Philippine Fashion Week

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Junio 5th, 2010

Philippine Fashion Week today opened for the Holiday 2010 collections. It’s called Holiday since we don’t have the four seasons. Either it rains or it is warm and humid, and since these are always unpredictably present anyway, the cooler “holiday” months from September to December are used as a reason to dress differently.
One of my early favorites for the “season” is the show by Don Protasio, a Filipino designer based in Cambodia. All in blazing red, his collection is comprised of light cotton and jersey separates that can be easily layered and unlayered, mixed and matched. Turning up the heat without the sweat! I appreciate this feature of versatile layering with thin, loose, and flowing pieces – a good way to surviving a day that can go from heat stroke-inducing or pleasantly breezy to a little chilly, with the occasional flash floods.

As a result of their tailoring and the deconstruction of menswear details, the items are also very androgynous. I can imagine the bolero-cut jackets, the loosely knitted shirts, and the vests worn by both men and women. What is not form-fitting can easily be made so by trench coat belts that can also be found worn across the legs.

Light and loungy, the pieces are excellent for the urban nomads of a warm and dusty city. I almost didn’t get a chance to see and touch the clothes myself, but Don was gracious enough to open his luggage after he packed them up from the backstage. He even let me do some crazy styling. He tells me he does his weaving and sewing in Cambodia, and points out that – in line with the color theme – some of his knitted pieces were made by a woman who was HIV-positive. Maybe this fact had something to do with the name he gave his collection: “Insistent”.

El Bosquejo


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 A Land of Feasts

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Mayo 23rd, 2010

Some highlights among the country’s festivities in PhilippinesIn the middle of the rich mix of folklore, superstition, mythology, and religion in the Philippines – where one is taken for the other, interchangeable, if you may – there is a constant annual calendar of fiestas, or feasts, to celebrate the parthenon of patron saints and the different manifestations of Mother Mary that have made itself part not only of officially sanctioned events by the Catholic Church (days of obligation), but also of the cultural fabric of the country and its different regions. The feasts also make pageants and celebrations of rain dances, thanksgiving for good harvests, and also moments in the country’s history.

Mind you: the Philippines is known as Asia’s biggest Roman Catholic population, but there are also other religions, like Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, the traditional religions of aboriginal and tribal groups, and not to mention other Christian denominations that have their own schedules of celebrations. Over and above these, towns may also have their own festivities aside from the national ones. So this list can only offer a partial glance across the islands.)

The Feast of the Black Nazarene is held every ninth of January in the Quiapo district of Manila. Devotees flock in the thousands just to get a glance – or even touch – the life size statue of the Black Nazarene, which depicts Jesus Christ carrying the cross, as it moves slowly amongst the packed streets on a path from Intramuros (the old walled city capital) towards Quiapo church. Devotees attribute many miracles to the 400 year old image that was brought to the country from Mexico in the 17th century.

The Sinulog festival is celebrated every third week of January in Cebu City, in the country’s Visayas region. The fiesta pays homage to the Santo Ni-o, as the child Jesus is called, whose image is dressed like a decadent little doll. The celebration is comprised of a religious procession held on a Saturday and a grand street parade the following day.

The Ati-Atihan festival, which lasts from the 16th to the 22nd of January, is the original form of the feast that commemorates the Santo Ni-o. Also in the procession parade format, the main difference of the Ati-atihan is that revelers paint themselves black and wear colorful and outlandish costumes to masquerade as Negritos, one of the earliest tribes to inhabit the country. The fiesta is held in Kalibo, Aklan. It is a Christianized version of a pagan festival, which has also been copied by the Dinagyang in Iloilo, and the Masskara in Bacolod, all in the Visayas region.

The Moriones Festival, reenacted during the Holy Week in Boac, Marinduque, is based on a play about the story of Longinus, the centurion whose blindness was cured by a drop of blood from Jesus. The masks that actors – both men and women – wear, represent the Roman soldiers. Morion means mask or visor.

Flores de Mayo, as the name suggests, is held on the month of May. Literally meaning the flowers of May, this nationwide festival commemorates the search of Queen Elena of Constantinople, together with his son, Emperor Constantine, for the actual cross carried by Jesus. Among all the fiestas, this comes nearest to the format of a beauty pageant, as the parade consists of maidens escorted by young men under floral arches. In many areas, it is also considered a ritual for the coming of age of young ladies.

