Visual spectacle: Cebu’s 1st Philippine Terno Gala

MUSE. Rajo Laurel’s design is worn by his muse. Designer Rajo Laurel poses alongside models wearing his couture pieces along with Waterfront representatives
MUSE. Rajo Laurel’s design is worn by his muse. Designer Rajo Laurel poses alongside models wearing his couture pieces along with Waterfront representatives

The Philippine Terno Gala fashion show was an evening that reminisced on traditional Filipino attire and brought it into modern relevance through the creative outpouring of the country’s premier designers. Beyond imitating revered national costumes, designers like Cary Santiago, Philip Rodriguez, Rajo Laurel and Mark Bumgarner gave deeper meaning to fashion. It doesn’t take a strong eye for fashion to sense that a masterpiece has entered the room and this is exactly what these designers brought to the runway.

The show began with show-stopping creations from Cebu’s very own Philip Rodriguez. All eyes were on the platform as Rodriguez made a strong impression with his exquisite use of nostalgic elements, such as his Spanish-inspired terno separates.

The real kicker was Rodriguez’s reimagining of the beauty of the country’s national attire by producing haute couture with powerful colors and an edgy feel to it. His final gown was inspired by the sampaguita flower, which was a two-piece bridal ensemble with cording and floral applique that had a real scent of the sweet sampaguita.

Rajo Laurel’s works that followed Rodriguez’s collection were nothing short of immaculate. With his vision of bringing a contemporary twist to the Philippine terno, his 11 designs captured the soul of a true classic.

His “ternotux” amplified the sleek shapes of the terno with its butterfly sleeves and incorporated the rougher edges of the masculine touch of a tuxedo. Laurel’s design was able to embrace the traditional terno form while bridging the contemporary and modern world, elevating the terno beyond boundaries.

Trends quickly change, but sweet and innocent have never gone out of style. The first terno by Mark Bumgarner to waft the runway highlighted soft femininity with a big pristine-white gown. Bumgarner’s male traditional attire dusted off old and tedious with more delicate hand-embroidered details defining a more modern barong tagalog.

What followed was a sweet and romantic sweep through the evening as Bumgarner’s elegant pieces harbored a romantic reimagination of the national attire. It was nothing short of classic and quintessentially soft-hued magnificence that the audience would surely not forget.

Ever the visionary, Cary Santiago brought designs that meshed avant-garde designing and classic terno silhouettes. The metallic elements of some of the designs lent the couture pieces a mesmerizing touch, modern but also unapologetically classic in its form. Splashes of golds and blacks emphasized the elegance of each design, a fitting tribute to the terno.

The closing piece of the collection featured a set of floating white butterflies connected to the dress, creating an ethereal look that captured the entire crowd. The bold lines, daring designs and intricate details needed no introduction; they could only come from Santiago, truly a master of the craft.

Before the modern-contemporary display of visual spectacle wrapped up, awards were given to A-list personalities who graced the Philippine Terno Gala 2023 on March 10, 2023 at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.

Regine Velasquez, who wore a peach-pink flowy dress, climbed upstage to receive the award as the evening’s “Babaeng Halangdon.” Meanwhile, Charlene Gonzales-Mulach was also given the spotlight as the event’s “Bitoon sa Kagabhion” with her monochromatic national attire.

For Santiago, the gala was a way of helping the fashion industry, which was intensely affected by the pandemic, and promoting Philippine terno.

“It’s also nice to showcase the Philippine terno because the aim really is to promote the terno. If we have formal events for our ladies to wear the terno and the gentlemen to wear the barong, just like in other countries, they take pride in wearing their national dress. This is really the aim,” Santiago said.

Asked about the future of galas and similar events, Santiago said they plan to hold the Philippine Terno Gala biennially. The fashion industry in Cebu, with the brilliance of its people, is only set for success.


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