their smaller counterparts.
“Before, when you ask, ‘Where is the big size?’ you were pointed to some dark corner where there was nothing but [house dresses]. No designer would dare to touch plus-sized clothing, until I did and my line was really a big hit.”
Robinson’s had enough foresight to sign him up immediately. Fajardo sees the needs of the market that’s often lost to or ignored by other designers.
Now, he also has an advocacy for persons with disability (PWDs) working with the Ephpheta Foundation for the blind. He has a special heart for people who have this disability because he has suffered from blindness, as well.
“There are so many people who are blind simply because of poverty. What can I do? My heart breaks for them. They go blind because they can’t afford a simple cataract or glaucoma operation. This sparked my involvement with Ephpheta, which does outreach for the blind. I helped them by investing in a machine that could help restore sight to the afflicted,” he says. He received an award for his efforts with PWDs from the Inocencio Magtoto Memorial Foundation, and he has since extended his outreach even to those who can’t walk and PWDs who wouldn’t be accepted for any job simply because of their handicap.
It was sudden, he says, recalling the moment when he lost his sight. “All of a sudden, both eyes went blind. I could no longer see. I was unable to take care of myself. I had to be bathed and fed. I could only see shadows and figures. No colors or details”
The designer was now legally blind.
He thought he could rely on his family to take care of him. However, they saw his condition as a chance to make a play for his money, to the extent of making him sign documents he could no longer see, much less read. “What made me so angry with my family was they knew I had enough money and could’ve brought me to a hospital. But they never did.”
The world just kept getting darker for Fajardo, not only because of his blindness but also because of the depression that inevitably settled. He attempted twice to take his own life.
In the course of his blindness, he went to different avenues of treatment: doctors, faith healers, even exorcists. Then the light came, which he attributes to nothing less than divine intervention.
He recalls eye specialist Dr. Minguita Padilla asking him, “Are you willing to undergo laser now?”
“Doktora, kayo na po ang bahala. Kahit anong gusto niyo, bahala na po kayo,” he replied. “Maybe she thought I didn’t have money, so she asked, ‘Do you have P2,000?’ to which I replied, ‘Meron po.’ “The doctor then said, ‘O sige, P2,000 ang charge ko sa ’yo.” They proceeded to St. Luke’s Medical Center in The Fort in short order.
He recalls being stunned: “I’d already spent millions over the course of the two-and-a-half years I was without sight, but here she was offering redemption for only P2,000.”
At first he wasn’t completely sold on the effectivity of the treatment because, after all that he’d been through, could such a reasonably priced procedure really solve his sight problem? However, “in about 10 minutes, I had gained my sight back in one eye. That was the first miracle of God. I could see!” He was so ecstatic that he ran to the lobby of St. Luke’s Medical Center and shouted with joy.
“Nag-tatatalon ako at nag-sisisigaw. I just went wild there, that’s why they probably won’t forget me! I could see!” He even finally got to see the plate number of his car, which he had bought when he was still blind. The second miracle came when he gained sight in his other eye. He was given an eye transplant that was very successful. Full vision could no longer be restored, however, because of other internal damages, but Fajardo is happy to take what he can.
After regaining his sight, he cut cloth, created an outfit, and gave it to Padilla, who has become a true friend. In a talk at a conference abroad, Padilla told her audience, “This dress was made by a patient who was blind. Now, he can see.” Amazing grace told through a designer’s life.
Nowadays, Boyet Fajardo doesn’t want to compete but to inspire instead. “I’m into a new life. I don’t want to talk about competition because my purpose now after what happened to me, it changed me. The reason why I’m still here is because God has purpose for me. Now I’m here to spread awareness, specifically for PWDs, but also for those aspiring designers who want to go into this business and why they must keep their feet on the ground.” With Ruth Karla Mae Domingo