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Modern Filipiniana: The 2019 ABS-CBN Ball Dress Code

The 2019 ABS-CBN Ball is celebrating the company's 65 years in the service of the Filipino with a dress code that honors what it means to be Filipino

65 years ago, the very first TV tower of what was then the Alto Broadcasting System or ABS was constructed. Throughout the years, ABS-CBN has revolutionized Philippine broadcasting and led breakthroughs in the field by offering the first color TV broadcast, first satellite feed, and first use of videotape, among many others.

Today, the country’s biggest broadcasting network, ABS-CBN, continues to commit itself to this excellence and vision: to offer the best for every Filipino. And for years, at the core of ABS-CBN remains its mantra, which is to do everything in the service of the Filipino.

This year, The 2019 ABS-CBN Ball will celebrate this vision and mission. Celebrities, executives, and personalities from the entertainment industry will come together to commemorate 65 years of excellence, of innovation, and of service to the country.

With nationalism and patriotism as the central theme of the ball, nothing is more apt than to honor the Filipino culture and community with the Philippine national costume.

The Filipiniana

When one talks about Filipiniana, what comes to mind are silhouettes of the Baro’t Saya, the Terno, and the Barong Tagalog. These national costumes have roots that date back to the Spanish era, where Filipino women were encouraged to cover their body as they embraced Christianity—thus the rationale for the Maria Clara dress, a more conservative version of the Baro’t Saya that was characterized by long bell sleeves and a bubble-shaped, floor-length skirt. The Barong Tagalog also became a symbol to distinguish the regular indio from the ilustrado—Filipino males who owned landed estates and had some authority in their community.

The Filipino way of dressing has come a long way since then, in the same spirit that Filipino freedom has come a long way from our history of colonization. But what the definition of being a Filipino is remains at the core of every Filipino and our collective culture, even as we grow and develop into a more modern society. As Filipino values and culture evolve, so should our national costume. The Filipiniana is not meant to die and remain in our past, only to be worn and remembered during Buwan ng Wika celebrations in school—the Filipiniana should stay embedded in our lives, perhaps in a different and more modern form.

Thus, the Modern Filipiniana.

“With Filipiniana, I associate words that you can only say in Tagalog—I think they don’t have an equivalent in English. Like for women’s Terno, it brings out the karilagan, karikitan. For the men, it brings out ’yung pagkamakisig, pagkamatikas,” says veteran fashion designer JC Buendia in an interview with Metro Channel for The 2019 ABS-CBN ball.

Rajo Laurel, who celebrated his 25th anniversary gala with interpretations of what the new Filipiniana is, says that our Spanish, American, and Japanese roots all come into play when modernizing the Filipiniana.

“Because we have been a colony of many other cultures, it is that sort of global aspect of understanding what our culture is. I always believe that our culture is likened to our famous halo-halo. Bits of this, bits of that; pieces of this, pieces of that; and then shaken and stirred to create this wonderful mélange of what we know as Filipino,” says Rajo. “So it is that philosophy, it is that principle. We can borrow from the Spanish and make it our own…but there’s that sense of putting things together that makes it uniquely Filipino.”

When it comes to modernizing the classic Filipiniana silhouettes, there are various elements in the design, cut, and material that one can play with; and there are things that should be preserved to stay true to the core of the Filipiniana.
According to JC, when it comes to the Terno, it is important to maintain the proportion of the sleeves, which is very iconic to that style. It’s also important to use local and indigenous fabrics like the inabel from Ilocos and handwoven piña or jusi to keep it local and authentic. The Barong Tagalog remains a classic, but it has become more tapered in proportion as more men go for the slimmer fit. The patterns of the Barong Tagalog are also more geometric and experimental now.

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The return of the Filipiniana

“I think its become a movement to wear the Filipiniana with much pride again,” says JC, talking about the rising popularity of Filipiniana-inspired pieces. More and more designers are going back to this cultural core and using it as inspiration for many of their designs, and many brands are launching with the Filipiniana flavor and local artisan at their core.

The recently held MaArte Fair and ArteFino are testament to the budding return of the Filipiniana—this time friendlier, more casual, and more relevant to the needs and lifestyle of the modern Filipino.

“I think it’s the dawning of that realization that our culture is special, our culture is beautiful; this is how we represent ourselves, and this is how in many ways, part and parcel of nation building. It’s about identity. It’s about who we are as a people. So this is very very important that this generation, and hopefully the generation next, appreciate all the elements of what it is to become a Filipino. Whether it be body, mind, and clothing,” says Rajo.

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Modern Filipiniana to dress the ball

This year, The 2019 ABS-CBN Ball will be held in celebration of the company’s 65 years in the service of the Filipino. Proceeds of the ball will go to Bantay Bata’s Bantay Edukasyon, staying true to the company’s heart and core. And true to that Filipino spirit, the ball is dressing the venue and its guests in Modern Filipiniana.

Both JC and Rajo expressed their excitement that the Ball has chosen Modern Filipiniana as its outfit inspiration this year, saying that it is important to keep the respect for the Filipiniana in the gowns and Barong Tagalog ensembles that will walk down the red carpet.

“I think this helps the industry as well, from the designers to the weavers and embroiderers. It means very much to the industry,” says JC. “I’m expecting a lot of very regal stuff. I hope there aren’t those who would experiment with risqué design because with Filipiniana, you give it a certain reverence because it’s our national costume.”

Rajo adds, “I’m sure my colleagues are going to truly bring it forward and push the envelope, but at the same time be respectful of our culture and realize that there is so much inspiration to have. I’m expecting to see a lot of beautiful women and men, and a lot of well-designed clothes that celebrate Filipino, that celebrate our culture, that celebrate us being Filipinos, and celebrate the beauty of being Filipino—and that remains to be the most important thing.”

Lead photos produced and photographed by Rxandy Capinpin
Styling by Keith Angelo
Makeup by Nikki Duque of Make Up Forever
Hairstyling by MJ Rone for Revlon Professional using hair extensions from Lynelle Hair Extensions
Modeled by Jessica Yang