The New Wave Of Talent Is Setting Manila’s Zeitgeist
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The New Wave Of Talent Is Setting Manila’s Zeitgeist

Christian Tantoco wears a UNIQLO parka, shirt, AMI PARIS cargo trousers from UNIVERS, Agatha Wong wears a CALVIN KLEIN ribbed shrug, tank, and midi skirt, ONITSUKA TIGER lace ups, Enzo Razon wears a UNIQLO knit vest, trousers, UNIQLO U shirt, ONITSUKA TIGER sneakers. Photo by Sharif Hamza

The next generation of passion players is pushing forward their own truths.

More than just using online platforms like social media to connect and share bits of their lives, Gen Z has found ways to maximize the potential of these new networks, forwarding their art and their advocacies to audiences unreached by anyone before. According to research, youth-led climate movements have instigated millions to act in support.

It’s clear that more than ever before, the first-ever digital natives in history are pushing values like openness, diversity, and inclusivity unlike ever before. This generation is defining what it means to be a “change-maker,” and as expected, they’re doing so on their own terms.

From holistic design to world-class athletics, and creative space-makers to innovative filmmakers, this crop of young powerhouses is one to watch. Vogue Philippines introduces 32 of Manila’s trailblazers, set to reshape the local arts and culture scene. Below, meet 13 of the May issue’s cool kids roster: Mariton Villanueva, Juliana Gomez, Christian Tantoco, Agatha Wong, Inna Palacios, Enzo Razon, Gio Panlilio, Max Gutierrez, Rio Cuervo, Martika Ramirez Escobar, ena mori, Pat Cortez, and Gabbie Sarenas.

Designer Mariton Villanueva
Mariton Villanueva wears a COMME DES GARÇONS ruffled dress, PRADA boots. Photo by Sharif Hamza

Mariton Villanueva 

Designer

Before she was a textile artist, fashion designer, and yoga teacher, Mariton was a dancer. Little did she know that her fascination for movement would lead her to discover a love for fashion. “I wanted to learn how to make clothes that would flow and fit my body well for movement. I used to cut pieces of textile and drape them around my waist, my pants, my bags, and even on my hair,” she says. Mariton now heads Himaya, a clothing brand that puts heritage at the fore with naturally-dyed local weaves and upcycled textiles, all made by hand. For her, the act of making a garment is simultaneously an act of piecing a story together, through colors, plants, patterns, and threads.

UP Diliman Fencing Team athlete Juliana Gomez
Juliana Gomez wears NOIR KEI NINOMIYA ruffled tulle skirt from UNIVERS, VALENTINO shirt. Photo by Sharif Hamza

Juliana Gomez

UP Diliman Fencing Team Athlete

“My biggest dream is to be in the Olympics and to be a world-class fencer,” Juliana shares. “All my efforts are for that dream.” Last February, the rising athlete bagged gold at UAAP’s 85th season for the University of the Philippines. Three months prior, the fencer also claimed victory for the country at the Air Force Open Fencing Championship in Thailand. With high hopes for her fencing career and the community that shapes it, Juliana strives not only to be a role model of her own but also to do her part in building a team of world-class fencers that “can represent Philippine sports on the world stage” and “create a culture of excellence.”

Christian Tantoco

Creative Director

Elsewhere Studios, a creative agency in its incubation stage, was conceptualized during a beach trip with friends. Though the idea was brought up in jest, Christian took it seriously and put together a pitch deck to present to the group. When the team began freelancing, it felt organic, light, and right. “Being in this process of starting a company and finding where we can add value to the industry has been really uplifting,” the co-founder says. Living in the intersection of fashion and retail, he’s in the process of discovering his craft and using his sociology degree to nurture a people-focused approach to business.

Agatha Wong 

Philippine National Wushu Athlete 

Time becomes an ally to an athlete like Agatha Wong. At age three, her grandmother would put her in one sport after another. By eight, she would find her love for Wushu, a sport that opened a world of thrill and possibility she couldn’t find elsewhere. At 23, after winning another gold for the Philippines in the 31st SEA Games, Wong would eventually become synonymous with Wushu in the country. As a national athlete in her first year in medical school, Agatha lives by the idea that you don’t have to choose just one: “I also want to prove that someone has to do it,” the athlete and prospective medical doctor says, “that someone can do it.” 

