Learning From The Masters: My Journey Studying Shoemaking in Florence - Part 2

August 23, 2020

Learning From The Masters: My Journey Studying Shoemaking in Florence  - Part 2

It was the end of September 2019 when we finally decided to pursue our dream of flying out to Europe and learning from the masters of shoemaking. It was six years in the making, and we were finally set to taking Philippine shoemaking to the next level. The decision was locked in, and it was then time to work on all the necessary preparations to make this big leap happen.

The classes were set to start by January 20, 2020, 3 months from then. While 3 months are more than enough to prepare, there were a lot of other things on my plate. As you might guess, “Ber” months (October, November, December), are the busiest months of the year because of people spending in preparation for the holidays, and us ourselves preparing for the holidays. Alongside this, managing the finances during the “ber” months, and suddenly allocating a significant chunk of our income for tuition fees, flights, and accommodations, were not easy tasks. See, the decision to learn shoemaking in Europe, while always at the back of our minds, was made in a snap. We did not foresee this happening by 2019, nor did we plan for this to happen. So in terms of finances, the budget for this was not planned. Taking into account also that we just spent a big amount of money in putting up and launching our store. But in my head, it’s now or never. We were on a roll, and it would be very counterproductive to go against our momentum; and I was certain that this will be a great investment and experience for us.

School application, Visa, Flights, and accommodations were the major things I needed to work on. These were quite straight forward. When I was filling up my application form, it hasn’t sunk in that I was really taking the steps to go to Italy. I was still preoccupied with the daily operations of the business to realize that our dream is starting to happen. I was more focused on production, delivering orders on time while still creating new orders, preparing for the Holidays, and transitioning the team to a system that works entirely without me. The business being totally independent of me probably was the hardest for me, as I have been involved and hands on day in and day out everyday since we started back in 2014. Although I know that the team can already function without me, in my mind it was a personal challenge taking myself out of the picture.

By December 2019, most of the things I needed to do were done: Visa, school application, tuition payments, Holiday celebrations for the company, and laying out structure for operations while I’m away. Things are looking good. As I relaxed during the holidays, it was also starting to sink in that I’m leaving. Come January, I was able to secure flights and accommodations. I will be leaving on the 16th of January, 4 days before we start our next chapter, a chapter that will be of better shoes, better knowledge, and deeper love for the craft of shoemaking. However, the roller coaster ride of events had far from ended.

12th January 2019, Sunday afternoon, a volcano in a province south of Manila starts erupting. By 4PM, all flights to NAIA (main airport in Manila) are cancelled due to ash fall. Monday, January 13th, all flights cancelled. January 14th, cancelled. At this point I start to slightly worry. I call up my friend who works for Philippine Airlines, and he says there are no advisories yet. Definitely that doesn’t help. But it didn’t matter as if worse came to worst, all I knew was that I was determined to do everything I can to fly out and attend our classes. I have to. January 15th, still cancelled, but there were already reports that airport authorities are cleaning up the runways, and should be cleared within the day. There was hope. As I finish packing up my things on the 15th, I say a prayer - I pray that I am able to leave for Italy tomorrow, and arrive safely. January 16th - runways clear, flights are resumed. We drive to the airport, I said my see you laters to my family and my girlfriend, and head in to the airport. Check in. Board. Depart. I’m flying out. Finally, I’m on my way to Italy to chase our dreams.


- JR