By JOHN LEGASPI
On Jan. 31, 1925, The Manila Daily Bulletin published a Woman’s Club supplement with stories about nurses at Bataan Red Cross Clinic, the separation of women detainees in the Bilibid prison, and the lady bosses in Southern Mindanao. All the women in the pictures were in ternos, as so was the illustration of a Filipino in the banner photo. For 120 years, The Manila Bulletin, being the exponent of Philippine progress since 1900, has reflected the movement of the country through its timely stories and timeless truth. And the same goes for the terno.
Based on the book Fashionable Filipinas by Gino Gonzales and Mark Lewis Higgins, the term terno, as used in the late 1900s, refers to the use of sinamay and jusi for the camisa, panuelo, and saya. In the Philippines of the 1920s, fan-shaped pleating was used on the dress sleeve, causing it to rise upward, creating the “butterfly” sleeve look. This became a reflection of Filipinas’ confident air in a period of women’s emancipation.
This is among the objectives of Ternocon, a terno convention and competition, to inspire and motivate emerging designers to create ternos and to encourage dialogues and scholarly discussions of issues concerning the Philippine National Dress.
Ternocon is a passion project initiated by Bench Suyen Corporation president Ben Chan in partnership with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) through its Cultural Exchange Department. For its second showcase, Ternocon 2020 selected 12 designers who studied the art of then terno since May 2019 under the tutelage of design mentors Ivarluski Aseron, Philip Rodriguez, and Lesley Mobo. Leading them were Gino Gonzales as artistic director and Inno Sotto as chief mentor.
“Designing and creating a terno should be second nature to Filipino designers. In the same way that the Korean designers to their hanbok, Japanese designers know their kimonos, the Chinese to their cheongsam, and Indonesian designers to their batik,” said CCP chair Margie Moran-Floirendo during her speech at the opening on the Ternocon 2020. “Ternocon is only on its second year. But we could say that our mission to preserve and propagate the use of our National Dress has already made an impact. When fashion follows the cycle of evolving, changing, and making a comeback, there are some things that should remain constant like our terno. We just need to find a good balance between traditional and contemporary, preservation and reinvention, without sacrificing everything the terno encompasses and symbolizes.”
I do believe the terno brings out the best of Filipino designers. It is not easy to design a terno—you have to dig deep, do research, and to design it with heart. You have to pay respect to the master designers that came before you. You have to make it relevant to the present and ensure that the terno lives on in the future.—Ben Chan
Weaving culture, arts, and design, Ternocon 2020 was a spectacle of Filipino artistry as the CCP Main Theater was decorated not only with modern visions of the terno by the design mentors and the 12 finalists, but of music and performances by Sinala Manunubli from Batangas, Musika Filipina, Ramon Obusan Folkoric Group, Frenchie Dee, Bituin Escalante, and Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra led by Maestro Herminigilio Ranera. Also exhibited are the miniature ternos by doll couturier Cholo Ayuyao, Filipina portraits by Rafael del Casal, and the ternos of Salvacion Lim Higgins.
In light of the phreatic eruption of the Taal Volcano, the event partnered with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to support the ongoing relief efforts for the victims of the eruption with Bench and Suyen Corporation donating one million pesos to initiate the noble cause.
Capping the night was the announcement of winners of Ternocon 2020: Dinnes Obusan from Camarines Sur (Bronze), Jaggy Glarino from General Santos City (Silver), and Hannah Adrias from Pasay City (Gold).
“Hannah has an understanding of what women need,” says Gino of Hannah’s victory. “Women always complain about how uncomfortable it is. Her collection is a brilliant solution to that. She kept the matching principle of the terno. Even in the beginning, a lot of the female designers loved her work, a good sign.”
Ternocon 2018 gold medalist Marlon Tuazon presented a collection in black and white gazar, lace, mikado silk, and crinoline. Some of his butterfly sleeves came as separates, which could be detached from the bodice. The sleeves were attached to origami-like pañuelos that referenced the past, yet looked to the future with their architectural rendition.
The ternos from Ivarluski Aseron’s collection dance to the beat of the kamanyang with fringes that flared with every step of his muses. His modern touch can be seen from the frayed hems, patterns varying in black and white, and the bob his muses donned on the runway. He even turns the butterfly sleeves into pockets.
An ode to Philippine folklore, Lesley Mobo goes wild with his silhouettes and use of materials, leaving the audience in awe. His segment starts with a performance of a Sisa-like character, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra in a standstill, not a sound, just an lone woman going through the contents of her tampipi. So begins Mobo’s runway show featuring anting-anting and the scapulars of ancient rituals. His embroidered fabrics were made by Hand & Lock in London, an embroidery house that went on to work with couturiers like Christian Dior, Norman Hartnell, and Hardy Amies.
Regal and holy with a hint of dark romance, Philip Rodriguez’s terno collection is inspired by religious devotion typical in his hometown Cebu. It features lagang, an art of cutting the finest of the chamber nautilus shell into floral patterns to adorn religious images unique to Cebu. His gowns are made of callado-ed piña silk and gazar overlay with embroidered patterns inspired from religious images and the church.
DINNES OBUSAN, Bronze Medal
From Camarines Sur, Dinnes Obusan brings a playful touch to his all-black collection. “My collection was based on my final exam for dressmaking to be shown in an exhibit with the theme ‘Laro,’ he says. “I took inspiration from the game Chinese garter, which was also evident in what Gabbi Garcia wore at the Ternocon 2018.” His collection is made from velvet fabric and American tulle, with loop details that resemble a fingerprint.
JAGGY GLARINO, Silver Medal
In pristine white and odd proportions, General Santos City’s Jaggy Glarino plays with sheer and softness in his “Malaya” collection. “It is inspired by the idea of freedom,” he says. “I want to showcase liberation being a general and encompassing human experience.” He uses satin, Chantilly lace, and silk organdy for the collection and styles his muses with butterfly glasses as a finishing touch.
HANNAH ADRIAS, Gold Medal
“My collection is about women empowerment,” says Hannah Adrias. “Its color combination hails from the military concept.” Born and raised in Pasay City, Hannah has a passion for designing menswear, which was evident in her three-piece terno collection. Her fatigue green collection incorporates the use of silk cocoon, with buckles, straps, and leatherwork, giving it a contemporary vibe. “The terno has been there ever since. It’s sad to see that in the future it will be gone,” she said. “I want the younger generation to wear the terno and not see it as a costume but something they could wear every day.”