When it comes to intricate work, the woodcarving artisans of Betis, Pampanga are in a league of their own. After all, it is said that the tradition of using a chisel and mallet in Betis is as old as the town itself.
Even before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers, people in Betis were well known as blacksmiths, carvers, ship builders, and carpenters. And when the conquistadors came to the Philippines with the Catholic faith, the town’s artisans eventually used and furthered their talent in what is now the magnificent heritage church of Betis.
Established in 1607, the Baroque Church was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in 2001.
The main door of Betis Church features intricate carvings portraying the “Gates of Paradise.” Once inside, religious frescoes on the ceiling and wall murals that are very much like those of the Renaissance masters in the Sistine Chapel show more of the masterpieces of Kapampangan artists.
To this day, woodcarving flourishes in Betis, with endless rows of workshops and stores that sell intricately designed doors, tables, chairs, frames, and other furniture and decorative items.
It is from this rich history of woodcarving in Betis that noted Kapampangan fashion designer Efren Ocampo took inspiration for his latest collection. Asking himself, what would Betis, Pampanga’s artisans come up with if they designed dresses, the graduate of Traphagen Institute of Fashion in New York took the opulent route by using tulle lace appliquéd on fabric.
His collection is definitely Baroque inspired with exquisite details in a black, white, mustard, beige, and gold palette.
Silhouettes are feminine in fitted bodices with A-line skirts, off the shoulder, strapless, and sleeveless dresses.
“Besides the intricate lace patters, it is also the A-line skirt that makes this collection different from my previous works,” related Ocampo. “We had been doing a lot of pencil skirts, and we decided to do A-line skirts for a change also because it is very flattering on curvy women.”
Taking pride in the artistry of his roots for his latest prêt-a-porter line, Ocampo is further elated that he was able to shoot the collection right where his inspiration began.
“To be here at Betis Church in Guagua, Pampanga with my dresses makes this collection all the more memorable,” he concluded.
The Efren Ocampo collection is available at The SM Store.