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Alumni in the Spotlight: Monina Gatan (GS 2001, HS 2005, COL 2009)

Nina never let deafness prevent her from achieving her dream of being in the fashion industry. While being a deaf student enrolled in a normal class setting had its challenges, it was in MC that Nina learned to be resilient and accept the kindness of others. Today, Nina shares her talent with the world as a fashion designer who proudly promotes Filipino designs and craftsmanship. 

Briefly describe your area/s of expertise and/or advocacies. How long have you been doing these? 


I am a womenswear and bridal designer.  After graduating college I enrolled in Slim's Fashion and Arts School in Makati because I wanted to learn how to sew.  Our school director recognized my skills and it was through Ms. Tessa Prieto-Valdes I was able to pursue a scholarship in draping. Later on, I took up the offer from Netherlands Embassy to take up draping classes in Misteroploeding Coupeur Amsterdam in 2017 as part of their cultural exchange program.  Though I have been sewing womenswear for six years, it was only in December 2018 that I formally launched my first bridal collection.

 

Among your interests, which one has been your driving force?


I have always been the "artistic" kid in class, and fashion has constantly been my mode of expression with my peers. Just seeing my batchmates getting me as their designer for their special day is a motivation in itself. I become their sounding board, their cheerleader, a friend. I see how we have all grown as persons – and as women, it is very empowering when we uplift each other up. 


Another thing that I look forward to is representing Filipino craftmanship. I do ternos as well. I was mentored for a short while by Mark Lewis Higgins and Gino Gonzales, co-authors of "Fashionable Filipinas: Evolution of Philippine National Dress".  They have been valuable to me when I started out making ternos. Hopefully this passion leads me to representing our cultural heritage on a bigger stage. 

 

To what would you attribute your achievement/s?


Having a strong sense of self. I would be doing office work if I were not drawn to my life’s calling, even if the path I chose is much harder. The Philippines isn't exactly a "fashion capital", but I was lucky to meet the right people. To be honest, I still have a long way to go – but I want to thank my parents for letting me pursue something artistic as a career, as everyone in our family are in traditional professions. 


In what ways did your Maryknoll/Miriam education impact your life and profession?
 

My Miriam College education taught me to be resilient, that grit will be your constant companion in life. Academic tests, choral competitions, oral debates, even planting palay in a rice field during our exposure trip - everything is in a constant state of growth.
And we don't forget to recycle!

  
Can you share a memorable experience during your years in Maryknoll/Miriam College? 


Being part of the Magnificat Club with Miss Milan for two years. I would spend my weekends lay outing the school magazine spreads, and I loved my three years there!   I think most teachers would remember me as their first case of a deaf student being enrolled in normal class setting without an interpreter. Every class I would have to give them an interconnecting microphone. I would get teased for many reasons, for being quiet, among other things. One time, I've had my hearing aids pulled out from the back and I cried. But I always remember the kind souls who never held any prejudice against me. Those individuals illuminate me with their humanity, even decades after. 

     
My English teacher Mrs. Nicelee Morada-Torres wrote to me when I was 10: "What you are is God's gift to you. What you become is your gift to God." Miss Isaac, my PE teacher, greeted me in the MMJ field when I was 9 years old, eating by myself during lunch time. My high school Algebra teacher Mr. Elipane would make me feel at ease with his humor – and it was the first time I hated Math less! We are all part of one family, some members we will not like much, but some will welcome you with just more heart.      

What career or life accomplishment makes you most proud?


Representing the Philippines in the Netherlands Fashion Exchange Program in 2017. I was able to exhibit during the Amsterdam Fashion Week along with other Dutch graduates. To exert positive influence using cultural means, and to talk with confidence whether it be to an ambassador or a photographer, I just pushed myself further from that day onwards.


What advice would you give our students who wish to pursue the same path?


Be sure you want to do this. It is easy to start, but harder to stay. And it is okay to be stuck in a plateau, just don't stay there too long.

 

In one sentence, how would you describe a Maryknoll/Miriam graduate?


A Miriam graduate is a woman of the world, who can handle herself in all situations.

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