A gathering for Philippines’ ‘terno’

Mark Lewis Higgins, visual artist and co-director of Slim’s Fashion and Arts School

Mark Lewis Higgins, visual artist and co-director of Slim’s Fashion and Arts School

FILIPINA personalities and celebrities proudly donned the terno—in various silhouettes, traditional or modern, and in different shades, vibrant or subdued—at the successful launch of Fashionable Filipinas, a book that honors the iconic Philippine dress.

Curated and written by Gino Gonzales, a scenographer and lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University, and Mark Lewis Higgins, a visual artist and co-director of Slim’s Fashion and Arts School, the book spans from 1860 to 1960 and narrates 100 years of history of the terno.

Held at grand ballroom of The Peninsula Manila, the launch was hosted by Ben Chan, the man behind Filipino fashion brand Bench, who served as the book’s publisher.

“Twelve years ago, Bench successfully presented the Terno Ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila to celebrate the beautiful design of this Philippine national dress,” Chan said in his speech concluding that this year’s book launch is a continuation of that effort.

Gino Gonzales, scenographer and lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University

Gino Gonzales, scenographer and lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University

Joining the night’s beautiful muses the likes of Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, actresses Lovi Poe and Solenn Heussaff, and stage artists Cris Villonco and Karylle, among others, were escorts who arrived in traditional Barong Tagalog as fitting complement to the Filipiniana affair.

The venue itself took all the guests back in time with its 1920s art deco flair that was made local with indigenous materials like the capiz.

Providing entertainment was no less than Pilita Corales herself who looked eternal in her multi-colored, sequined attire. The Asia’s Queen of Songs enlivened the night with her ever-flawless singing. Crooners Richard Poon and Markki Stroem also serenaded the night away.

The highlight of the night came as Chan and the book’s authors donated copies to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Ayala Foundation.

Fashionable Filipinas illustrates the evolution of the Philippine national dress with over 200 rare or previously unpublished photographs from Philippine, European and American collections. It also features glossaries, essays, a timeline, and contemporary photos of period fashion, textiles and jewelry.

The book begins in 1860, at the birth of studio photography in the Philippines. It then progresses by decade to show how the traje de mestiza gradually evolved into the terno that we know today.

Ben Chan and Dingdong Dantes

Ben Chan and Dingdong Dantes

Taking inspiration first from Spanish fashion, and later from the couture houses of Paris, the terno became one of the most evolved national dresses in Southeast Asia.

Spanning a century of enormous social, political, and economic change, the terno not only came to parallel the country’s stride towards modernity, but by the final decade in the book, became a symbol of an independent nation.

By creating a comprehensive book on the history of the national dress, the authors felt that Fashionable Filipinas would contribute at least one aspect to a young Filipino’s sense of what makes them different from their neighbors, as well as tell them a story about their country’s unique history.

The book is published by clothing and lifestyle giant Bench in their support of fashion education, and is an extension of their #LoveLocal campaign. Soon, the clothing company will also donate copies of the book to municipal libraries across the country, as well as to several key museums and institutions in Europe, Asia and the United States.



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