MANILA, Philippines – Efren Torres Jr. never thought he would find or even follow a dream in Eastern Europe. He thought he was just going to train gymnastics in the Philippines, but when Arnold Labadan, father of gymnast Breanna, 15, asked him if he could accompany his daughter to train in Budapest (with gymnast Daniela dela Pisa), he nodded.
Little did he know that this had opened his life to even more opportunities during two eventful years in Budapest.
In addition to waiting for Hungarian citizenship (which will be granted in a few years), Torres designed the Hungarian national team uniforms for the 2019 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships which took place in Szczecin, Poland.
“It’s an honor,” said Bansud, from Oriental Mindoro, as he searched for his words.
“I befriended the owner of AOG, the Hungarian costume maker even before moving to Europe,” Torres says. “The national women’s team coach asked for a new design and the owner of AOG asked me if I wanted to design it. Of course, I took the opportunity.
Torres, who studied design at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Bansud, Mindoro, bases his designs on the music gymnasts perform in competitions. “I analyze music and its history. For example, the Japanese-inspired leotard was based on music. I have proposed three different models so that the gymnast can wear what he deems appropriate for his performance.
“Each leotard needs a different technique so most of the time I work on the painting part as well as the sewing and setting of the rhinestones.”
And the answer to his creations?
Once again Torres seemed at a loss for words, he humbly noted, “They loved it! I received good feedback after they wore it during the final try-on and also during the competition.
Since that competition, Torres’ work has been used by gymnasts and teams from the United States of America, Ukraine, Italy and Romania.
“To think about the beginning, I was just designing costumes for Daniela and Breanna and now Lumago.”
“When I watched the gymnastics competition the last time the Philippines hosted the Southeast Asian Games, I dreamed of being involved as both a coach and a costume designer.”
As a designer, Torres is largely self-taught.
Efren loved to design and illustration from his elementary years. With textbooks and textbooks mostly unavailable, Torres was often at the school library absorbing any information and designs he could get his hands on. His grandfather cut newspaper articles about design and passed them on to his apo.
“I made the most of what I had,” Torres said.
However, after his college days, his parents could not afford to send him to fashion school, so he had to work as a wedding pianist to pay his tuition.
As for sports, my physical education teacher Ms. Belen Novencido asked me to help her create a routine for our school gymnastics team and that was my entry point. After that I went to Manila to get more exposure to the sport and see how I can get involved. I started with the Philippine Gymnastics Association and learned as much as I could. Finally, I was also able to show my talent as a leotard seamstress.
Sometimes Coach Efren has to pinch himself to see how far he’s gone. Those days of Mindoro seem so far away. And every now and then, Torres gets sentimental about his trip.
“If you told me I would have this opportunity in Europe noong bata ako, hindi ako maniniwala at tatawagin kitang bolero,” Torres said with a laugh. “I am so happy to be in the position I am in.”
Reality has never looked better for Efren Torres.