The Pahiyas (hiyas meaning decoration) is celebrated every 15th of May in Lucban, in the Quezon province. Agricultural households give thanks to San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isidore the Laborer) for a bountiful harvest by decorating their houses with brightly colored rice wafers called kiping, along with fruits, vegetables, other produce, and also handicrafts. Each year, there are judges who decide which house looks the best and awards the family a prize. The kiping can be eaten grilled or fried after the judging.

By the third week of August, the people of Davao City, in the southern region of the Philippines, celebrate the Kadayawan. This festival gives thanks to the harvest of fruits and flowers as the waling – waling orchid blooms. Floats of all colors are bedecked with orchids and other flowers in the city’s grand parade. The Kadayawan draws its name from the friendly greeting “Madayaw”, derived from the Davao word “dayaw”, meaning good, valuable, superior or beautiful.

The Masskara Festival is held every third week of October in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, where people from all walks of life don their colorful masks as they participate in street dances. The festivities mark Bacolod City’s charter day.



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 Cherish Earth

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Mayo 21st, 2010

In 2007, on a chance surfing vacation in the Surigao province of the Philippines, New York based Filipino – American designer Melissa Dizon discovered and fell in love with the culture of her country…It was the missing link she was looking for after spending years on a hectic fashion career that brought her to places all over the world.

The deep respect she cultivated for the environment since she took up surfing, combined with her fascination with what the Philippines had to offer – in terms of materials, tribal processes, and the people themselves – gave birth to what she called Eairth: the coming together of the elements of earth and air.

Dizon uses natural colors derived from indigenous leaves, barks, and plants, and other local sources, and applied them on organic fibers, such as pi–a, abaca, silk, cotton, and wool, that were then hand-woven using old-style looms. Sourcing crude materials from various local tribes, as well as employing her own teams of colorists, seamstresses, embroiderers, and artisans, Melissa ensures through careful research that Eairth maintains processes that have been handed down through the generations, while of course allowing her workers their creative flourishes.

The effect is that not only is the business sustainable, with a fair trade system in place, but no two items – among the many variations of jeans, tops, dresses, scarves, and bags – are identical.

And since inspiration from everything in the Philippines is combined with Dizon’s street aesthetic, the pieces come into their own as a unique and modern expression of what is Filipino.

El Bosquejo


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 Color-Coded Politics

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Mayo 9th, 2010

On May 10, the Filipino electorate will be heading to the precincts to cast their votes. They have 9 presidential candidates to choose from, coming from 7 political parties, which went through reshufflings even in the middle of the campaign period.

With “turncoatism”, political opportunism, and the sheer circus of advertisements, conflicting polls, and mudslinging, it is no wonder that the ordinary citizen is mostly confused and left vulnerable to the influence of the newest TV campaign as they are to the latest shampoo commercials. Who can keep track of it all?

With more than 30% of the populace under the poverty line and the majority struggling to sustain themselves with three square meals a day, who can keep tabs of past political controversies, gross deficiencies in public services, anomalies in government dealings – in two words: graft and corruption? The state of affairs of politics in the Philippines is so entangled, complicated, and needless to say, dirty, that it requires not only a vast memory, but also a sharp and incisive understanding of the history and intentions of all parties involved.

There are no clear platforms or party delineations, unlike the division between the blue Republicans and the red Democrats in the US, red Labour and blue Conservatives in the UK, and Thaksin Shinawatra’s red shirts vs King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s yellow shirts in Thailand.

Of course, these divisions may only be simplistic demarcations between parties that are not really that different from each other, but two colors definitely make it easier for voters than four, five, or all the colors of the rainbow.

This is the case in the Philippines, as illustrated by a hilarious caricature of five candidates running for president and vice president. The colors – orange, green, blue, yellow, and pink – do not really stand for anything, except for yellow (which was the banner color of former president Corazon Aquino, who helped topple Ferdinand Marcos, who was himself associated with the color red) and pink (which is used prominently in the city by the head of an urban authority). Colors are used in this case as part the defining characteristic of their brand names as candidates competing against each other.

