Mambulaoan Reagan O Rada, with Ms Taylor, who is displaying one of his intricately designed creations.
By PERCY A OSTONAL
THE Detroit Metropolitan Airport is just some fifteen minutes away from where we live, and with no traffic to worry about, we could be there in twelve minutes flat.
Yes, that's how close we are as far as air travel is concerned and yet, last August 9 my wife and I woke-up at 4am for our 8.50am flight to New York.
"Gising na 'pa, mag dra-drop-off pa tayo ng SUV sa parking area ng shuttle bus".
(wake-up 'pa, we still have to drop-off our SUV at the shuttle bus parking area), my wife was saying.
We were flying to New York to attend the 2012 UST (University Of Santo Thomas) College of Nursing Alumni Reunion at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan on August 9-11.
Excited, she was seeing her classmates once again after 21 years (the last reunion she attended was in 1991 for her class of 1971 in Los Angeles, California) and I was getting in touch with fellow Mambulaoans who settled and gained employment in the states of New Jersey and New York.
Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough with their respective schedules considering that it was the time of the year for out-of- state vacations, summer camping and travels.
Except for these two Mambulaoan New Yorkers whom I pre-planned interviewing for MAMBULAOAN WORLDWIDE BUZZ, everything anyway turned just fine and fully coordinated.
Reagan O Rada, NYC jewelry designer
Reagan O Rada, now 32 is the youngest of seven children of husband-and-wife Romeo “Romy" Rada and Milagros “Lagring” Ong, of Marketsite, Jose Panganiban, CamNorte.
Rada (right, with Percy A Ostonal) came to America accompanied by his mother in late
2000 after gaining US visa as tourist and set foot in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.
Never in his wildest imagination that at age 19, his transformation into someone more independent and determined to survive for a better life in foreign land could make his journey more challenging.
Born and raised in our town, he graduated from JPNHS in 1997, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education, major in computer science from AMA Computer College, City of Makati.
Upon graduation in 2000, he got his first job as substitute computer instructor at Makati High School located at Bangkal area to become the school’s youngest mentor.
It was his mother's encouragement and support that gave him what he believed a blessing in disguise, learning the true meaning of perseverance, courage, ambition and hard work.
As the saying goes, “there's no such thing as free lunch in America”.
In other words, every dollar you're earning won’t come that easy … "pawis at matinding pisikal o kaya ay mental na pagod ang kapalit” (sweat and demanding physical or mental dedication would be required of you to get that ultimate reward), Rada said.
He remembered the past working as reliever care-giver and “housemaid” for six months, working almost 24 hours a day.
He had to sleep on the floor and ate his food on the kitchen counter and at the same time changed at least seven times a day the baby's diaper.
"With seven of us in a small one-bedroom apartment, we consoled each other so many times hoping and praying that great things and success would eventually come.”
Rada said with frustration: How could anyone live in the state of California, particularly in a very expensive city of Los Angeles, with US$600 a month salary?
It's insane and impossible and he had to find a job - a better paying second job -- aware that his Dad had a stroke and his financial help was urgently needed for his father's needs and medications back in Jose Panganiban.
The next thing he knew, his job application at RJM Jewelry had been accepted, working this time as its janitor-messenger.
With good amount of hours of work and wages, Rada bid goodbye to his first job and spent time learning the nuts and bolts of jewelry business.
After a few years with the company, he was promoted as part of metal assembly team .
It was later that the company picked up projects for two mega stars and Hollywood greats Celine Dion for her Las Vegas concert, soon followed by singer-composer Sir Elton John.
That was the beginning of Rada’s astonishing rise as well as name recognition for RJM Jewelry among the rich and famous in the US and Canada.
The "biggest break” for RJM Jewelry came in 2000 when Hollywood greats Elizabeth Taylor and Kathy Ireland bought RJM Jewelry and renamed the company as House of Taylor Jewelry.
The chance of a lifetime
RJM Jewelry’s meticulous and artistically-gifted innovative design ideas caught Ms Taylor's "unconventional interpretation" of anybody's love for diamond and other precious stones.
With that, she found Rada suited for the job.
From being a design assistant in 2007, he became the Director of Fulfillment and Design outright.
One evening, Ms Taylor invited Rada to a dinner at her Bel-Air residence where they discussed business opportunities.
She articulated on, and evaluated, both current and future challenges the company faced as well as reaffirmed her creative ideas for her personal jewelry use and collections.
Rada told me: " Tito Percy, mabait po siya at very casual na tao at totoong welcome ako sa napaka-gandang bahay niya". (Tito Percy, she was very kind and so casual person and welcomed me enthusiastically to her beautiful home).
"Unless you have inner-circle connections with media personalities and movie celebrities, access of getting in-touch with Ms Taylor is really impossible … but ‘ako po Tito Percy na dating care-giver/janitor at messenger lang … biro n'yo, nag- ‘one-on-one talk’ with Ms Taylor … wow hindi po ba?’".
Reagan oversees the production, pricing, final jewelry features, appeal, warranties, function and fashionable trends for the higher-end clients that include royalties.
The shocking economic meltdown in America came so bad in the late part of 2009 that, except for health care and foods, almost every industry suffered the "worst" financial collapse, with some elders comparing it to the "great depression" of the past centuries.
This did not spare the House of Taylor Jewelry which finally closed shop, leaving Rada jobless.
