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Review: ‘Kasuotan’ raises funds for a school

The Association of Women Legislators Foundation, Inc. of the 17th Congress, with 86 members led by Bulacan 4th district Representative Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica, present ‘Kasuotan: Filipiniana Redefined’ to raise funds for the Paaralan at Palaruan ng Kabataan at the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City.

The full-color, hard-cover coffee-table book is edited by Mons Romulo, with cover design by Ige Ramos and photography by Stanley Ong. The art and design are gorgeous, with the design of the endpapers and part of the cover taken from textile art by dressmaker Patis Tesoro.

The book’s pages are filled with individual portraits of women solons dressed in various styles of Philippine dress. Many showcased the fabrics and handicrafts of the provinces they represent. Most opted for the ubiquitous Tagalog terno, while some of those from northern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao reached to the cultures in their area for inspiration. 

Some outfits were luxurious and custom-made, others were simple and off-the-rack; but all highlighted some style of Filipiniana, and everyone looked gorgeous.

The back stories of the outfits are interesting, with some a nod to their “personal advocacies”, as Villarica puts it in the preface. 

For instance, Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos Recto chose a “champagne piña and silk chiffon terno with embroidery, pearl, and crystal accents” to honor her late friend, designer Danilo Franco. 

Villarica stands out in a red, white, and black ensemble, a Jo Rubio “black dyed jusi terno with bustle” covered with “embroidered crimson roses and ivory blossoms, and swirling volutes fully hand-sewn with glass beads by the artisans of Sta. Maria, Bulacan.” 

In simple contrast, Gabriela Women’s Party’s Emmi de Jesus glows in a scarlet-painted kimono from SM Kultura over a red column skirt using fabric from Isabela; the beaded handbag she carries was crafted by women inmates of the Quezon City Jail. Kabataan’s Sarah Jane Elago, the youngest solon in the 17thCongress, wears a “pink piña jusi barong dress embroidered with flora and fauna designs”, bought at Kamuning Market, while her nude heels come from the Marikina Shoe Center. 

Among those who opted for a southern style were Manila’s Sandy Ocampo, wearing a t’nalak top and skirt, Agri partylist’s Delph Gan Lee in t’nalak above and malong below, and Davao Oriental’s Cora Malanyaon in a heavily embroidered blouse and skirt of the Mandaya tribe.

Tesoro’s foreword, a discourse the significance of Philippine dress, is alone worth the price of the book. In it she says that “Filipiniana is forever, just like diamonds…as they are both precious and timeless.” 

She explained how clothing is a marker of identity: “Clothes not only define a person, they define a nation’s identity. If Filipiniana is forever, then we must look back to our colonial past when we fought to wear our own, despite the availability of foreign alternatives.”

Just as style gurus advise that every woman invest in wardrobe basics such as the little black dress and a pair of flattering jeans, Tesoro advocates that “every Filipina should have in her closet any one of the following: a barong, a malong, a tapis, a terno, a baro’t saya, a kimono, or a Maria Clara.” 

Such clothes, often handmade, do not come cheap; but as she points out, “The definition of bring Filipino is not only seen in dance, architecture, or literature, it is especially seen in dress, as it is the most practical way of showing one’s identity, which provides a unique place in global society.”

In the book’s introduction, Romulo says Kasuotan “will not only create awareness on the beauty of our Philippine fabrics but will give honor to our local weavers and embroiderers…Hopefully, this book will call even greater attention to support our artisans by patronizing the fabrics our weavers painstakingly create.”

AWLFI’s other fundraising projects include a garage sale at the House of Representatives in November 2017 to assist relatives of soldiers killed in the Marawi conflict, and an art exhibit in February 2018 entitled “Arts for Hearts’ Sake” to benefit the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts scholarship program. 

Whatever your politics may be, do consider getting a copy of the book to support its worthy cause - to  upgrade the play facilities of the child patients of the National Center for Mental Health. To order, call Lilo at 931-5001 local 7278 or 0920-9620602.

Rachel Zoe said, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”

FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Rachel Zoe , Association of Women Legislators Foundation , Linabelle Ruth Villarica ,

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