Published on page C2 of the August 20, 2006
issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
FROM HOW SHE WAS HUNCHED OVER her sketchbook, outlining in
earnest the female form on the grids of the white sheet in front of
her, it was hard to imagine that Migs Sanjorjo was once the
disinterested student she said she was the year before.
The 18-year-old was studying nursing, dreaming like most of her
generation, to one day leave home in pursuit of a high-paying job
abroad. But Sanjorjo’s heart, she soon realized, was elsewhere. To
her, college was a tortuous process that no promise of future
dollars earned could make her stay on. After only a year, she quit
college and enrolled in a fashion-and-arts school on Taft Avenue in
June. Her parents gave in without much protest.
“They said I might as well do something that I liked than waste
money,” Sanjorjo says with a glint in her eyes. “I’m enjoying... I
want to become a fashion designer. After this [six-month course],
I’ll enroll in sewing.”
Sanjorjo’s classmate, Sharlene Chan, 30, finished international
studies at De La Salle University, and is involved in her family’s
paper business. But once a week for months now, Chan has been
attending advanced classes in fashion design.
“I didn’t realize I would like it this much,” she says. Lately
she has started making clothes for her friends.
In her 25 years of running Golden Hands Fashion and Arts School,
Eloisa “Chic” del Rosario Francisco is only too familiar with
stories like Sanjorjo’s and Chan’s. The school founder and
directress has come across diverse tales of how her students wound
up in her school, and she relishes retelling them.
Francisco says she once had a batch of home-economics teachers
enrolled in her school, sent there by the administration of an
exclusive girls’ school in San Juan. Once, there was also a bunch of
nuns who took up classes. Then there were owners of big
manufacturing firms and ready-to-wear brands.
At the moment she has students with their own dress shops,
boutiques or subcontractors for various clothing brands. And, how
can she forget, Ivarluski Aseron is an alumnus of her school. Aseron
is, of course, one of Manila’s noted young designers, who says
Golden Hands is a “good place to learn the basics.”
Francisco may now sound pleased with how far her school has gone,
but she’s the first to admit the primary reason that led to its
eventual founding had, in fact, not much to do with the desire to
teach as much as a personal fancy for beautiful clothes.
Growing up with three sisters in the ’60s, all of whom loved to
dress up, she recalled their frequent trips to seamstresses racked
up absurd bills that their mother suggested they find a cheaper
alternative. But then the sisters were fussy.
“We wouldn’t be satisfied with the quality that the clothes ended
up in the back of our closets,” she says. An aunt suggested that
Francisco open up her own dress shop. The idea so appealed to the
young woman that she vowed when she was ready, she would do exactly
She studied at the Madonna School of Fashion after graduating
with a communication arts degree from Maryknoll [now Miriam]
College. She soon opened her dress shop in a gated Makati village,
with clients that included expats’ wives. However, she decided to
close shop after nine years to establish Golden Hands.
Francisco had found her vocation.
Books and testimonials
Since then, the woman has authored five books on pattern-making,
sewing and fashion design, all of which, she proudly said, are
selling well locally (at National Book Store) and abroad (the books
are sold on the Internet, at myayala.com). The books are used in her
“I have students who enrolled after they got hold of my books,”
The books are easy-to-follow even for beginners, and it has
e-mailed testimonials from readers from as far as Texas in the
United States to Trinidad Island in the West Indies.
“I never expected the school to last this long,” she shares. “I
don’t make money. But I feel I need to do this. Not everyone can
afford to pay P80,000 each term,” which she said is what formal
fashion schools in Metro Manila charge.
Golden Hands, the school, is a modest affair, occupying two small
rooms in a nondescript building on Taft Avenue (tel. 5232347,
5248424; visit goldenhandsschool.edu.ph; e-mail
email@example.com). The school has five instructors;
instruction is on a one-on-one basis. Courses take six weeks to a
year, and students attend classes at hours convenient to them.
“Some vocational schools have fine prints,” Francisco explains.
“They say six months but they mean only 240 hours spread throughout
the period. With us, you come in whenever you can, for as long as
you like, until you finish the course within the allotted period.”
Unlike regular schools, Golden Hands accepts new students throughout
For students like Chan, the setup is convenient. “I’m only able
to leave work once a week. The flexible schedules suit me.”
“I’m quite happy my daughter learned of this school,” says Rose
Balatbat, a new student. Balatbat is a nurse who’s home from the US
where she and her doctor-husband are based. “I was getting bored at
home since all my kids are grownup. With my free time, I want to
learn how to make things to decorate the house.”
Golden Hands also teaches entrepreneurial sewing and design
courses, drawing students like Aklan native Haizel Velasco, whose
family is in the piña fabric business.
“Competition is tough,” says Velasco, a former pharmacy student,
“so you need to learn how you can keep up.”
Francisco herself stresses the importance of learning how to make
patterns, particularly to garment-factory workers displaced by the
influx of cheap clothing from China.
“When they know pattern making, they can accept made-to-order
services. They are assured of a livelihood,” she explains.
These days, Francisco is thinking hard about the future of her
school as none of her three children seem poised to take over when
“I don’t know,” she laughs dryly. “But right now I’m just happy
I’m doing something worthwhile. My maternal grandmother instilled in
us the importance of contributing to our country. That’s my
motivation, especially as I see that my students are going
Email the author at cmoral@inquirer.