He flew to Thailand and spent some time relaxing and planning what to do next after his journey of hope came crashing to the ground.
It was difficult and mindboggling but nevertheless he remained calm for the next three weeks while in Bangkok.
Then the twist of events came: an email from Piranesi, New York's largest (as well as the US’) Italian jewelry maker asked if he was interested to assume a job in New York as technical jewelry designer.
Rada wasted no time flying back to the US and met with Peranesi executives in Los Angeles, California. Immediately, they finalized everything that had to do with his new employment and hurriedly disposed of all his personal belongings in LA.
The job specifications were almost the same with that of House of Taylor Jewelry except that this time, he was on top making the final decision as to what precious stones (diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds) and pearls best matched the design and its distinct set-up/locations; question as to when it would be needed, based on what special gatherings to wear it on. To top it all, he decided on the final assessment of the jewelry’s tasteful richness.
Meeting Rada in New York
From Grant Hyatt hotel at downtown East 42nd street, Manhattan, New York (where my wife and I stayed for the duration of UST reunion), on August 10 at 9.32am, I finally met Reagan in person at Dean & Deluca Pastries & coffee shop just the opposite side of a tall building on the corner of 48th Street and the famous 5th Street.
And here's our conversation:
Reagan: "Kumusta po kayo."
Percy: "So, ikaw pala si Reagan (sabay abot kamay). You really look like your Dad, at matangkad ka pala."
Reagan: Kausap ko lang po si Mama (her mother, Milagros "Lagring" based in Sacramento, California with his other brother, Richmond) and she mentioned nga po na confirmed ang meeting natin ngayon.
Percy : "Let's grab a bite."
Reagan: Salamat po, pero tapos na po akong mag breakfast, what about you?".
Percy: Just call me Tito Percy, I'm done. My wife is at an education forum sa Grant Hyatt Hotel ngayon, kaya we have the time to talk about you and your career and employment here in New York."
Reagan: "Kung ganoon po Tito Percy let's go to my office."
After few minutes of elevator ride and a number security doors that we cleared, he said: "Tito Percy, we all need these security pre-cautions", and I said in return, of course, "ang sabi noong napagtanungan kong "building security when I was looking for your place of work” na these corner blocks are of NYC riches’ place because of jewelry business”.
Reagan offered me a seat at his cozy office over-looking the Rockefeller Park between 49th and 50th streets.
I requested for a photo session with him for MAMBULAOANS WORLDWIDE BUZZ and gladly he said “yes”.
We spoke of many unforgettable moments in our town and people and Rada is very passionate about it.
He even said that as founding member of MINA (Mambolenos in North America-U.S and Canada based in Los Angeles, California), "gusto ko pong tumulong sa abot ng aking makakaya kaya't iyon nga pong mga jewelry samples namin noon ay donated ko to raise funds for all charity projects ng MINA.
Reagan: "Mabait po ang Diyos sa akin Tito Percy, at ako po'y binigyan ng biyayang tulad nito and I would like to tell the whole world over of my endless "thank you" to my mother and father … without them, ‘ang lahat ng ito ay hindi ko makakamtan!!!’.
Rada is doing well in New York with their business booming, according to him, thanks to an army clients/customers that now include the biggest in Hollywood, celebrities, Europe's dignitaries and royal families across the globe.
I never realized the time, but think I had some forty-five-minute interview with him and he wished just like me to have more time to talk but a client then was about to come in matter of minutes.
"Sige Tito Percy, sorry po and I really have fun talking to you but i have to attend to a big customer".
"Sige Reagan, I thank you for granting me this interview … and one thing I would like to say, I am so PROUD OF YOU !!!.”
Ms. Lorna Tarog-Schneider, MSN, RN,APN-BC,CCRN,CCNS
|Percy A Ostonal, with Lorna Tarog-Schneider at the gala night of the UST Alumni Association of America at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Manhattan. – MWBuzzpic|
Lorna graduated at JPHS in 1974, pursued and earned her
Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at University of Santo Thomas in 1979.
Becoming her school's prime mover and president of UST Nursing Association of America in the early 2000s, she became a household name among her fellow nursing graduates at UST who are now the US and CANADA.
Every convention in the past didn’t happen without her because she was always there!!!.
That's our very own "Mambulaon", who is the envy of everyone. Her firm commitment and leadership in the nursing profession has awed many Pinoys in the US.
She has a son, John, now 30 years old and a college graduate, who is a performing artist in Broadway.
“Kahit papaano, I try giving my son special time, but because the two of us were so busy – both in work and personal life -- kadalasan sa labas na lang kami nag-kikita for either dinner, luch or breakfast … and that's how life goes with us na mag-ina,” Lorna said
During the 9-11 Twin Tower bombing, she was first to respond to the disaster.
Lorna has been in the US for the past 29 years, working as a nurse in critical care.
At this year's UST Nursing Association of America reunion, she was one of the executive director/coordinators, adviser and emcee.
With one of his creations for Ms Taylor, whose picture is seen on the right.
Posing with Ms Taylor’s two Oscars.
With Cristina Millian -- singer-songwriter, recording artist, Hollywood starlet, dancer and model during a party.
At their showroom on Fifth Avenue, New York City.
With one of his creations that was featured during an interview with Larry King on CNN. - Photos supplied by ROR