Dressing Up the Philippine Consulate

Just some of the 20 ternos on display at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue. (Photo by Elton Lugay via The FilAm)

Just some of the 20 ternos on display at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue. (Photo by Elton Lugay via The FilAm)

Philippine terno dresses will adorn the lobby of the Philippine Center – home of the Philippine Consulate General – until June 21, as part of “Filipiniana Romance: An Exhibit of Philippine Couture.” The exhibit honors the month of Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule, with June 12 as the official day of independence.

The terno is a traditional one-piece dress for Filipina women, with so-called butterfly sleeves. The FilAm’s Elton Lugay attended the June 5 launch of the exhibit where he got a look at the 20 ternos “designed by noted couturiers and lent by the women in the community who own them.”

“Rhinestones, sequins, beads, appliques, ribbons, and glitters” embellish each unique piece, which in themselves pose a statement.

This exhibit is not only a recognition of the artistry and design and craftsmanship of the Filipino designer but also the evolution of the design, said Deputy Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega. “It is also a tribute to our overseas Filipinos who despite time and distance continue literally to wear their being a Filipino,” she said in her opening remarks.

(Photo by Elton Lugay via The FilAm)

The flowers on this terno reflect some of the natural aspects found in the Philippines. (Photo by Elton Lugay via The FilAm)

As part of welcome remarks, Consul General Mario de Leon spoke of how the dresses bridged the geographical and cultural gaps between the Philippines and United States.

“What makes this exhibit special is the fact that these featured pieces are from private collections of members of the Filipino American community,” he said. The gowns were created by some of the most acclaimed designers in the Philippines and New York, he added. Former fashion model Bessie Badilla, for example, lent a couple of her own gowns designed by the legendary Pitoy Moreno.

“These Filipinas whether transplanted to the US or outside the Philippines take great pride in their cultural heritage and proudly wear their Filipiniana attire during Philippine Independence parades, Santacruzans, cultural, civic, social and festive occasions such as this,” he added.

Fiel Zabat, one of the exhibit’s curators, gave more detail on the designs/visuals and pieces that make up the traditional dresses.

The designs reflect the Philippines as a paradise that is well known for its flowers, birds and trees, said Zabat.

“The pieces on display all have the common features of the basic ‘baro’t saya,’ a contraction of the Philippine words for blouse and skirt,” she said. “The slightly more elaborate Maria Clara design which builds on the ‘baro’t saya,’ and their more modern cousin, the ‘terno.’”

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