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RAMOS with Loida Nicholas Lewis, Consul General Cecilia Rebong, Region 12 Tourism director Sohura Dimaampao, Deputy Consul General Millie Thomeczek and Virginia Davide

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BARONGS made of silk malong

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SWING coats of inabel and silk malong



The Big Apple dresses up in barong

By Alex Vergara
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:08:00 07/17/2008

Filed Under: Fashion, Lifestyle & Leisure

MANILA, Philippines?If there was one thing Barge Ramos learned from his recent barong exhibit at the Philippine Center in New York City, Filipino-Americans and their Caucasian friends are as open and as adventurous as Filipinos in the Philippines are when it comes to wearing the country?s national shirt.

The event?s title, ?Barong Filipino: Weaving Culture into Fashion,? is a play on Ramos? coffee-table book, ?Pinoy Dressing: Weaving Culture into Fashion,? which was launched last year in Manila.

The recent event also served as his book launch in the US. Violet Norriega, Ramos? Seattle-based book representative in the US, had to ship 25 copies of the book to New York.

It was Consul General Cecilia Rebong who thought of holding an exhibit of Ramos? barongs and making it the highlight of this year?s Philippine Independence Day celebration in New York. She got the idea after receiving a signed copy of the designer?s book last year.

?Since I was expected only to make the barongs, I immediately said yes. For a change, I was relieved of the headache of casting models and mounting a fashion show abroad,? said Ramos.

Still, Ramos went immediately to work as soon as he landed at JFK. In lieu of mannequins, he used torsos and wooden rods to display his creations.

With help from the consulate?s staff, such as Deputy Consul General Millie Thomeczek, Carissa Villacorta and Marivic Dimaculangan, he also did the venue?s window display to lure passersby to the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue.

Enthusiastic buyers

Apart from featuring 29 barongs, the exhibit, Ramos? second in 17 years at the Big Apple, included shift dresses and swing coats made of pia, jusi, silk malong and inabel. Before the two-week exhibit could be over, Ramos was already getting orders from eager buyers.

?Like my books, every piece was sold out,? he said. ?My only problem was I didn?t anticipate that there was a big demand for plus sizes.?

He wanted it to be a celebration of Filipino creativity and a tribute to the origin of the material. Thus, while such fabrics as pia and jusi are staples in Filipiniana dressing, silk malong and inabel are considered quite radical even among the more adventurous.

The silk malong pieces even came in bright colors such as fuchsia, aqua and violet. Ramos also tweaked his pia numbers by accentuating them with materials other than traditional Lumban embroidery. He appliqud one piece, for instance, with Belgian lace.

Thanks to the hand-painting he did, his jusi numbers were equally eye-catching. One piece simulated the patterns of the t?nalak, while another was inspired by the anting-anting (amulet).

There?s no denying the fact that the fabrics are indigenous to the Philippines. Tourism director Sohura Dimaampao of Region 12 supplied Ramos with silk malong, while Mayor Bonifacio Clemente of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, provided him with inabel. For his supply of pia, he relied on Aklan Gov. Carlito Marquez?s support.

?The Filipino barong comes as a close relative to the Mexican guayabera shirt, so it?s not that unusual to many,? said Ramos.

?One common reaction from exhibit guests was to the textiles I used.?

Many, especially foreigners, found the use of pia fascinating and hard to believe. The designer had to explain that the fabric was derived from a different type of pineapple with longer, sturdier stalks.

?I?m happy to note that many Filipino-Americans are still connected to their Filipino heritage,? he added. ?They can relate to the barong, which is worn during Filipino events in the US.?

The event also became a reunion of sorts for Ramos and his US-based former classmates at the Ateneo. He was also able to touch base with former Filipino models Bessie Badilla, Thea Robles, Denden Abesamis, Tesa Totengco, Maribel Lastimosa and Nol Cueto, among others.

One of the highlights of Ramos? trip was the chance to visit an ailing Benjie Toledo, a former model, in a hospital outside New York City. Toledo, who recently succumbed to cancer, also modeled for him in 1991.

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