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Cris Albert Was a Visionary and a Champion of Women's Empowerment

We say goodbye to one of local fashion's most fearless trailblazers.
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Friends and family were shocked to find out the untimely passing of one of the country's most revered businesswomen over the weekend.

Maricris Abad Santos Albert, or Cris to those closest to her, passed away last Saturday, April 23. Her sister, actress Ana Abad Santos, confirmed the news in a post.

Many of those in the fashion and retail landscapes know her as a savvy leader who was the president and CEO of Fila Philippines, Isport Life Inc. and Athlete’s Gym & Dive. To many of her admirers, she was a beacon for women's empowerment in the country.

As a daughter of model and choreographer Wanda Louwallien, Albert saw the fashion industry up close and personal, having been exposed to both the glamorous and business side of things.

"But being in that circle exposed me to a lot of ideas. It exposed me to color and texture. In fact, I would know every fabric that you show. And I also learned a lot about lines and these all helped me when I got into the footwear industry especially when we started making our own designs," she said in an interview with the Philippine Star in 2010.

She studied marketing at Assumption College and joined Fila as its marketing manager in 1992. Fifteen years later, she became the president of the brand in 2007.

Fila Philippines now has about 400 outlets nationwide. It's one of the leading sports footwear retailers in the country, and much of that it owes to Albert's vision. Ever inventive, Albert even sought out new retail concepts such as Fila Italia, Heritage, Universal, and Green.

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"I am obsessed with the idea of building the group of brands that I am handling, with the idea of exporting so we can help the local industry and with the idea of the company profiting so we can provide more jobs," she once said.

Throughout her adult life, Albert was held in high esteem not just because of the way she championed innovation in fashion and marketing, but because of her philanthropic work. Some of her accolades include a 2006 Ayala Merchants Award, a 2008 Dangal ng Bayan Award for Product and Service Excellence, and a few PeopleAsia Woman of Style and Substance recognitions. Fila was also given the Most Outstanding Sports Retail Company Award in 2013.

Fila also used to host the Christmas program "Buy a Sole, Feed a Soul," where for every pair bought, P10 was given to organizations like Operation Compassion and the churches Albert and the brand support. "I don’t think we would have been able to build Fila if it weren’t for God," Albert once expressed.

After hearing about her death, friends posted some of their own tributes.

The Straits Times reported that Albert was found unconscious at The Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore. Details surrounding her passing have been undisclosed.

Albert leaves behind her husband, Butch, and her kids, Carlo and Isabella. The Abad Santos and Albert families will be releasing the details of the businesswoman’s wake soon.

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About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the Assistant Section Editor of Esquire Philippines.
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