Centuries-old beliefs find their way to the pages of the Vogue Philippines September 2023 issue, through the beauty editorial “Pamahiin (Superstition).”
The Filipino worldview is shaped by the interconnectedness of humans, nature, and spirits. At one with the environment, pre-colonial ancestors prayed and worshiped ancestor or nature spirits such as anitos, diwatas (fairies, muses, or nymphs), gods, and goddesses with the belief that these beings would bring protection, abundance, and guidance. Every living thing, object, and place should be treated with respect, just as you would with fellow human beings. That is why in the forest, it’s advised to say “tabi-tabi po (Excuse me),” or why you shouldn’t point your finger at trees at night, to prevent disturbing and invoking the spiritual beings’ wrath.
These common superstitions are colloquially known as pamahiin–superstitions, or centuries-old beliefs, perhaps practiced long before Spaniards arrived at the Philippine shores. As time passed by, these were influenced by neighboring countries, colonizations, and blended into the multicultural lifestyle of Filipinos. Because of the Chinese, the noodle dish pancit is served during birthdays as a symbol of a long life. Sweeping the floors at night is discouraged, similar to the Indonesian belief that it will “sweep away” all the good fortune from our homes.
As strange as they might sound, Filipinos to this day and age still prefer to take heed of these superstitions. For the September 2023 issue, Vogue Philippines interprets these beliefs through a contemporary surrealist beauty lens, with the help of makeup artist Sylvina Lopez. Lopez is popularly known for her conceptual looks, as seen in her visual collaborations with musician Ena Mori and her makeup design for James Reid’s Soda music video.
This time, Lopez adds her touch to the pages of Vogue Philippines’ anniversary issue with the beauty editorial Pamahiin.
Pamahiin explores the creative concept of Filipino superstitions and how they are “metaphors for psychological realities.” Lopez enthusiastically accepted this creative challenge. “When it comes to thoughtful beauty editorials, it is partly about the makeup products that I use, but it’s more about the whole picture,” she explains. “I like highlighting product, but I like highlighting features and concept more. That’s why it’s fun for me to get a brief like this.”
The process began by selecting visually striking prompts with the editorial team. From these ideas, Lopez sketched various makeup looks that incorporated the element of “myth” through bold colors and textures with surrealist elements. The results tease your imagination — a hand dipped in gold, a hairline with a cracked texture, and water droplets dripping down the face.
For editorial, texture was the element that she wanted to highlight the most to achieve realism of such abstract beliefs. In one of the photos, 3D water droplets were applied to the model’s face and body, providing the illusion that she was drenched from head to toe. This makeup rendition alludes to the Filipino belief that you shouldn’t bathe when you’re tired, to avoid getting sick. “Even without the color, you can see the texture, and the styling super helped,” she said. “Even the texture on the eyes is subtle but I love how it was still highlighted with the black and white treatment.”
Apart from creating conceptual looks, the creative collaboration is what Lopez also enjoyed about the editorial. Lifting the ideas from the sketches, her makeup looks were transformed with the help of the team’s ideas. “For me, that’s one of the most exciting parts, like how it won’t match the sketches,” she said. “It’s the magic of the collaborative process to be able to talk about it and make something that feels right, past my individual vision.”
In Lopez’s sketches, one of her concepts underwent a subtle change. It featured a makeup look with bold pink lips, clumpy lashes, and brushed brows. When translated into the editorial, the pink lip was switched to a metallic color, and blue eyeshadow was added. In the photo, the model was biting her tongue, a play on the superstition that when you accidentally bite your tongue, someone is thinking of you. This was further emphasized with a dark shadow that framed the model’s left eye and mouth.
Growing up Filipino and Chinese, Lopez was brought up with both cultures’ superstitions and traditions which offered her a unique perspective on superstitions. “I find it very comforting that sometimes things just happen and you can’t explain it. So in a way, that’s how I’ve always thought of pamahiin. It’s like a guide sometimes,” she said.
Perhaps that is why even after all this time, Filipinos still prefer to practice these beliefs. There is a feeling of comfort and security when these superstitions are followed, even if there is no logical explanation for it, just like how the idea of pamahiin itself is rooted in the interconnectedness of humans, nature, and divine beings.
By Carl Lorenz Cervantes. Photographs by Colin Dancel. Creative Direction and Styling by Carlos Mangubat. Beauty Editor: Joyce Oreña. Makeup: Sylvina Lopez. Hair: Jan Edrosolan. Models: Brea Umali of Luminary Models, Cath Ibay of New Monarq Manila. Nails: Extraordinail. Art Director: Jann Pascua. Production Design: Rocket Design Studio. Producer: Bianca Zaragoza. Multimedia Artists: Gabbi Constantino, Tinkerbell Poblete. Photographer’s Assistants: Joey Alvero, Lorenzo Yabes. Stylist’s Assistants: Adam Pereyra, Kimberly Horan. Makeup Assistant: Celine Cabildo