Sewing the seeds of love

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Glenfiddich Breakthrough Maverick Bernadette de los Santos.

A Bicolana from Baao, Camarines Sur, is this year’s Breakthrough Maverick of Glenfiddich’s Where Next Club project, which showcases Filipino visionaries and changemakers.

The World’s Most Awarded Single Malt Scotch Whisky chose artist, entrepreneur, farmer and environmentalist Bernadette de los Santos of BidiBidi Enterprises as its “maverick.”

Baao was once the capital of embroidery, a skill that dates back to colonial times but died due to the influx of computer-generated embroidery, and those coming from cheaper sources.

To preserve and enhance these traditional skills, De los Santos then brought the matter to different government agencies, proposing to teach the art of hand embroidery, sewing using the manual sewing machine and weaving in various communities.

Prior to the enterprise, De Los Santos was already partnering with the Department of Trade and Industry for its SME Roving Academies program or SMERA on livelihood workshops for women in Camarines Sur.

The BidiBidi idea was formed in 2017 after De los Santos taught embroidery, weaving and crocheting skills to more than 150 women in her community. Her target beneficiaries were rural women, mostly wives of farmers.

Their colorful creations were well-received in Metro Manila trade fairs when they first joined in 2018. It opened an opportunity to supply Kultura, a commercial store with branches all over the country, showcasing authentic and quality Filipino-made products.

The title of Breakthrough Maverick was bestowed on De los Santos as a changemaker whose idea was deemed the most sustainable, valuable and groundbreaking to globalize.

BidiBidi, De los Santos’ nickname, sells bags, fashion accessories and homeware, woven and hand-embroidered by a community of women in her hometown of Baao.

Bold ideas bear fruit

Glenfiddich showcased three other mavericks who have been bold enough to create the change they want to see and break through into the world.
These individuals have ideas or initiatives worth developing into the next Filipino global idea.

Completing the chosen four to inspire Filipino audiences with their breakthrough endeavors are: Production designer Gil Bien (Bayanihan) who created a budget-friendly, easily constructed and typhoon-resilient housing; Ma. Leonelle de Leon-Sandoval (Diskarte), founder of EveGrocer, a startup that pushes for sustainability; Reginald Phelps Laguna (Aruga), Chief Technology Officer of startup Cleenvent, which offers an energy-based technology to common household challenges.

The Where Next Club also gathered a network of key opinion leaders who served as mentors to the Filipino Maverick from select industries: Isabel Cuevas of Gawad Kalinga; Jet Yu, founder and CEO of Prime Philippines, and Benedict Mariategue, a multi-hyphenate entrepreneur.

During the awarding night, bidding transpired for the sale of rare bottles, such as Glenfiddich Gran Cortes XXII and Glenfiddich Grande Couronne 26 Years Old.

Proceeds from the silent auction will go toward supporting De Los Santos in her continued efforts to push boundaries.

On top of that, mentors are also providing additional resources to support the cause of the Breakthrough Maverick, such as support with branding, providing office space and many more.

When asked what motivates her to break through with her endeavors, De los Santos said, “I always look back to my community. What if I stop, what will happen to them? They need somebody like me, to give them those opportunities so that they can earn more, and they can contribute better (to) their family income.”

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