Three Models from the Mindanao Casting Call Share Their Experience

Here, Now: Vogue Philippines Shares The Stories of The Fresh Faces of Mindanao

Photographs by CLARENCE SAYMAN. Special thanks to DusitD2 Davao Hotel.

Photographs by CLARENCE SAYMAN. Special thanks to DusitD2 Davao Hotel.

For its first of two volumes, Vogue Philippines highlights the diversity of Mindanao beauty through select faces from its Davao casting call. Get to know the first set of models lensed in a landmark collaboration by renowned fashion  photographers Neal Oshima and Mark Nicdao.

The diversity of Mindanaoan beauty is captured in portraits featuring faces from Vogue Philippines’ first open casting call held in Davao. Over 350 participants came to represent their own unique culture, tribe, and heritage.

“We are constantly challenging the perspective of beauty,” shares beauty editor Joyce Oreña. From the famed Apo Whang-Od to narratives of women in various fields such as in the likes of 92-year-old National Scientist, Dr. Dolores Ramirez, there has been a shift in conversation. Beauty is not only expressed in physicalities but in the authentic expression of individuality.

Following the first on-ground initiative of Vogue Faces, the team returned to the vibrant islands of Mindanao to capture the stories of its people. In March, renowned photographers Neal Oshima and Mark Nicdao flew in with Vogue Philippines to collaborate on a series of images that highlight the faces of Mindanao. Collaborating with Davao-based hair and makeup artist team Colleen Sandoval and Ivan Lopez, modern iterations of traditional Mindanao ensembles were photographed in seven aspiring models, namely Abdur Balono, Alyannah Gutierrez, Pamela Myco Agustin, Romechelle Escrin, Criza Mae Gallardo, Krystahl Guina, and Kurt Vicencio.

Vogue Philippines sat down with the first set of models to be featured in the April Issue’s Mindanao beauty editorial to uncover their stories, tracing their experience from the casting call to their first editorial shoot.

Abdur Balono

Photographs by CLARENCE SAYMAN. Special thanks to DusitD2 Davao Hotel.

There are two things that Abdur Balono credits for standing out from the crowd of 350 aspiring models: his microbangs and his confidence. He quips, “I remember Joyce Oreña telling me: ‘I like you. You’re so strong. Not everyone can pull off those bangs!’ And from then, I told myself I will forever treasure my hair!”

Originally from Cotabato City, the 21-year-old content creator traces his roots back to the Kagan and Maguindanaoan tribes. He shares that while his hometown is more commonly known for being conservative, he has always felt accepted for his identity and sexuality. Now based in Davao, Balono shares that he had to overcome a lot of self-doubt before deciding to join the casting call, but that ultimately, it was his community that convinced him to give his dream a shot. So, when Balono received the message that he had been casted for the editorial shoot, he jokes: “I really thought it was a scam! I had to pinch myself to believe it was real.” 

Balono is expressive and says he is determined to go out of his comfort zone. When he isn’t busy with being a student and a content creator, he is constantly looking for new adventures and outlets for creativity, whether that be trying new things like hiking up in the mountains or exploring the art of makeup.

Alyannah Gutierrez

Photographs by CLARENCE SAYMAN. Special thanks to DusitD2 Davao Hotel.

If Alyannah Gutierrez were to describe herself, she would use the words ambitious and optimistic. “I always strive to achieve my goals and reach new heights. Whether it’s in my studies or personal growth, I’m driven to succeed and make the most out of every opportunity that comes my way.”

Known affectionately as Yanna, the 20-year-old was born in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur but grew up in Davao City to an adoptive family. Hailing from the indigenous Bagobo tribe, she grew up surrounded by a community that respected and celebrated the diversity of backgrounds and traditions that co-existed within their shared space. Despite being bullied as a young girl for her darker skin and curly hair, Gutierrez finds comfort and strength in the support of her family. As an aspiring architect, she dreams of designing a house for them and of simply creating spaces where people can find comfort and a sense of belonging.

Gutierrez shares that it was her older brother that first saw her modeling potential and encouraged her to pursue it. Now, in her first editorial shoot with Vogue Philippines, she shares, “It’s my first time being in a magazine, and I am overjoyed to be one of the faces of Mindanao.”

Criza Mae Gallardo

Photographs by CLARENCE SAYMAN. Special thanks to DusitD2 Davao Hotel.

There is a charming ingenue essence in the way 19-year old Criza Mae Gallardo speaks about her experience at the casting call, which she prefaces by saying she doesn’t usually talk about herself. “Talking about myself and sharing my story isn’t really my thing, however, I want to try to explain myself the best way I can.” Gallardo says, sharing that that the Vogue Philippines Mindanao Casting Call was the first time she auditioned for a modeling opportunity.

Typically shy and reserved, Gallardo was initially very nervous during the shoot. However, upon seeing the photos, the young model says she surprised herself: “I didn’t expect that I would be able to pose that way.” 

The young Davaoeña lives a very peaceful existence in her idyllic hometown in Davao City, spending a lot of her time with family and friends, cooking and experimenting with new recipes, singing, as well as gardening. “It is Davao City’s pride to showcase its natural attractions such as Mount Apo, the highest mountain top in the Philippines, as well as its breathtaking shorelines and islands. The city is also rich in culture, views, and good food, as well as a great social environment which makes it a well-loved destination for tourists and locals.”

Hailing from the Kalagan tribe, Gallardo is honored to represent her people in the pages of Vogue Philippines, saying, “It is my honor as a Davaoeña to be able to witness firsthand the beauty of our city and to be able to share how important and beautiful the cultures of our different tribes are to a wider audience.” 

As of now, Gallardo shares that she had to halt her studies because of financial constraints, but is hopeful for what is to come after her experience in the casting call. “It feels painful to see my batchmates continue with their studies and follow their dreams, but I will wait for what fate has in store for me.” Gallardo says.

Vogue Philippines: April 2024 Issue


By BIANCA CUSTODIO. Additional text by CELINE LAGUNDI. Photographs by CLARENCE SAYMAN. Special thanks to DusitD2 Davao Hotel.

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