On a placid evening in homey Saramsam, the mood brightens when Maria Fideliz Sales Cimatu arrives. The nineteen-year old De La Salle University student taking up Organizational Communication is not your typical timid Ilocana — she’s gregarious, spunky, and she speaks her mind. These qualities, perhaps, plus gray matter, helped her pass the rigid screening process for a student exchange program at IESEG School of Management in Lille in Northern France.
Belying the fact that she’s a daughter of politicos, she came to the restaurant unescorted. Dad is Board Member Fidel Cimatu, a retired general, and mom is Mayor Salvacion Sales Cimatu, both from Bangui, Ilocos Norte. Dei is the youngest of three siblings.
I discovered her new avocation on Facebook. Her one of a kind necklaces are striking, but not loud, and what I like about the designs is that they could take you from the school, office or mall, or even the beach, to a night out in a café or restaurant and you’d still feel right wearing them
Her recent 5-month stay in Europe has undeniably broadened her horizons. Here’s what we talked about:
What’s a typical day in your life?
Unpredictable. Spontaneity is my weakness, super.
What book have you recently read?
This Earth of Mankind. A novel.
What’s your favorite food?
Pizza and pasta, my favorite!
Do you have a pet?
Yes, it died. A shih tsu. His name is Foofy.
Do you have any quirky Ilocano habit?
Yeah, they always tease me “the little mayor”… I talk to strangers. I’m ma-PR. It’s not because I’m the daughter of a mayor. I’m ma-tulong na tao.
Do you see yourself in politics in the future?
They say they see it in me. I can’t tell.
Tell me about Paris.
I liked it, but didn’t love it. It’s overrated. The people are quite rude. It’s super expensive; you’re just paying for the name. Why just Paris, Tita? My school was in Lille. I visited Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal. I traveled by train and plane. Plane travel is cheaper. I liked Portugal. I spent my nineteenth birthday in Madrid.
How was it like living abroad? Did you get homesick?
Yes, the first two months, and then I didn’t want to go home. I appreciated living on my own when I started to pay my own bills, do the laundry…
When you’re abroad, don’t you feel like you’re more proud of your roots? I’ve observed that in a lot of people.
I appreciate more now the Filipino culture. I appreciate more yung pagiging conservative ng mga Pinoy, ’cause Europeans (most, if not all) are overly liberated; it’s disgusting.
Hmm. Let’s talk about your craft. Have you always been creative?
Art has been part of me even since I was little. My creativity unfolds when I take photographs, juggle college with fashion school, and now creating my neck pieces. In the words of Ilocanos, ‘arjud’ is the perfect word to describe me.
How long have you been designing jewelry?
Since September. I accompanied my mom to Divisoria and we passed by this store that had all the chains and beads. Right there and then, I wanted to make necklaces for myself. My friends saw them and suggested I should do it as a business. I buy my materials online now. Also one of the reasons why I want to earn money is this foundation for breast cancer patients. We did portraits of their daily struggles for a fundraising activity of PFBCI tied up with photojournalists and I’d want to continue to help in my own little way.
Why jewelry and not clothes or shoes?
There are a lot of bib necklaces around and I want to make something different. The ones I see, alam ko kung saan nabibili. Ayoko ng may kapareho, so I started designing for myself.
Describe your design style.
Versatile, like I don’t just focus on what I like.
Where do you draw your inspirations from?
The rawness of materials.
How do you start a piece?
My mom shows me how to arrange the beads and while she’s at it, I rearrange the beads and I go, “Mom, it should be like this.”
Do you make just necklaces?
How important is a necklace as an accessory?
It’s the final touch. It adds character to the outfit.
Chunky or tiny?
Your designs are intricate, how do you find time to link the little pieces together?
I do everything by myself. I’m a night person. I make them after school, when I’m home, two to three hours. In an hour, I can make 2 pieces. And then I do my homework.
What’s your favorite piece in your collection?
No favorite, I love them all equally! It’s hard to make kaya! I break my nails and have sleepless nights. Ouch!.
What’s the name of your line?
The album name in Facebook is For Sale.
(Laughs) Do you plan to take it to the next level? A website or label, perhaps?
I’m into my second collection. I’m thinking of Éblouissant [French for glow or dazzling].
Who buys your necklaces?
Friends, schoolmates. Friends from Canada, Mexico, New Jersey, Brazil and France were asking if it’s possible to purchase, but international shipping is too expensive. It feels good that they say they want to wear something from the Philippines.
Does your mom buy from you?
No. She borrows mine, like the necklace I’m wearing. I didn’t pay her pa for the materials.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received for your work?
When someone asked me where I took lessons. It was overwhelming. I play it by eye.
Photos by Blauearth and Surprisingly Kitsch. Bottom photos courtesy of Dei Sales Cimatu
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