Ternocon’s Preview Heralds A Return To The Balintawak

Joey Samson. Ed Simon

From Bon Hansen Reyes’ precisely-tailored reinterpretation to Joey Samson’s layered ensemble, these designers bridge the past and the present with their Ternocon preview presentations.

Founded by artistic director Gino Gonzales and Bench chairman Ben Chan in 2018, the illustrious Ternocon is a terno-making convention and contest held by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Bench/Suyen Corporation. To preserve and promote the national dress, 30 budding designers from across the country are selected and given a mentor for seven months (with chief mentor Inno Sotto at the helm of the convention). They learn how to construct the highly-regarded style and conceptualize a collection that holds true to their heritage yet is innovative in its design. Afterwards, a committee from CCP and Bench judges the contest on craftsmanship, wearability, and creativity.

Ternocon’s third edition encourages the use of the balintawak to inspire emerging designers to develop their construction skills, spark conversations regarding Philippine dress, and contribute to the growing awareness of the terno. Each competition, 12 finalists are chosen to produce one dress each. Creatives from an array of different backgrounds and perspectives unite to honor and preserve Filipino heritage through the marriage of traditional and contemporary design. This season’s mentors are Chito Vijandre, Ricky Toledo, Dennis Lustico, and Joey Samson.

Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo. Ed Simon

Last night, on October 21, Ternocon previewed their third edition, a modernized riff on the time-honored dress: the balintawak. The three-piece garment comprises of a dress, an alampay (kerchief) and tapis (wrap skirt). The balintawak is considered a country version of the terno and was worn by Filipino women in the 1920s and 1930s to town fiestas, picnics, and pilgrimages to Antipolo. Ternocon mentors, former finalists, and current competitors alike showcased their takes on the balintawak.

Veteran designers and mentors Joey Samson, Dennis Lustico, Chito Vijandre, and Ricky Toledo showcased a balintakwak or two each. While former finalists Hannah Adrias, Jaggy Glarino, and Dinnes Obusan, who placed first, second, and third respectively in 2020, also sent an ensemble each. Two finalists this season, Bon Hansen Reyes and Cheetah Rivera also showcased their renditions. All of them showed off a myriad of intricate textures, voluminous butterfly sleeves, and unconventional details.

With award-winning television personality Daphne Oseña-Paez as the host, the much-anticipated event began with traditional dance numbers including our national folk dance Tinikling. The fitting performances embodied the traditions of the Philippines—making a cultural foray into the ornate reinterpretations of the balintawak. Afterward, guests were brought to the rooftop for a runway show in a setting that can be likened to a conservatory. This stylistic choice contextualized the Filipino silhouettes in their tropical origin.

The first to appear on the catwalk was Obusan’s creation, with a sheer labyrinthine print and a lace base layer. Reyes’ modern take on the dress was reminiscent of a power suit with a certain kind of bravado. With an interplay of texture (involving pleats and the designer’s signature woven bodice), Reyes’ contemporary garment was tailored to seamless precision. Meanwhile, mentors Vijandre and Toledo separated the renaissance style from its European traditions and brought it to the Filipino stage. A very distinctive silhouette was brought to light with a floral peplum corset exaggerated with floral attachés and elaborate lace details.

Bon Hansen Reyes. Ed Simon

Meanwhile, Samson, who showed two looks, layered tailored monochrome pieces with a reinterpreted alampay (with bow ties and ribbon embellishments in tow) for a fashion-forward style that oozed female empowerment. Buttons lined the butterfly sleeves, while the tapis was a lace panel that cascaded from the waist.

What’s fascinating about this particular fashion moment is that it reinforces the power of the terno and, now, the balintawak, reconstructing it in ways that celebrate our country’s origin story and evolution. The final Ternocon 3 competition is slated for January 28, 2023, where all 12 design finalists will be showcasing their entries.

Joey Samson. Ed Simon
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