It’s been two weeks since the stars of ABS-CBN held “ASAP Natin ’To: Rome” yet my Instagram feed is still full of beautiful pictures of the show. There are also pictures of Italy like the Amalfi Coast and Florence courtesy of Ogie and Regine Alcacid, Gary and Angeli Valenciano, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, Maymay Entrata and Edward Barber, Moira, Piolo Pascual, and Martin Nievera.
This brings back a throwback memory worth writing again since this article of mine went viral 10 years ago. Two decades ago, I was invited to hold a comedy concert for the Filipinos in Rome through a group of Batangueño producers.
After the concert, my friend, former Congresswoman Cutie del Mar, who was a commercial model at the time, invited me to backpack all over Europe. I graduated high school in Poveda where branded bags and accessories were not allowed to promote simplicity and prudence, which I applaud. But because of that Poveda rule, I did not know what this certain branded bag looks like. My classmates in Poveda were also humble rich and never bragged about branded stuff.
So, I bought this nice, cheap hand carry bag because the woman said it was the hippest brand in town. I thought so too (it’s class triple-A) until Cutie bashed it.
Cutie: “Oh my god! Is that a fake I see!”
Giselle: “Sorry, I am not a daughter of a Congressman like you.”
Cutie: “You are Giselle Sanchez already! You already perform for the rich and famous not only in the Philippines but all over the world! You cannot be seen with a fake! When in Rome, do as the Romans do! C’mon, there’s a (names an expensive store) in the corner. I’m rewarding myself with this new commercial I did. Go and reward yourself as well because you had a successful concert.”
She walked so fast and in the blink of an eye, I found myself inside that store holding my fake handcarry. Immediately a short stocky Italian in a designer suit was circling me like a shark, looking at me from head to toe. Cutie was already at the other side of the huge store being entertained by a salesperson so it was too late for me to call for help.
Manager: “Excuse me, but what is your ethnicity?”
Giselle: “I’m Fil…”
Manager: (Cuts into my sentence and whispers loud enough for me to hear) “I knew it! You Filipina maids come in here to copy our designs. How did you get pass security with that bag! I will have to ask you to leave now.”
Giselle: “Excuse me! I am not a maid! I am an actress and I came here in Italy to perform for these ‘maids’ you are referring to. And don’t you ever call them that! They are called Overseas Filipino Workers. Do not look down on our OFWs because they have dignity in labor. They are our heroes. Do you work on commission, what’s your most expensive here?”
Manager: (Points to this type of a cabinet where the bags are displayed). “This one! It cost __million lira.” (I forgot the value, but I knew it was worth thrice the value of my life)
Giselle: “Seriously?!? Well…what’s your second most expensive?”
Manager: (Points at a luggage worth twice the value of my life)
Giselle: “Forget it! You! (pointing at a cute salesman at the counter) I will not buy from you, Mr. Manager. I will buy from him so he can take the commission! I’ll buy this, that, this, that, and this! It’s too bad I’m not an OFW because they can buy more than what I can!”
So what is the price of dignity? R500,000 (I maxed my credit card).
Please take note that I was just in the third year of my career then, so I was still a starving artist. Fortunately, my card had deferred payment. What was not deferred were the screams of my mother when I arrived from Europe scolding me for buying items beyond our means.
In fairness to these bags, they are durable. I am still using the make-up kit until now. People think I’m classy using coordinated handbags, make-up kit, and shoe bags of that luxury brand. Little do they know that Giselle became classy because of her being “crass-y.”
Moral of the story: If you cannot afford it, do not buy imitation — or you risk getting embarrassed (I never realized that paying for your sins can be quite expensive!). Honestly I am willing to swallow my mom’s scolding as long as I can defend the integrity of our beloved OFWs. They deserve it, mabuhay kayo… kahit mamatay na ako sa utang!