Christian Tantoco wears a UNIQLO parka, shirt, AMI PARIS cargo trousers from UNIVERS, Agatha Wong wears a CALVIN KLEIN ribbed shrug, tank, and midi skirt, ONITSUKA TIGER lace ups, Inna Palacios wears a CALVIN KLEIN sports bra, 3.1 PHILLIP LIM canvas ripstop jacket from UNIVERS, utility crop pant, ONITSUKA TIGER lace ups, Gio Panlilio wears a UNIQLO U shirt, X-LARGE work pants from AKIMBO, HARLAN + HOLDEN twill bucket hat, ALDO shoes, Enzo Razon wears a UNIQLO knit vest, trousers, UNIQLO U shirt, ONITSUKA TIGER sneakers. Photo by Sharif Hamza

Inna Palacios 

Philippine Women’s National Football Team

In 2022, the Philippine Women’s National Football Team, or the Filipinas, made history: they qualified for the 2023 FIFA World Cup, a first in the national team’s four-decades-long existence. Though the members are currently training for the tournament, they celebrate the qualification as a triumph of its own. For center-back Hali Long, the sport transcends all of them. “We represent something bigger than ourselves,” she shares. “I love my country, and I would do anything for her.” Along with patriotism, forward Alisha Del Campo is propelled by the Filipino values of being masipag [hardworking] and masikap [diligent]. “These guide me as an athlete—specifically, a female athlete—wherein the opportunities in our sport are male-dominated.” These principles are fundamental and shared among the team, reminding them that football is a chance to represent an entire nation to the world and inspire a legion of athletes back home. “Young boys and girls deserve that opportunity to also achieve what we did and more,” reflects goalkeeper Inna Palacios. “The goal is for them to dream bigger than we did.”

Enzo Razon, Gio Panlilio 

Tarzeer Pictures

Founded by multimedia artist Enzo Razon, photographer Gio Panlilio, and producer Dinesh Mohnani, the Manila-based gallery and creative production group Tarzeer Pictures is known to be a proponent and catalyst for the Filipino creative. With a team of nine, they strive to build a home and platform for the arts within physical and digital spaces. In a combination of the investigative and the creative, the founders impart that they gravitate toward projects they can “really get inside of,” as Dinesh says of its agency side, and works that have “a craft or handmade approach,” as Enzo says of its gallery side. In reaching out to wider audiences, Gio shares that Tarzeer’s goal is to find within it “that small fraction, that small group who are really interested and who really want to know more about specific topics.” 

Max Gutierrez wears a NOIR KEI NINOMIYA tulle top from UNIVERS. Photo by Sharif Hamza

Max Gutierrez

Co-founder of non-profit organization Hayag

Closing gaps in public service, the youth-led NGO Hayag bridges underserved sectors with those who want to help while advocating for the Filipino by way of colors. With their first initiative “Pula” [Red], they provided sanitary products for inmates in the Philippine Women’s Prison, and with “Kahel,” [Orange] they directed proceeds to the Home for the Golden Gays, to Bantay Bata 163, and to rebuild Albay after Typhoon Rolly. “As a Filipino, you practically see it every day, from the day that you were born, that people need help,” Max says. “You still see that people are struggling and that people need help, I don’t think Hayag has an end goal.”

Textile upcycler and designer Rio Cuervo, filmmaker Martika Ramirez Escobar, musician Ena Mori, Pat Cortez of Overlay Designs, and fashion designer Gabbie Sarenas
From left: Rio Cuervo wears BENCH X PROUDRACE mock neck shirt, MARCELO BURLON nylon pants from CUL DE SAC, UNIQLO X MARNI socks, H&M pumps, Martika Ramirez Escobar wears BENCH X PROUDRACE jacket, BENCH windbreaker, UNIQLO X MARNI knit leggings and socks, H&M wedge sandals, Pat Cortez wears BENCH X PROUDRACE zip-up jacket, KENZO skirt from CUL DE SAC, BENCH X MOBO long-sleeve shirt, H&M pumps, ena mori wears BENCH X PROUDRACE blue hoodie, MSGM mock neck top from CUL DE SAC, UNIQLO trousers, BENCH bucket hat, UNIQLO socks, PARISIAN heels, Gabbie Sarenas wears BENCH X PROUDRACE longline polo shirt, BENCH shorts, UNIQLO socks, PARISIAN heels from SM. Photo by Sharif Hamza

Rio Cuervo 

Textile Upcycler and Designer

Reflecting on her patchwork process, which involves listening to music as she decides on the next swatch to reach for, Rio realizes that she’s done this before. “Now that I’m saying it out loud for the first time, it reminds me of when I would paint and listen to music,” she says. “I feel like it’s coming back in fashion, in textile manipulation.” An advocate for circular fashion, her upcycling brand RIOtaso uses garment excess donated by clothing brands and also offers free reworking services for RIOtaso pieces of previous clients. Later on, she hopes to involve other designers in their sustainability push by developing and selling textiles made of tiny fabric scraps.

