MANILA – With face masks still required in public places across the country, some entrepreneurs seized the opportunity by creating and selling washable face masks that serve as a stylish barrier against Covid-19.
Shining, shimmering, splendid are the best words to describe the face masks made by Randy Gomez and his wife Mina. They’re embellished with sequins, but nobody would ever think that they were made using backdrops from their photo studio “MRG Trading”.
Since lockdown was imposed in March last year with events and other gatherings prohibited, Gomez had to think of a way to make use of all the sparkly backdrops supposedly meant for weddings, debuts, anniversary parties, and other events.
“Di ba usually sa parties ang backdrop nila 'yung makikintab. Eh nung nag pandemic nawalan kami ng event. 'Yung mga tinda namin na backdrop, ang ginawa namin, binasag muna namin, ginawa naming face mask (Parties usually need shiny backdrops. When the pandemic started, we lost bookings. So we decided to cut the backdrops and turn them into face masks),” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.
Gomez said one backdrop could make at least 100 face masks. To date, he and his wife have sold more than 4,000 masks that cost PHP40 each — quite affordable because they’re recycled.
While he’s in charge of cutting the sequined backdrops, his wife sews them into face masks.
“Meron kaming sewing machine dahil nagko-customize kami ng photography backdrop, photography bag (We have a sewing machine because we also customize photography backdrops and bags),” he said.
Their stylish face masks are now among the top sales in digital stores like Shopee and Lazada — a feat they never saw coming.
Gomez said buyers leave good reviews for their face masks because they not only keep them protected from Covid-19, but also get head-turns.
“'Yung mga bumibili nagpo-post sila ng pictures, sini-send sa ’min. Usually nasa work sila. Sa work nila ginagamit kasi 'yung surgical mask, very common, pinapatungan ng sequined-face mask (Our buyers post photos then send them to us. They usually use them when they go to work. They use them over their surgical face masks),” he said.
Apart from sequined-face masks, he said they also have other designs that cater to fans of floral, camouflage, and other patterns.
Here to stay
Now that limited gatherings are allowed as long as health protocols are observed, Gomez is thankful that clients are using their backdrops again but the demand remains low.
“Bihira 'yung kumukuha ng photobooth kasi kung ikaw 'yung client, kukuha ka ng photobooth tapos ang pipictyuran is 10 visitors lang, mararamdaman mo na talo ka (People rarely want photobooths because if you were the client and get one to take photos of 10 visitors, you’ll feel like you’re at a disadvantage),” he said.
Gomez remains hopeful that they would get back to business once the government kicks off their vaccine program.
Because of the unusual shift from taking photos and selling photography equipment to making sparkly face masks, Gomez said he was initially embarrassed about having to sell them. However, he eventually grew to enjoy selling glamor face masks as it helped him sustain their family’s needs.
“Nung una nahihiya i-post sa Facebook kasi siyempre puro pang babae 'yung pinopost ko, kaya lang dapat wala ka nang pakialam sa kritiko. Ang kailangan mo ngayong pandemic is mabuhay (At the beginning, I was embarrassed about having to post them on Facebook since they mostly cater to women but I realized I shouldn’t care about critics. What you need during this pandemic is a means to survive),” he said.
Even if a large portion of the community becomes immune to Covid-19, Gomez said he still intends to keep selling fashionable face masks alongside their photography business.
“Eto 'yung bumuhay sa ’min during pandemic so wala na kaming balak alisin ‘to kahit na bumalik sa dati 'yung photography (This what helped us survive during the pandemic so we have no plans of letting them go even if the photography business returns),” he added.
Meanwhile, superhero fan, freelance graphic artist Rendell Sueña decided to design face masks that could make wearers feel like they have actual superpowers.
Sueña owns a printing shop so it made perfect sense for him to make face masks with the help of his ninong (godfather) when they started losing customers due to pandemic lockdown.
“Ang business ko po talaga nagtatatak ako ng shirts, tarpaulin pero nung nag-lockdown, humina 'yung business (My actual business is printing shirts, tarpaulins but during the lockdown, business slowed down),” he said.
He started designing masks that were inspired by his favorite basketball teams and eventually expanded to include his favorite superheroes like Spiderman, The Hulk, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as anime characters like Dragon Ball, Voltes V, and Gundam.
His face masks, which cost around PHP75-80, are also among the most preferred products in digital stores.
“Gumawa rin ako ng concept kong design tsaka mga request ng customers ko nagbibigay ng pictures (I come up with my own designs but also accept requests from customers),” he said.
Sueña considers his 93-year-old lolo (grandfather), Sofronio Porca, as a role model when it comes to design as he used to paint signages for stores in his younger days.
“Ang lolo ko kasi artist din kasi siya. Magaling mag drawing, gumagawa ng signages—'yung mga sinaunang signages plywood, nagpipinta po siya (My lolo is an artist. He draws well, makes signages—those old signages on plywood, he paints them),” he said, adding that his lolo would also design posters which featured his favorite cartoon characters for his birthday.
As a father to two kids, Sueña makes it a point to make sure his kids wear face masks others would envy.
Designing face masks, he said, is an activity he enjoys doing so he doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.
“Kung may nakita akong kumbaga natutuwa 'yung ibang tao sa gawa ko, natutuwa na rin ako (When I see people happy with the products I make, I feel happy too),” he said. (PNA)