They say they stand for different things, that one platform is better than the other, that experience is superior to a testament of honesty in public office. Others raise background, political allegiance, and personal achievement as their trump cards. “I am orange and you are yellow, while he is pink and they are blue”: they say this when no one can see clearly that one color will do better than the other.

So it makes perfect sense that the creator of the spoof relate them to TV series about superhero fighters. Voters are invited to pick one as their favorite – a trivial choice that will not have any effect on their day-to-day living – just like picking an idol from a roster of equally inane and only superfluously different collection of painted plastic action figures.

El Bosquejo


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 The Raw Emotions of Ang Kiukok

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Abril 10th, 2010

(Angry Figure)

Tangled nets with fish like swords that are as sharp as the fishermen’s hungry and contorted shoulders. Vicious dogs that gnaw at each other’s necks, cantankerous chickens brandishing their claws.

(Fishermen with Catch – The Lovers – Fighting Figures)

These are just some of the violent images that are part of the aesthetic language of Filipino-Chinese painter and national artist Ang Kiukok.

They go beyond mere angst and repressed emotion; they dig holes deeper than the source. I believe that Ang Kiukok is foremost a Filipino painter, and his art a Filipino medium, because his paintings uncover common feelings borne from the same experiences.

(Fish – Fisherman)

He has expressed, even in the originally foreign tools of cubism and expressionism, the collective anger, alienation, and suffering unique to the history of the Philippines-such as the specific event of Martial Law under President Marcos
and the general predicament of poverty caused by centuries of backwardness.

(Crucifixion – Clowns – Mother and Son)

Of course, his works also express the universal, if only seen through the eyes of a nation: a man on fire, limbs entangled in fatal combat or twisted and broken into each other in the embrace of love.

(The Last Supper)

There are angles and edges to the righteous faces of apostles, to the bond and burden between mother and child, the bones and maws of fish, the limbs of desert horses. Finally, Kiukok expresses the machination of what is human by showing the industrially hammered, nailed, cut, welded, sliced, and broken body of the man on the crucifix. We all share in that silent and anguished cry, in tears that run from empty sockets.

El Bosquejo


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 Barako Coffee. For the Brave

by United Blogs of Benetton on: Abril 5th, 2010

In the Philippines, “barako” is the word used to describe men without fear. Originally pertaining to the male stud used for breeding, it now embodies the macho image – strong, brusque, and tough.“Barako” (also spelled “baraco”) likewise pertains to a variety of coffee grown in the country, particularly in Batangas and Cavite provinces. “Barako” coffee, which belongs to the Liberica family, got its name from its strong taste, full and powerful body, and distinctively pungent aroma. It arrests the senses and sometimes shocks the uninitiated.

A personal favorite and loved locally as the coffee of choice, “barako” has a unique place in the country’s culinary and economic history. It is said that in the 1740s, a Franciscan friar brought three gantas of coffee beans on board a galleon headed to Manila from Mexico. The tale continues after the death of the friar, when his servant boy dug up the coffee plants the priest planted in Laguna and replanted them in Lipa, Batangas (both Laguna and Batangas are south of Manila). An alternative story tells of the Macasaet family planting the first barako tree in Batangas in the 1800s from a cutting that originated from Brazil.

(Liberica cherries)

From that time, the Philippines became the fourth largest coffee-producing country in the world – with the rare and exotic Liberica variety grown only in three countries. In 1887, Queen Isabella of Spain made Lipa into a city, named Villa de Lipa, owing to its prosperity.

Though most of the country’s coffee plantations have been eradicated by an infestation called “coffee rust” or have been transformed into farms for more lucrative crops, barako coffee remains a sought after variety in the country and across the world – a decidedly strong and frank flavor that can stand its own alongside the famous Kona from Hawaii and Blue Mountain from Jamaica.

In fact, the barako bean has been enjoying a recent resurgence as intrepid local coffee shop owners have stood up to the challenge of foreign chains. As long as drinkers across the Philippine islands turn to it every morning for their caffeine fix and shop owners keep their doors open to those who seek a swift kick, “barako” remains a bold choice for coffee lovers.

El Bosquejo


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