Saturday, July 23, 2011


LAST Wednesday proved nature has few rivals in staging dramatic exits.

In our faculty room in Lahug, we felt as much as heard the din as the clouds burst and poured for nearly an hour at about 4 p.m.

Tired by a day of teaching, checking and editing, I did not join the crowds that, defeated by traffic, flashfloods and a perplexing fire that broke out on Samson Road in Lahug, stoically shouldered their burdens and walked home.

After two hours of standing under weeping acacias, I boarded a jeepney. It felt good to finally go home.

The day after, I learned that a former schoolmate also had a homecoming on that unforgettable Wednesday.

Until he passed away at the age of 41, Salvi was well-known among fashion cognoscenti as Sal Malto. He was the Sal Malto, a member of the elite Fashion Council of Cebu.

Being sought after by the privileged and influential is a shaky foundation to stake a claim on success and fame. Yet, with Salvi, I felt that the accolades and patronage came to him by merit. He was truly creative.

During a short stint editing lifestyle, I had a habit of scanning the local and national media’s coverage of fashion shows. I looked at the photos, only reading captions to find out the name of the designer whose creation caught my eye.

A gown modeled for a wedding-themed show staged in Cebu I remember till now. The model was winsome in a white column made entirely of overlapping discs that seemed at first like small piyayas, the sweet dough cakes of Bacolod, but then later reminded me of the pristine petals of kalachuchis in full bloom.

Indifferent to clothes, I poorly describe a creation that did not usurp the wearer but made her, ramp professional, become, in the click of a camera shutter, the timeless picture of a radiant, luminous bride.

When I glanced at the caption, I thought how the gown was quintessentially Salvi: quirky, unique, beautiful in ways that could not be defined or labeled.

As an undergraduate at the University of the Philippines Cebu, Salvi was all gangling limbs: he was gifted in theater, his impersonations of teachers and classmates spot-on, hilarious but not cruel; in designing, those bony fingers often twirled around a pencil, sketching prom and date fantasy frou-frou for classmates and friends; and in generosity.

Creative individuals can be selfish, indwelling, insulated. Mortals like us create unending concessions to accommodate their giftedness.

Yet, being Sal Malto never got in the way of Salvi being Salve, Salvador.

Born on the eve of Christ’s birthday, Salvi’s nickname is a greeting, a salute. When my sister got married, he made her gown, as he did for countless UP classmates and mentors. Though the Filipiniana gowns he designed for Prof. Ligaya Rabago-Visaya added to the tradition of Sablay March-watching during April graduation ceremonies in UP Cebu, only his high school mentor knows how faithfully Salvi could be relied on to judge or be consulted for campus plays and contests.

He sponsored scholars; he made it possible for the seemingly ordinary to discover their giftedness. He volunteered for community theater and outreach programs that rarely made it to the society pages.

He soothed and healed without fanfare, away from the limelight. Olive Caday-Fillone, then the chairman of the UP student council (SC), remembers how, as a member of the SC volunteer corps, he was even more active than some elected councilors.

Last Wednesday, neither flash floods nor horrendous traffic could stop his family and friends from receiving and sharing the shock of his passing from aortic aneurysm.

Yet, just before you go home, Salvi, please take one more curtain call. 09173226131

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 24, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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