Summer of ‘98, my contract as a fragrance consultant is about to end, so I decided to go job hunting; but first I have to update my CV, and so I did. As for my interview attire, not so much as they always require you to show up in corporate attire. But I thought I need a pair of shoes. Across the shop from where I work, a moving out sale is happening. I checked it out. They all have everything Italian; from Versace, Gianfranco Ferre, Valentino and other Italian luxury line, I was surprised for they are affordable.
I got my first blue leather Italian shoes with a wooden sole. “Great choice” said the long legged woman who asked for my size. “ I always see you in Bibliotequé, do you work there?” To my embarassment I said “No, I only go there during my break to browse their unique collections of usually coffee table books and magazines, which regrettably I never own a single copy, I love to work there, but they’re closing. So, I have to find another prospect employer, I consider working for Tower Records” I said justifying my frequent visit just in case she saw me there. “Currently working in Perfumeries and will end soon.”
“I see, so you’re wearing this shoes for interview I assume. This Gianfranco Ferré is a perfect match.” She said trying to upsell. “No, thanks. I already have. I don’t know with you guys but I always wear this blue polo that I have for years because it always bring me good luck. It’s Sonee Guddi, i’m sure you never heard of it. It’s Italian and it sounds Gucci. I’m grateful even if they reject me, for I kept telling myself every time those odds are still in my favor and that the polo has nothing to do with it. (Refer to the Instagram post below to view the blue polo in question)
She found it funny and telling me about the upcoming fashion shows, she is to assist an Italian model (relatively unknown) and that the model needs someone to run errands for her and bring her staff to shows. “Don’t worry i’ll be working with her closely also on part time, she’ll be here in a month for fittings.” She said handing me calling card. It’s an all Italian sponsored event but has nothing to do with the company she’s working with.
The next 2 days, someone undoubtedly an Italian, is in my perfume counters browsing the impeccable display on Lucite glorifiers. He’s admiring the factice, I offered him samples of our latest scents but declined for he has an allergy. “Bvlgari Petit Mamans perhaps, it’s hypoallergenic.” I said handing him the bottle. He just smile and write down his number on a scent strip and handed it to me. “You’re so elegant ” he said and leave the store. I was left staring at the name scribbled on a scent strip and the store manager caught my apparent cluelessness. “Do you know who that is? his family own some Italian businesses from clothes to furniture.” The manager continue on enumerating all that they own including the store from where I bought my blue shoes. My thoughts were racing back to my exchange of numbers to a long legged sales staff. He must’ve known about my impending unemployment. I agreed to do some part time job as an errand to a model and i should decline if the Italian businessman ask me to be a personal butler, I prized my freedom more than anything. I made a call only to be invited to go out, I inquire if there’s any job I can fill in. He said we will discuss the matter on our meeting.
His chauffeur picked me up on my day off, we dined in North Park Noodles, not Italian. Then he saw my original CD, Chicago musical and he loves it too, finally something we share in common, he was so enthusiastic about it; i thought it was the right time then to ask about any employment offer. He then asked that we go to a sport’s club where he’s a member. It turned out he’s a nice guy and that he happily complies to his mother’s request of him to attend Sunday’s church and that pleases her. He just kept talking about what could be simple things but he genuinely enjoyed it. Never did he mention about all the wealth that they have. I guess he just wanted to be surrounded by young energy and that’s the only reason I could come up for the invites.
December, the time when Manila is at its busiest. Fashion Week summoned congregation of fashion gurus, magazine editors, photographers, models and fashion enthusiast across Asia; enough reason why the plane i boarded kept circling Manila’s air waiting for a signal to land from its traffic controller. Below was a festive lights of Makati’s gridlock, but the golden lights of Makati’s CBD outshone them all. However on stark contrast lie a dark, gothic cathedral among other Spanish era structures dotted the nearby coastline; the Manila Bay. Hundred spires and turrets towering in flamboyant details showcasing Spain’s artistry which reminded of Spain’s glory in old Manila. There are so many European influences that stood the test of time. Local artist see it as a backdrop against the vibrant colors and lights of Makati; old and new in perfect harmony. No wonder the Italian friend and his family chose to live and built their fashion empire here.
Two humongous banners waved at me; one banner had a huge Medusa head resembling a sun and below it printed Atelier Versace. On opposite side was another with a black hawk; its wings spread and below it printed Emporio Armani. I met the model having her last minute shopping and gleefully greeted me. She handed me fully loaded shopping bags and shook my hands tightly “Here, Caterina, cruel way of making new friends huh.”
