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Eye on the Philippines: Resiliency and Potential

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A sharp contrast between Metro Manila and the shantytowns, evidence of stark economic disparities.  Photo Credit: Chris Rusanowsky

A sharp contrast between Metro Manila and the shantytowns, evidence of stark economic disparities.
Photo Credit: Chris Rusanowsky


by Sally Shearer (Intern)

Filipinos have withstood quite a year: from weathering the devastating effects of the super Typhoon Haiyan at the end of 2013, and Typhoon Rammasun this July and just narrowly escaping a third last month. Super Typhoon Jose spared the Southeast Asian nation from the full brunt of its force, though still providing rains heavy enough risk spilling over damns and flooding a number of areas throughout the country.

Still, the Philippines continue to rebound, exhibiting incredible perseverance and grit. This has not gone unnoticed. The Philippines is predicted to be the second-fasting growing Asian economy this year, the 14th economy largest by 2050. Furthermore, the nation was named the most improved country in the latest Doing Business report, and ranked fifth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.

The cherry on top for international recognition of the Philippines progress thus far, was playing host for the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2014 in May.  However, the Philippines has a ways to go before it can ever become a leader in East Asia let alone on the international stage. This was made clear over the course of the summit, which identified the necessary drivers for growth, as well as the key obstacles and issues that must be addressed. Namely, ensuring the growth is inclusive. Change, while significant overall, has yet to penetrate all areas of the country; while metro areas thrive, rural areas have yet to reap the benefits of economic expansion. Poorly dispersed resources and opportunity weaken the entirety of any system.

By now, you may be wondering where Faces Apparel fits into the picture, especially from all the way over here in California. We are gearing up to combat one of these hurdles: poverty.

Faces is committed to providing fair wage jobs to struggling communities and spur economic growth in these poor rural areas, where families are often disbanded, and parents are forced to leave their children for work in urban factories or abroad (a whopping 10% of the GDP is remittances, with 1 in 10 Filipinos working abroad).

It has become increasingly public knowledge that the conditions in such factories are mediocre at best, but more likely rampant with numerous labor and human rights violations. Workers risk their lives daily in these factories, only to be able to send meager and often-insufficient funds home to their families.

This is the case throughout much of Asia, where developed countries like our own have outsourced to take advantage of cheap labor. And regardless of one’s stance on this issue, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Therefore, there is no justifiable reason for it to continue on in such a destructive and dehumanizing fashion – an unfortunate but accurate pun given the apparel industry’s major role.

As evidenced by the bright outlook in the Philippines there IS hope, there is potential. But we need to capitalize on the momentum now. Faces Apparel is doing just that. We are proud to draw attention to both the need, but even more so, the incredible promise Filipinos possess, with the forthcoming institution of our Mobile Factory initiative, in San Pedro, Philippines.

Our vision predicates on the “teach a man to fish” philosophy: Filipino’s need our help, but not our charity. They already possess tremendous ability and drive as evidenced by their repeated resiliency. Filipino journalists have documented this: those living in rural shantytowns “want jobs – not handouts.” Faces Apparel wants to provide the opportunity to see it realized by investing in the people of the Philippines. Oh, and of course create awesome T-shirts.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino said it best during his welcome address at the opening of World Economic Forum “We have to invest in our greatest asset – the Filipino people…It has been the patriotism, the willpower and the wisdom of the Filipino people that has rescued our country from its darkest moments.”

SallyShearer_InternSally Shearer is an intern with Faces Apparel and a student at Claremont McKenna College majoring in government and psychology.

Faces Behind Our Community: Dray

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by Tracy (Intern)

Hi, I’m Tracy, an intern here at Faces Apparel. I’m writing about the Faces Behind our Community, the people we interact with around town in our everyday activities. Who are they? Ever wonder about the cashiers at the store, the trainers at the gym, or the mail carrier on your street? There are countless people who impact us every day, including the people who make the clothes we wear. Do we know who they are, their name, and their hopes? Faces Apparel wants to connect consumers to the people who make our clothing, but I wanted to first start here in our own community to practice what we preach. So through our Faces Behind the Label series, we’ll get to know a few people who have occupations similar to those in your own neighborhood.

My first interview is with Dray Gardner, a yoga instructor. Since yoga is popular and so many of my friends practice it, I thought it was a good place to start. Here’s what I learned about Dray:

How did you become a yoga instructor?

When I was 35, I hurt my back. I grew up throwing my body around like how the kids where I grew up did. I did a lot of boxing and fighting, such as UFC (before it existed). Then, I was told I had to get surgery, which I didn’t want to do. Most people I know who have back surgery are still on pain medication or therapy now, so I picked up a mat and tried a different way of treatment.

What is your passion?

I want to bring yoga to the poor and the disenfranchised. Yoga is traditionally free. You are supposed to be able to put a mat anywhere. Now it is a million dollar industry. That’s fine, but people are out to make money, which isn’t karma based. Yoga is my outlet for doing something good in the world. I want to change people’s perspective on yoga. I’m looking to bring yoga to the penal system as well. Yoga can change lives, if you are receptive.

Are there any other goals you have?

I want to travel the world and bring yoga to all. I travel a little, about once a month, but I can’t drop my life here. Being able to meet people everywhere would better myself. I always say, “Every student is my teacher.” I get to teach them yoga and in return they teach me as well.

Do people make assumptions about you based on your job?

I try to tell people, “Don’t take my kindness for a weakness.” I paint my toes to send a positive message to all, that your feet are part of your body so take care of them as well! I am also a non-traditional yogi. You don’t have to look how the stereotype is; you don’t need a beard and long hair to enjoy yoga.

Is there anything you want to tell our audience?

1. Love yourself enough to struggle, but most importantly love yourself. Tough times don’t last, tough people do!
2. Make a living…Living everyday.
3. Live everyday: wake up in gratitude, never taking any day for granted.
4. Make it a point to smile to a stranger because it might be the only sunshine they see all day.
5. Allow kindness and compassion to be a currency.
6. Allow no person to steal your peace, if that occurs you lose and they win!

Dray 2

I was inspired by hearing about Dray’s outlook on life, and his back story and journey. There is so much history that goes into a person’s life, and even though we may only meet them at one point, it is important to remember that they have a whole story.

Dray Gardner currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where he is a Yogi and a Yoga Instructor. He works with private clients in a studio and is a volunteer teacher at at-risk schools.