Missing the court | With jersey production on hold, MNL Kingpin shifts focus on PPEs

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By Jonas Egan Reyes, published May 15, 2020

Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, renowned jersey maker MNL Kingpin took on a project like no other. Just like the other jersey sets they have artistically created in the past, these ones were done with the same expertise and flair this JC Fernandez-owned shop was known for.

Cut from the same fabric – well, almost - MNL Kingpin, in partnership with Amacor Trading, manufactured personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners bravely leading the fight against the deadly virus. Combining the resources and know-how of MNL Kingpin and Amacor Trading, a workwear and safety apparel company owned by Fernandez’s family, about 400 sets of coveralls and facemasks have reached a number of hospitals in the metro, intended for healthcare workers at the forefront of this pandemic.

Taking a hit

With the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the threat of COVID-19 enacted by the national government on March 17, the movement of people and operations of businesses came to a screeching halt. With the whole of Luzon and the rest of the country on lockdown, the implementation of the ECQ also ran smack on the middle of the first month of summer.

Summer months, for jersey shops like MNL Kingpin, are like gold mines. With summer sports leagues kicking off left and right, basketball teams troop tailoring shops for their basketball uniform needs. But with the ECQ prohibiting the conduct of sporting events, basketball leagues were temporarily shelved, thus affecting the business operations of jersey makers like MNL Kingpin.

“Talagang we took a hit. Kasi malaking bagay yung summer leagues. Dyan kami bumabawi. Yun ang medyo mahirap. Ngayon puro labas lang kami ng pera since wala rin kaming income. Marami rin kaming employees na sinusuportahan,” shared Fernandez.

Despite their business put on hold, there was no stopping MNL Kingpin from extending a helping hand to those in need at the height of the pandemic. With his background as Sales Head of Amacor Trading, Fernandez thought of a way to contribute to a worthy cause.

“Nung nagka-COVID, nakita ko yung opportunity na dun muna kami mag-focus since wala kaming masyadong project since walang mga leagues ngayon. Kaya nag-focus muna sa safety apparel yung MNL Kingpin. Yung mga mananahi kasi namin, wala ring ginagawa. Kaya binigyan namin sila ng mga bagong gagawin para meron silang pagkakitaan,” said Fernandez.

“In our own way, nasa ganitong business kami, gusto rin naming makatulong since nakikita namin sa news, very scarce yung PPE kaya nahihirapan yung mga doctors natin. Parang nakakahiya naman na nasa ganitong business kami, tapos magla-lie low lang kami. Na-motivate kami kaya gusto naming tumulong sa mga frontliner,” he added.


From sublimated jerseys, MNL Kingpin turned to the creation of full body suits or coveralls – one of the leading products of Amacor Trading designed for seafarers, and facemasks. Tapping their own resources and a scaled-down workforce, MNL Kingpin shifted from producing sports uniforms to PPEs.

According to Fernandez, “Dati pa kami nagpo-provide ng coveralls. Yung sa Amacor, more on sa coveralls sa seaman ang pino-produce talaga namin, para sa mga shipping company. E same lang din naman yung pagtahi nya. Yung material lang niya, iba. Minodify lang namin. Yung fabric nya, iniba lang namin base sa standards ng hospitals.”

Facing challenges

With checkpoints limiting the movement of people and goods, making the PPEs in MNL Kingpin’s shop in Cubao has been met with a few hitches, specifically in manpower and materials. Fernandez has subcontracted sewing works to contacts from the province due to a decreased workforce.

“Short pa rin kami sa production since hindi pa kami regular operations e. May mga tao kaming nasa province pa rin hanggang ngayon. Meron din kaming mga subcon na pinagkukuhanan from the province pa. Kaya matagal din yung production naming,” Fernandez quipped.

The ECQ has also hampered the movement in seaports and airports, causing delays in the importation of raw materials. The arrival of fabric used for the coveralls and facemasks has faced deferments due to the transportation guidelines imposed by authorities.

“Yung fabric kasi, medyo challenging makakuha ngayon. Tiyagaan lang talaga. Maghihintay ka sa bodega mismo nila kung ano ang natitira. Yung shipping din dito from China na materials, may delay. Ngayon kasi kahit anong available, basta up to the standards of the hospitals, kinukuha namin maski different colors na sya, okay lang. Basta may ma-produce kami,” he shared.

Mission accomplished

MNL Kingpin’s “multicolored” PPEs have made their way to the doorsteps of medical institutions such as the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Taguig District Hospital, Amang Rodriguez Hospital and the Cainta Hospital. Frontliners in some Quezon City barangays also received these PPEs.

The sets delivered in Cainta and Marikina, in particular, were made possible thru Fernandez’s family ties with the towns’ chief local executives. “Yung iba, binigay namin kay (Cainta) Mayor Kit Nieto. Family friend kasi namin sya. Dun din kami kumuha ng leads ng mga bibigyan. Sa Marikina, since yung mother ko laki sa Marikina, at pinsan nya si Mayor Marcy Teodoro, dun din kami nagbigay ng PPEs,” said Fernandez.

For Fernandez, all efforts paid off seeing the appreciation from the recipients of their PPE sets – their company’s “simple” gesture of easing one of the problems during this health crisis. In addressing PPE shortage in medical facilities, the people of MNL Kingpin recognized the need to step up to the plate.

“Nakakagaan ng puso. Alam mo yung feeling na nakatulong ka? Maski yung ganung kasimpleng tulong lang na nabigyan mo sila ng masusuot nila tapos tuwang-tuwa pa sila. Sa amin, accomplishment na rin yun na may nagawa kami kahit papaano during the crisis,” Fernandez shared.


“Thankful kami sa mga nag-support sa amin. Sana ituloy lang nila yung pag-support nila hindi lang sa amin, pati rin sa ibang organization na makakatulong sa sila. We wish everybody nothing but the best. Sana malampasan natin lahat itong crisis na ito,” he added.

 

Photos courtesy of JC Fernandez.

 

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