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Common threads tying Filipino and Indonesian style

COMMON threads between two Southeast Asian peoples were seen in a fashion show on Nov. 21.

The fashion show, staged in a collaboration by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Indonesian Embassy in Manila, was called Filipino Barong – Wastra Indonesia: Threads and Patterns of Kinship. The show featured the barong Tagalog and suit brand Onesimus, the work of Filipino designer Steve de Leon, and the work of Indonesian designer Didi Budiardjo and Batik Chic from Indonesia. A collection from hybrid brand Barong Batik, which showed off batik patterns from Indonesia on Filipino barong Tagalogs, was also shown. The setting was excellent as well: the newly renovated Art Deco Metropolitan Theater in Manila.

The fashion show is the first activity between the Philippines and the Indonesian Embassy as part of a Memorandum of Understanding on cultural operations between the two countries that was signed in September, according to NCCA Chair Rene Escalante.

“It is interesting that the maiden offering is a fashion show featuring the most esteemed among the costumes of our countries,” said Mr. Escalante in a speech.

The show opened with a collection of barongs from Onesimus, some of them showing the native shirts made of translucent piña fabric embroidered with the shape of the Philippine archipelago in gold thread.

Batik Chic showed modern robes, tunics, blazers, and dresses showcasing the traditional batik patterns made in Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the combination of batik patterns on our own barongs proved to be quite the statement from Barong Batik, showing that traditional Filipino formalwear could be fun and colorful.

Didi Budiardjo presented gowns made with batik, with a touch of the traditional. Incidentally, many touches of Mr. Budjiardo’s design would seem familiar to Filipino eyes: the cuts of the tops are related to the Filipino baro (a loose square-cut top with sleeves), and even some accessories are similar. Mr. Budjiardo pointed out the tortoiseshell combs on the models, which one might think are of the same mold as the Spanish-influenced peinetas in the Philippines, but are actually traditional accessories for Indonesian young women about to be married.

Mr. De Leon, who showed traditional Filipino formalwear influenced by the Philippine island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, as well as the Filipino uplands, said these similarities came about due to shared pre-colonial influences, as well as colonial ones: the Philippines was colonized by Spain, but while it was the Dutch who made Indonesia their colonial base, the first Europeans to land in Indonesia were the Portuguese, Spain’s neighbors in the Iberian Peninsula.

As Mr. Escalante pointed out in his speech: “Despite the marked divisions caused by the differences in geographic location or social class, what is common is the ability to allow the medium — namely, the textiles — to exude the pride inherent in their cultures.” — JLG

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