To his friends in the Cebu fashion industry, Salvador Malto was known as "Sal," and they loved him for his sunny and affable personality, which has always imbued his work with a liveliness that eventually became his trademark. They loved his infectious laughter, too, and not a one among his friends won't miss his mirth ringing in the atelier and living rooms he left behind. Sal passed away yesterday, July 20, in Cebu's Perpetual Succour Hospital from a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
"His laughter is infectious, and like his clothes, he animated any room he entered," remembers fellow designer Oj Hofer. "He was a mentor to many aspiring designers and endeared himself to both his peers and the young ones. He was always sunny and funny—without fail he made me smile whenever I saw him. We will terribly miss such a talented loss."
Sal was one of Cebu's premier swimwear designers. He later expanded to formal and bridal wear with the feminine and distinctly romantic design sensibility the Cebuano artists are known for. He was a member of the Fashion Council of Cebu, and has always helped out emerging designers. Says Lord Maturan, "Salvador was an advocate of young talents. When I was just starting out he never hesitated to impart a piece of his wisdom." Young Cebuana designer Vania Romoff also has warm recollections. "Sal was one of those rare gems in the industry. His kind heart and genuine talent will surely be missed."
[Photo, left: Sal with two of his creations for the Marco Polo bridal show in Cebu. (Photo: Lloyd Bazar)]
Those closest to him deeply regret his sudden passing. "I remember waving at him just last Monday at a café," Philip Rodriguez wistfully recalls. "I didn't realize that would be the last time I'd see him. Since we both went to UP [University of the Philippines, Cebu], we got along well, and Sal became sort of a confidante. He was my colleague in embarking on a livelihood program for dressmaking and patternmaking to be sponsored by the Cebu City government. It's sad that he left us without seeing our project realized."
Arcy Gayatin, another dear friend, will miss his merriment the most. "My first thought upon learning of Sal's death was, 'Oh God, I'm going to miss his pure, unadulterated laughter!' Sal was so full of life and mirth and you can see it in his designs. Like him, his clothes always had a sense of joie de vivre. The fashion industry in Cebu is really grieving not only for a fellow designer but a true friend to everyone. I shall miss him so much."
Even those who weren't in Sal's closest circle of friends have nothing but fond memories. Kate Torralba calls him a "real gem" and a "kind-hearted soul." Another fellow Cebuano designer, Jun Escario, held Sal in high esteem. "Sal was an authentic guy. No hang-ups, just a bubbly personality," says Jun, who counts Sal's sister as his friend and has always loved Sal's play of texture and attention to detail.
Indeed, the Cebu contingent is one in remembering and celebrating Sal's life and work. We, too, in Manila mourn the loss of a truly talented designer that the entire country can be proud of.
Sal will be laid to rest in Rolling Hills, Cebu.
[Photo, right: Curtain call at the Marco Polo bridal show in Cebu. (Photo: courtesy of Edwin Ao)]