Martika Ramirez Escobar 

Filmmaker

When she was seven, Martika’s favorite toy was her grandfather’s Sony Video8 camera. “As a young kid, I would often take videos of our pets, of our family gatherings, of my dollhouse,” she says. “It was also a family thing for us to replay the tapes on television.” This natural fondness for cameras, as she describes it, would carry over to high school where her interest would expand to music and video, and later, cinema. The director and cinematographer, most celebrated for her Sundance-winning film Leonor Will Never Die, continues to be driven by a love for joy, and the act of embracing what’s right in front of her.

“This album is about being bold and unapologetic about who we are”

ena mori

Musician

Known for her eccentric style, sound, and visuals, ena mori has become the people’s choice for alternative pop among Filipino youth, as her sophomore album DON’T BLAME THE WILD ONE! would be awarded NME’s Top Asian Album of the Year. Her music, she describes, “mirrors my experience as a teenager. The youthful colorfulness with a little bit of awkwardness.” In an Instagram post announcing the album, she reveals its meaning: “This album is about being bold and unapologetic about who we are.” On top of that, the Filipina-Japanese musician has been busy: she spent last August touring all over Luzon, and just this March, she performed at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas.

Pat Cortez

Overlay Designs

“Overlay is a pandemic baby,” Pat tells Vogue. The ever-lively Cortez sisters then bring out a spray-painted chair, a joint ergonomic project serving as a symbol of the brand’s beginnings and, in some ways, an epiphany of how two contrasting halves can work together. Functionality sits at the core of Overlay. With help from their artist Gelai Penales, Overlay is now identified by their hero product: a baguette bag with a detachable strap that can be used as a belt. Just as overlaying adds another layer to a base, Cheska believes that, in using Overlay’s products, one’s personality can shine through without being overpowered. In her words: “Nandun pa rin yung essence nung image [The essence of the image is still there].”

Gabbie Sarenas

Designer

“Before, if I were to buy a painting, I’d buy an Amorsolo. Now, it’s more of like… abstract,” Gabbie says, gesturing to the work behind her. This proclivity for abstractions parallels her growing inclination toward a conceptual way of thinking, which she applied to her latest presentation, “Off the Record.” The Manila and Paris-trained designer is known for romantic hand embroidery on delicate fabrications, but her newest showcase deconstructs this familiar take through modular garments layered atop all-black ensembles. If Gabbie used to describe her clothes as light and airy, like Monet’s works, she likens them now to Picasso’s, with a lot of sharp edges, signifying a new cycle of life for her label and for herself.

Concept & Photographs by Sharif Hamza,  Styling by Daryl Chng & MJ Benitez, Fashion Director Pam Quiñones, Makeup: Angeline Dela Cruz, Bryan Cuizon, Gery Penaso, Japeth Purog, Rochelle Lacuna, Twinkle Bernardo, Vince Leendon of Estée Lauder. Hair: Christian Bojo, Dale Mallari, Jocelyn So, Mark Ibarrola, Misty Gabriel, MJ Rone, Patrick Cristobal of Estée Lauder, Gerelyn Valentino of Toni&Guy (Gabbie Sarenas). Talents: Agatha Wong, Alisha Del Campo, Antonina Abad Amoncio, Brisa Amir, Bon Hansen, Cheska Cortez, Christian Tantoco, Daphne Chao, Dinesh Mohnani, Elijah Canlas, ena mori, Enzo Razon, Gab Mejia, Gabbie Sarenas, Gianne Encarnacion, Gio Panlilio, Hali Long, Hideki Ito, Inna Palacios, Jason Dhakal, Juliana Gomez, Mariton Villanueva, Martika Ramirez Escobar, Matt San Pedro, Max Gutierrez, Pat Cortez, Rio Cuervo, Rod Malanao, Sai Versailles, Sean Bautista, Siobhan Moylan, Zild Benitez. Art Director: Jann Pascua. Producer: Anz Hizon. Casting: Andrea Ang, Marga Magalong, Raymond Ang. Multimedia Artist: Gabbi Constantino, Tinkerbell Poblete. Production Design: Constance Events Styling, Justine Arcega-Bumanlag. Production Assistants: Adam Pereyra, Bianca Zaragoza, Patricia Co. Photographer’s Assistants: Artu Nepomuceno, Choi Narciso, Sela Gonzales. Stylist’s Assistants: Marga Magalong, Renee de Guzman, Ticia Almazan, Zofia Agama. Production Design Assistants: Gabrielle Mantala, Junior Bondoc, Rodel Bondoc. Photo Retoucher: Grace Sioson

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