Missing the court | Royal MNL - PPE drive prime mover – looks back at eventful project


By Jonas Egan Reyes, published June 10, 2020

It was the call that started it all.

For his part, Conrado “GK” Gicanal – owner of Royal MNL Sports Apparels – knew, at the onset of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that his line of work and the industry he belongs to had to step up to make a difference.

And making that “difference” would mean running those sewing machines, moving thread and needle, and cutting and putting fabric together to create – not sportswear – medical-grade coveralls or “bunny suits” that comprise the personal protective equipment (PPE) of our brave frontliners.

With the prodding of his wife Mira, Gicanal served as the bandleader for the jersey-making business sector, with a number of shops answering the need to produce and distribute PPEs to hospitals and checkpoints nationwide. As the call from the Gicanals gained positive response from fellow jersey makers, direct competitors soon formed a kinship of weavers, all engaged in a race against time in the midst of a global health crisis.

With the ECQ wiping out sports competitions, taking a direct hit were businesses like Royal MNL which specialize in the production of team jerseys. The ban on sports tournaments, typically held during summer, resulted to cancellation of jersey orders that left Gicanal no choice but to cut down their workforce.

“Masakit man, nagbawas kami ng tao. Andaming basketball teams na nag-cancel ng orders. Especially (from) Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Pagdating sa Pilipinas, zero talaga. Walang natuloy. Puwera na lang yung mga dati na nag-down payment. Pero after nung lockdown ng March 17, wala nang umorder,” shared Gicanal.

Despite a scaled-down manpower and limitations brought about by the “lockdown”, Gicanal took on the tall task of mass-producing PPEs – an idea which came from his spouse.

“Actually, yung wife ko talaga ang binibigyan ko ng credit dyan. Since yung mga mananahi namin kasi mga stay-in, hindi na namin sila pinauwi after mag-announce ng lockdown. Good thing, karamihan sa kanila pumayag na sa amin na mag-stay. Sabi namin, ‘huwag na kayong umuwi, sagot na lang namin ang pagkain nyo’. March 23, sabi ng wife ko, marami na nga raw naghahanap ng PPE. Baka makatulong kami. So ang nangyari, March 24, nag-umpisa na kaming gumawa. March 25, na-perfect na namin yung prototype,” Gicanal quipped.

The “profits” generated by the first wave of orders were then turned to new sets of PPEs, as the business side of Royal MNL momentarily took the backseat. Aside from suits, the Gicanals procured food packs which were distributed to various communities.

“Maraming nag-donate sa amin tapos meron din kaming donated na personal. Sariling funds namin. Yung kinikita namin sa bunny suit, dino-donate din namin. Siguro ang na-donate namin, between 600 to 700 pieces ng PPE. At the same time, nakapagbigay kami ng relief packs na around 350. That includes three kilos of rice at mga canned goods.”

Adding a “personal touch” to the cause, Gicanal even decided to hit the road himself to lessen the logistical woes during the ECQ. Courier services were tapped for the delivery of the PPEs to provinces like Laguna, Pampanga, Bulacan, Baguio, La Union, and even to municipalities in Mindanao. But Gicanal decided to take it upon himself to personally hand over the suits to their recipients.

“Pag pina-LBC mo siya, it will take two to five days. Umaabot pa nga ng Linggo pag nagpa-ship ka ngayon. So sabi ko, kung hihintayin pa nating ipa-LBC ito, baka may sakit na yung gagamit. Kaya ako na mismo nagmamaneho saka nagde-deliver. Umabot ako ng San Fernando, Pampanga, Cavite City, at Los Baños, Laguna,” according to Gicanal.

But to be able to mount a much bigger donation drive to cater to more beneficiaries, Gicanal had to reach out to his so-called “rivals” – other jersey makers who have the capability and know-how on creating pieces of clothing, albeit not for sports.

“Ako nag-callout sa kanila, na tulungan nila ako. Ako yung nag-callout sa lahat ng jersey makers na nasa Metro Manila na tumulong na gumawa ng PPE kasi during that time, shortage talaga. Na-callout ko yung LGR, MNL Kingpin, Medalla, Delta Sportswear, saka marami pa,” Gicanal shared.

“Ang unang nag-respond is Reborn Athletics saka LGR. Tapos sumunod na yung MNL Kingpin, tapos yung Delta Sportswear, sumunod na rin. Kumbaga hindi na ako nahirapan.”

Gicanal’s motivation for the noble project was simple: helping the needy - especially in the time of need - is just too hard pass on. Especially for people who have the competence in making the necessary PPEs, Gicanal recognized the importance of kickstarting the cause.

“Masarap kasing tumulong. Nakakagaan ng loob na alam mong marami kang natutulungan sa panahon ng pandemic. Kung ano man yung binigay sa iyo ng Panginoon na mga blessing prior to the pandemic, ibinabalik mo lang. Kumbaga masaya ka dahil meron kang napaglilingkuran. Napaglilingkuran mo yung Panginoon at the same time napaglilingkuran mo yung kapwa mo tao,” said Gicanal.

Gicanal also expressed his gratitude to the donors who supported the cause – from the individuals who forwarded donations and to his fellow jersey makers.

“Unang-una dun sa mga nag-donate. Nagpapasalamat ako sa kanila at sumagot sila sa call ko. Marami kaming natulungan na mga ospital. Marami rin kaming natulungan na mga individuals na nangangailangan. Pangalawa, nagpapasalamat ako dun sa mga sportswear manufacturers na sumagot dun sa call ko, lalo na dun sa time na kailangan na kailangan ang pag-produce ng PPE.”

Lastly, Gicanal paid tribute to the frontliners, who have gallantly served in harm’s way against the pandemic.

“Lubos akong nagpapasalamat sa kanila, especially dun sa mga nakatutok sa mga COVID patients, like yung mga doctors, nurses. Sa LGU naman, yung mga barangay tanod, mga kagawad, mga kapitan na talagang pinapangalagaan yung community.”

Photos courtesy of Royal MNL

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Looking for a way to help the community?

You can donate and get a personalized artwork in return!

Kings of the Court PH is selling customized artwork at PHP 700.00. They have an artwork catalog that you may choose from (https://bit.ly/2RzU7ex). Designs are compatible to your preferred sport. It can also be a souvenir to your loved ones who are frontliners to show that they are our #SeasonMVPs.

The #YourTimeToShine is a campaign which aims to raise funds. Proceeds shall be for the donation of PPE’s and food supply to our frontliners through various organizations, and financial assistance to our employees in need during these trying times.

If it's not purchasing, you can share this to your friends and family members, to raise more awareness of the campaign that would be appreciated too!

Go to Kings of the Court PH on Facebook, to know more.