Oscar Mejia III
Why I Make Fragrances
People have always asked me why I do what I do. Considering the Philippines has no scent heritage like France, Italy, India or even Malaysia, it is indeed quite strange for a Filipino to pursue a career in fragrances.
What has gotten me into this craft? And how has it transformed into my life’s mission?
I create scents because I live on imagination. As I child, my sense of wonder has been cultivated through make-believe play and reading books. However, nothing else could take me into a different world but by sniffing through my mom’s perfume bottles. I would watch her while spritzing on her favorite scents and though my young mind cannot name the notes that I smell, I see fields of jasmine, feel the warmth of a summer day, and hear lullabies played from the piano. Fragrances for me are drops of magic. Each whiff is like opening a door to a different dimension where worries melt into nothing but pure bliss.
This scene from the movie adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s Das Parfum perfectly depicts my encounters with fragrances:
In this scene, Guiseppe Baldini tries on the fragrance created by Jean Baptiste Grenouille. He is immediately transported from the decaying Parisian basement into a bright open space filled with colorful blooms and kissed by a beautiful woman of his dreams.
This is the magic of perfume. It transcends the confines of space as it can bring you anywhere in an instant. It surpasses time as it can take you to a memory of the past or even to a dream of what is to come. It breaks the construct of what is real as it can make your imaginations come alive. It expresses the purest desires and emotions even in the absence of words and actions.
I create fragrances because I want to share this magic with others. And in my years of doing such, I have been blessed with opportunities to take people to a sanctuary in Thailand, unfold a beach experience from sun up to sun down, inspire people to nurture a sense of curiosity, and even celebrate the memory of a beloved who is gone- all through bottles of fragrances.
In 2011, I met one of my mentors, Dr. Fernando Zialcita, who shared with me that unknown to most, the Philippines indeed had an olfactory heritage. In the late 1800’s the Philippines was considered Reina de las Perfumes en Asia- Queen of Perfumes in Asia. Locally-made perfumes were sold in Europe while European perfume houses created fine fragrances especially for the Philippine Market. In 1880, Philippine ylang-ylang oil created a sensation at the Paris Exposition earning a gold medal for its spellbinding scent. This resulted to the use of our ylang-ylang oil in famous perfumes including the early versions of Chanel No. 5.
That was when my passion for fragrances transformed from a personal one to a profound mission- to put us back into the global arena of fine fragrances. I wish to be at the forefront of enlivening this forgotten art where every whiff is a celebration of what is uniquely Filipino.
They say your passion will keep you excited to start each day. While things have been difficult in the time of a pandemic, I am glad that my passion for fragrances gives me hope. Because the magic that fragrances bring can take us away from isolation, worries, and fears and lead us to a place, memory, and feeling of deep joy.
Also, by creating fragrances with a unique Filipino touch, we continue to welcome people into our culture without having to come over. And that Filipinos, wherever they may be in the world, may find their way home in every drop.