Health And Family

Katha awardee Ann Ong: A mom’s tale of faith and sacrifice

SAVOIR FAIRE - Mayenne Carmona - The Philippine Star

As they say, when life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Always look at the glass half full. Doing the tough things sets winners apart from losers. These three quotes and a strong faith in God kept Ann Ong afloat during several crises in her young life.

In 2008 up until 2009, Ann Ong went through four life-threatening surgeries: abdominal adhesion, followed by an ectopic pregnancy, a hysterectomy with complications that entailed another surgery hours apart from each other.

The complications of her hysterectomy caused concern and grief among her family members as she was slipping closer to life’s abyss.

When she was finally out of danger, she challenged herself to get back into the pink of health. “The Lord gave me a new lease on life and I had to prove to Him that I was worth saving.  I wanted to get strong and live my new life with a sense of purpose. I researched on a healthy diet and went back to exercise, specifically yoga with meditation.  I wanted to learn how to still my mind and connect with a higher power for enlightenment. I worked on my spiritual growth and constantly asked our Lord for guidance. It was a miracle that I survived four surgeries in the span of 18 months. I went through a big health crisis and I knew that before I could achieve anything in life, I first had to regain my health,” she relates.

The first thing she changed was her diet.  She avoided junk food and gave up red meat.  She derived her protein from fish and some dairy products.  She ate a lot of fruits. She didn’t want to tax her digestive system into another abdominal adhesion so she ate small meals five times a day.

Meanwhile, her creative juices couldn’t be contained.  Although her health issues drained her of her life’s savings and she was the breadwinner to four young kids, she still ventured forth in creating small fashion accessory pieces.  With P800 as capital, she bought beads and started to make bracelets and pendants.  She sold them to friends who wanted to help her out and who encouraged her to move on with her creativity.  “Life’s treasures are good friends who are there through thick and thin,” she says.  Her well-meaning friends advised her to  consign her pieces in bazaars and lucky for her, they sold well.   “Sometimes, I didn’t sleep just working on my small business as occasionally, I would receive big orders of a thousand bracelets.”

Her hard work paid off and soon she branched out into a small clothes business for low-budget career ladies. She was able to rent a small space at the Ramp and labeled her brand Cosmopolitan.

One day,  a conversation with a designer friend inspired her to venture into handcasted metal jewelry dipped in 24-karat gold.  Instead of crystals and beads, she enhanced her designs with semi-precious stones.  She tested the market by selling to friends who appreciated her designs and, through word of mouth, her pieces became hot items.  A stylist, Pam Quinones, borrowed some of her pieces and lent them to Rajo Laurel for his Russian collection. Her handcrafted opulence collection caught the discerning eye of Rajo Laurel who displayed her accessories in his atelier.

Soon, her name was on the lips of Rajo’s affluent clients who were impressed with her high-impact jewelry that was sold at reasonable prices.

Ann’s Binanig clutch won her her first Katha Award.  She drew her inspiration from the banig that she played on as a child.

In March of 2012, she joined Manila Fame and submitted an entry to the Katha Awards.  Her clutch bag, Binanig, won her her first Katha Award.  Her booth attracted clients like bees to honey, but she claims that Kris Aquino was her buena mano.

In October of the same year, she submitted to the prestigious Katha organization a clutch bag made of salvaged wood. This won her her second Katha Award. In March of 2013, a huge highlight of her career was her grand slam victory.  Her third entry, a clutch bag made of buko twigs, won for Ann Ong, her third Katha Award.  Katha Award is a distinction given to exporters and designers whose products embody exceptional quality and high-caliber design in furniture, housewares, fashion, and holiday decor.  Her grand slam validated her as a bona fide accessory designer, which silenced her harsh critics and detractors.

Ann Ong continued to sell her fashion accessories by joining bazaars, trade fairs, and trunk shows organized by her friends until  the visionary director of communications of Marco Polo Ortigas, Francis de Leon, offered her a space in the soon-to-open five-star hotel in 2014, which is now home to her flagship store.

Ann Ong is now on top of her trade through sheer determination and hard work.  However, in looking back through her life’s cycle, she does not forget to advise young women that an early failed marriage, numerous health crises, some failed business ventures should never deter them from pursuing their goals and aspirations.

Today, together with her supportive husband Jason and the help of her children, she opened a store in Central, Hong Kong. She is also attracting foreign publications and was featured in a SF-based magazine, GEV. 

She realizes that she has been blessed abundantly and therefore pays it forward by actively participating in charitable causes like feeding marginalized street kids through the Angels to Street Kids (ASK) network.









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