Essa Santos: wise beyond her years and why
By Fiona Patricia S. Escandor
ESSA Santos was on the first flight out of Cagayan de Oro the minute she stepped out of college – partly as an excuse for her to get away from her 8 p.m. curfew, and to free herself from her sheltered upbringing there.
It was a decision she boldly proposed to her dad years back. The only daughter in a brood of three, she said she wanted to experience living independently and going through the challenge of seeing where it takes her. The 24 year old, at that time, chose Cebu.
“I didn’t want to bite more than what I can chew,” she said, pointing out that although Cebu has the metropolitan opportunities she was seeking, it also has the laid-back and cozy ambiance that reminds her of home. “It has the best of both worlds,” she said,” People are very warm here and I have fallen in love with the city.”
It has been two years since, and Essa has been enjoying the experiences her new home has carved out for her: new hobbies such as going for weekend dives in Mactan and islands nearby, and a marketing stint in retail company Primer Group – a job that’s not the first she had in mind but one that she has eventually come to love, as it allows her to foster her creativity and immerse in diverse crowds.
“What’s fun about it is the different personalities and environments I get to be exposed to,” Essa said. “In one week I’ll be hanging out with socialites and skater kids, and the following week, I’ll be with stand-up paddle board enthusiasts. I also get to come up with campaigns and events on my own that would tailor-fit each market.”
The company is more familiarly known for its concept stores – some of which have opened just recently in Cebu – Bratpack, Flight 001, General, Grind, LadyBag, ResToeRun, Sneak Peek, and R.O.X. It holds brands ranging from fashion, footwear, travel, wellness, to sports and outdoor gear, which Essa now handles for both Visayas and Mindanao.
On the side, Essa is a voracious reader and budding writer. She spends her free time indulging in works by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka and Max Scheler, and jotting down ideas of her own into essays, some she has submitted to ThoughtCatalog. She describes her works as phenomenological, and battle topics on life and relationships, written in distinct ThoughCatalog flair – satirical and stimulating.
Essa generally bases her writing on past experiences, but also adds a whiff of philosophical commentary, input from her four-year pursuit back in college. In CDO, Essa finished a degree in philosophy from Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan.
“My dad was the one who pushed it (taking philosophy). He told me he was sure I’d love it,” Essa said. Apprehensive at first, in a class of would be priests and lawyers, true enough she grew fascinated with the field the way her father did.
It might seem easy to blurt out well-worded phrases by Plato and Nietzsche, but she said, “It’s different when you know the logic and reasoning behind it. It deepens your thoughts, your outlook in life and makes you a better person. It also gets you to think a lot about topics that are not usually talked about like existentialism, religion and ethics-concerned issues. And (studying philosophy) opened my eyes to such a reality.”
Essa said that contrary to the popular notion that the course isn’t as lucrative as others, her studies in philosophy did help her professionally. “We don’t have one specific skill set; our training was more on analytical thinking. We were made to be quick to learn and understand, and that’s basically what I told my boss when he asked me why he should pick me out of all the applicants who studied marketing.”
More than a model
And Essa’s not quite the neophyte in creative production, either – as a teen, she used to do modeling under the CDO-based agency Gliterrati. “It started as my ticket to getting a bit of emancipation,” she shared. “I was earning money, I was able to go to places and I also met a lot of people through it. It was a good run. I enjoyed it but I don’t see it as my lifelong career.”
“I want to hone and cultivate something other than my walk,” she said. These days Essa dabbles more on being ambassadress for certain brands, representing a fashion retail chain and a news publication in Mindanao, and being able to talk more about her advocacy and beliefs.
“I never completely lost touch with modeling,” she said, “I just managed to tweak it to use it as a channel to connect with others, especially those younger than me, where I get to speak my mind and share what I’ve learned to them.”
Photography: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome | Hair & Make-up Artists: Carlo Damolo and Jerwin Bastatas
Assistants: Judiel Dal, Sunshine Gelbolingo and Charlyn Pepito | Locale: A Little Piece of Sky Cafe