The rented cab fetched and dropped us at the walkway of Ayala Center. The cab driver instructed us to wait for Sonia and he revved off. This part of the city is still alive with office workers having cigarette break. We took seat to a nearby fountain. We enjoyed the bustling city but no matter how exciting the night was; she’s ready to doze off whenever possible. Greenbelt area in Ayala Center, an arcade of luxury boutiques of world’s designer apparel and pricey cafes. The exterior incited the model to get in but they were close. Later, Sonia appeared by the fountain and seemed to be so tired. We both stand eager to go. “Ready?” asked Sonia who offered to tug the model’s luggage but i was hesitant because i was hired to do this, to be an assistant to the model until the designated time. ” The screening is strictly for girls, you can’t go with us. You are to wait here.” ” Look, I’m sorry, i’ll send someone to take the luggage if that’s bothering you.”
“The screening will begin shortly, if you can’t stay long outside, i suggest Greenbelt Park, there’s a chapel few blocks from here. Perhaps that would ease your mind.” said Sonia in a resigned voice and pull out a card and handed it to me. A hotel calling card to where she’s booked for a night until we meet the Italian from an embassy the next day.
A black pigeon flew away in seclusion off the flock and landed on the middle of the park across from where i was seated. It landed beside me with its neck craned high as if eager to look at me with both eyes at the same time only to be shooed away by the light blue Vespa scooter swooshing past me and swerved at the dark alley and parked. I could tell the driver was looking at me though i couldn’t recognized if it’s a man or woman behind the helmet and an over-all driver suit. Soon enough, other Ducati and Vespa driver emerged. They all halt behind the first one to come. All i needed was to escape. Scampering away to the nearest public phone, i called the hotel. Upon confirmation of Caterina’s reservation i hung up and started a sprint. I chose lighted streets and used the towering hotel as guide to my destination. I joined strolling crowd feeling vanished for my white polo but my dark pants bathe in park’s bright lights making me insoluble to the eyes of scooter riders. “Who are these people? What do they want from me? Could they be after the model? I remember how the Italian from an embassy told me i am responsible not only as an assistant and for her luggages and all but primarily for her safety. Why couldn’t they hire a proper bodyguard?
The leader in light blue Vespa instructed the two by hand gestures to take the street to their right; and the other two take the street passing what used to be the Park Square and the last two took the backstreet dark alley; a vacant lot. I am sure the deployment was to capture me. I started running and bumped night strollers and i could see from behind me the rider slowly trailing me which sent amorous pigeons flapping away as it drove past their feast . I ran as fast as i could toward the well lit but deserted street which would led to the hotel. I was then running alone and promised not to slow down until i was passing the vacant lot. I tripped on the protruding cobblestone and shove hard displacing calling card. I regretted for a second not choosing to pass near SM dept. store where there would be more people passing by the carabao court but that’s out of the way going to the hotel.
I saw a wood and reach for it and broke for a run again toward a light to a nearby construction site. I felt relieved as if i’m on a clearing at last. Without hesitation, I climbed to a G.I sheet fence. This didn’t hinder me and consider it significant for a better escape only to be greeted by an unmistakably Italian guy. He brandished what look like a Swiss knife but longer and I know it to be what we locally call as balisong. “Get away from my girlfriend !” She said in a thick Italian accent. “Hold on, I am her assistant, nothing else.” I said and was surprised by my calmness, perhaps I was tired that I don’t have time for their shit. He once more pointed the knife to me in a more threatening way as if giving me the last warning before he revved off and joined his cohorts waiting for some action in the distance. I felt my knees knocking in fear thinking they would all come back and just hit me and run. I wasted no time and head to a small patch of garden in front of hotel where the valet was. Fear certainly passed as I shove flat to take rest and come to my senses to what had just happened. Palm trees was tall enough to cover me. Pain on my elbows and knees were unbearable I couldn’t get up. Inevitably, the pain accompanied blood staining my white polo I took it off leaving the blue shirt. The blue velvety pants smudged in bloods from bruises too, enough to freeze me momentarily.
“Where are you? Are you alright?” I asked and recounted what happened. She’s in her hotel room telling me how tired she was with jet lag and all the briefing for fashion shows. “Listen, i’ve been in trouble but i’m alright now. Kindly bring first aid kit or anything to mend my bruises and fresh clothes too. ” She was hesitant at first, until I told her about her BF trailing her and that they’re responsible for all this injuries. She told me and would emphasized ex-BF. and couldn’t believe that guy would do such trouble to great extent.
The plan was for me to help her unpack and set up all her belongings and brief me for tomorrow’s fashion shows. But after what happened, we asked housekeeping instead and asked me to leave early and rest. She knew I deserved some explanation as she can see me looking confused ;I got so much to ask her but I saved it for the next; we both needed rest.
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This journal chronicle events from my past career describing activities on and off salesman’s duties. All events described herein actually happened irrespective of the order the blog was posted. Any resemblance to persons living or dead should be plainly apparent to them and those who know them and that the author is not responsible for any assumptions that may arise; to construe from the fact presented is discouraged as the author is still trying to make sense of it.