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Rocky Gathercole rose from abject poverty to rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. He’s now bent on helping other abandoned children reach their dreams, too.

Pinoy fashion designer Rocky Gathercole deserves to be lauded for bringing honor to the country through his lavish creations.

Rocky Gathercole

He created the much talked about black-and-white flare dress that Paris Hilton wore to the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. He also did the gold corset worn by Katy Perry in her “Dark Horse” music video.

Successful as he is, Rocky’s journey to the top was far from easy as seen in a recent “Maalaala Mo Kaya” (MMK) episode. Allegedly abused by his father and abandoned by his mother, Rocky lived alone on the streets of Lawton as a kid. He grew up harboring no hatred towards his parents, however, more inclined as he was to please them and earn their love.

From abject poverty, Rocky found a decent job as a waiter. He later went to the Middle East and worked as an apprentice in a dress shop. Eventually, he made it to the United States, where he got to work with renowned designers creating dresses and gowns for celebrities, among them Beyoncé, Thalia, Tyra Banks, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Carrie Underwood, Paulina Rubio, Jordin Sparks, Toni Braxton, and Jennifer Lopez.

Rocky credits his success to becoming a Born Again Christian.

“May panahon na naaalala ko na nagiipon ako ng damit in hopes na makaalis sa kalye. Some time in 1986, ninakaw lahat ’yun and I was crying the whole day,” he recalled. “Sabi ko ‘Lord ano bang nangyayari?’ Then may lumapit sa akin na mga Christians, sabi nila mag-church ako. Du’n na nagsimulang mabago lahat sa buhay ko.”

Biggest influence

Growing up, Rocky found himself idolizing Megastar Sharon Cuneta, saying he relates to the many characters she has portrayed in films and on TV.

In fact, he considers the actress-singer among his biggest influences.

“Si Ate Shawie, naging scapegoat ko siya ng buhay ko sa kalye,” he told Bulletin Entertainment. “Nakaka-relate ako specifically kay Dorina Pineda (a fictional character Sharon portrayed in “Bituing Walang Ningning”).

Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach wearing one of Rocky’s creations (Instagram) /mb.com.ph

Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach wearing one of Rocky’s creations (Instagram)

“Somehow ’pag napapanuod ko siya kahit sa sandaling oras, gumagaan ang buhay ko. Kahit na imposible sa akin that time na ihinto ang kalbaryo ko sa kalye, na-i-inspire ako sa panunuod sa kanya (Sharon),” he added.

There was a time he almost met her, too. Sharon shot a film near Lawton and Rocky, being her biggest fan, waited until 2 a.m. just to catch a glimpse of the Megastar.

“Nandu’n lang ako sa likod ng Metropolitan. Hinintay ko lang talaga na kahit mag-wave siya sa akin,” he recalled.
Fast forward to today, Rocky considers Sharon among his friends.

“Actually kinong-congratulate niya ako du’n sa ‘MMK’ episode ko. Sabi ko nga sana kung hindi siya busy, maka-attend siya sa isa sa mga fashion shows ko,” he said.

Helping hand

The designer’s painful experience as a young boy led him to helping unfortunate children, particularly through ABS-CBN’s Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc.’s Bantay Bata 163 foundation.

“During my Kalye days, alam ko ’yung pakiramdam na sumisigaw ng ‘Tulong’ pero dinadaanan lang ng tao at walang pumapansin,” he said.

Despite his busy schedule, Rocky usually attends the foundation events.

“Nu’ng last time na um-attend ako talagang umiyak ako,” he said.

“Naiyak ako kasi nakita ko ’yung mga bata na grumaduate ng Cum Laude. Nakaka-bless na naging maayos ang buhay nila.”

As part of his advocacy, Rocky will stage a benefit runway fashion show in line with Bantay Bata’s 20th anniversary celebration.

He will showcase 48 new creations all of which, according to Rocky, are personal and relate to his journey in life.
The designer revealed that “A Love To Last” lead stars Bea Alonzo and Ian Veneracion have agreed to be part of the show. Several Hollywood celebrities have also pledged their support for the event.

The Rocky Gathercole Gala for Bantay Bata 163 will be on Aug. 12

Fight still on

Bantay Bata 163 has gone beyond rescue, scholarship and outreach services as it responds to the alarming issue of online exploitation in the country.

Paris Hilton at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival (AFP photo) /mb.com.ph

Paris Hilton at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival (AFP photo)

Said Jing Castañeda, Bantay Bata 163 Program Director, “Being here for 20 and long fruitful years, Bantay Bata has touched millions of lives. We are known for our 163 hotline, as the takbuhan of abused children and for our rescue operation. Throughout the years, we have extended our services and uplifted so many lives through our medical services, community outreach project and of course our scholarship program. However, as we move forward, we face new challenges. With the advancement of technology, new forms of abuse have started spreading, not only in our country but all over the world. Online abuse such as cyber bullying and online sexual exploitation of children is the new challenge Bantay Bata has to face.”

Jing mentioned a recent study of UNICEF citing the Philippines as the number one global source of child pornography.

As such, Jing and the rest of the organization are working on new strategies including updating the new Bantay Bata hotline, rehabilitating the new children’s village, improving their medical services, setting up a sustainable income for their scholarship, and upgrading their community outreach by focusing on values education for families.

On the other hand, Susan Afan, Managing Director for ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya thanked Rocky for lending them a hand.

“Rocky doesn’t have to do what he is doing, he is very successful abroad but he is coming out. He wants to be the face of hope sa lahat ng mga bata na na-abuse o inaabuso ngayon,” she said.

“Gusto lang naman sabihin ni Rocky na hindi porke’t nabiktima kayo, tapos na ang inyong buhay. Pwede kayong mangarap, maraming nagsasabi na ang pangarap ay para sa mayaman lang, ’yan ang gusto niyang ipakita na hindi totoo, ang pangarap ay para sa lahat.”

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