Wigged & Proud: Fearless Women Take a Day Off

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Laughter and beauty abound last November 16, when fifty breast cancer patients and survivors from the East Avenue Medical Center and the Philippine General Hospital were treated to an all-day pampering event. The L’oreal Academie played host to PLDT – SMART Foundation’s first Wigged & Proud activity. Along with the I Can Serve Foundation and the Philippine Foundation for Breast Care, Inc., participants in the event included the following companies: L’oreal, Prive, Hairbytes/Hair Tattler, David’s, Benefits, Angelo Falconi, and Francis Lee.

Photo courtesy of Gwen Cariño

The event, an advocacy of Prive honcho Geoff Simpson, gave women the chance to have their very own wigs (generously donated by Ms. Pinky Tabiano) and the hair care products to make sure they last. Brand new hairstyles come hand in hand with make up makeovers of course, and the women were treated by some of the best artists in the industry.

Wigs on display

Wigging Out

Under PLDT – SMART Foundation’s (PSF) Artists In Development (AID) program, Simpson, along with multimedia artist Arnel Ignacio, conceptualized an event where breast cancer patients would be given the pampering they deserved after the ravaging effects of the disease and chemotherapy. Many people have loved ones afflicted with the cancer or know someone who has had a family member or friend undergo the trial; Geoff Simpson is no different. When a dear friend of his was diagnosed with the cancer, the life-changing effects of the disease reverberated to his life as well. When PSF/AID approached him with a team to support any cause of his choice, there was no question that it would be breast cancer. Many of the people involved also had their own cancer stories to tell, though not all were about breast cancer, the imminence of loss and pain was common to all.

When the women arrived, many—if not all—of them, wore scarves and hats to cover up the side effects of chemotherapy. Though many looked fragile and delicate, glints of courage and excitement were clearly seen in their eyes. Since they were mostly government-sponsored patients, they were not accustomed to be waited upon. In fact one of women claimed that she’d never set foot in a salon her whole life. Some were apprehensive and clung to one another for support. After a brief introduction by Serve Foundation’s executive director Ms. Kit Malvar-Llamas, the stylists and artists approached them all individually—Simpson included. Eventually the women warmed up, won over by the sincerity and warmth of the staff. Everyone involved clearly wanted to be there and share their gifts to the people who were most deserving of some TLC.

Fearless women have their 'before' picture taken

Before the pampering began, a call for a group shot was made for a “before” picture. Upon hearing it, one of them whipped off her scarf and called on the others to do the same. Everyone was surprised at her candidness yet pretty soon the other women did the same. Though some resisted, it was obvious that the tension had been broken and everybody was giggling and swapping jokes; it was beginning to feel like a slumber party or a bridal shower with all the girlish squeals and mutual admiration going on. Life may have dealt the group many unfavorable cards, but none of these had broken their backs— certainly not the cancer. Their high spirits were contagious and everyone, including the media people— who were mostly guys—was joining in the fray. Photographers were taking glamorous paparazzi-esque shots reminiscent of those Fashion TV specials, and the women reciprocated by posing and being mindfully “unmindful” of the cameras swooping down on their coiffed hair and powdered faces.

All-day pampering

Celebrities also trooped in for the cause. Nadia Montenegro was the first to arrive and she caused a stir when she decided to cut off her lush, thick black locks for the cause. While her hair newly bobbed, Ms. Montenegro told reporters and the women around her that she too had had loved ones afflicted with breast cancer. The cause was also dear to her heart and the moment she got the invite from Simpson, she didn’t hesitate to give what she could.

Nadia Montenegro cutting off her hair
(Photo courtesy of Gwen Cariño)

Mich Dulce and Nadia Montenegro

PSF Executive Vice-President Anthony Pangilinan arrived later in the day and shared a heartfelt talk with the women, encouraging them to fight on and promising to support their campaign. Maricel Laxa, TinTin Bersola-Babao and Isabel Ledesma were also present to share their beauty tips and cheer on the participants. Designer Mich Dulce and actor Jeffrey Hidalgo also showed up to offer their support to the women, gamely posing for pictures and listening to their struggle in dealing with the disease. The women were certainly heartened by the show of support from the people they looked up to, but the latter were quick to point out that it was them— the patients and survivors—who were the true stars of the day. And it was true. The burden of shouldering the disease and at the same time caring for their families is more work than most of us can even fathom.

Anthony Pangilinan
(Photo courtesy of Gwen Cariño)

Maricel Laxa, Tintin Bersola-Babao and Isabel Ledesma with PGH patients
(Photo courtesy of Gwen Cariño)

The event, according to Anna Reyes of PSF, was meant to empower women coping with breast cancer. This was to be the start of their campaign which will include T.V. spots, magazine ads, and grander events all dedicated to raising awareness for the disease and supporting the fearless women leading the way for the rest of us.

All smiles in their 'after' photo
(Photo courtesy of Gwen Cariño)

At the end of the day the women posed for their “after” group picture and individual portraits. The delight from a day of pampering was not lost on them; the sparkle in their eyes and smiles showed a renewed strength to push on with the battle and win against cancer. Though they were showered with attention and goody bags, it was clear that the most significant gifts were the care and compassion shared by the people involved in the event. While some might dismiss the activity as a frivolous party, at the end of the day what matters most is the good you did or how you reached out to other people. Based on the giddy laughter of the women involved in the event, the effect of a little powder and puff went way beyond skin deep.

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