‘Perla del Mar de Oriente’

A CULTURAL spectacle in the US East Coast will showcase the world-class artistry of Filipinos. Designed to entice Filipino communities in New York and New Jersey and their friends, the event is part of the launch of “Inclusivity in Diversity,” the advocacy program of the Partnerships for Sustainable Development Inc. (PSDI), whose mission is to bring global awareness, deep understanding and great appreciation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The PSDI collaborates with the Queen of Hearts Foundation Inc., led by its chairman Mitzie Go Gil, to organize the one-day affair, which will be held on October 15 at the Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

With the theme “The Philippines: Perla del Mar de Oriente [Pearl of the Orient Seas],” the event’s activities include the global search for ambassadors of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, an exhibit and sale of indigenous products, and a camaraderie night.

The proceeds of the glamorous gala will benefit Meals on Wheels in Jersey City; Kisame Para sa Bahay ni San Jose, an appeal by Fr. Elmer Villamore for the roofing of St. Joseph the Husband of Mary Church in Bangad, Cabanatuan City; and the tree nurturing and waste management projects of Fr. Benigno P. Beltran, SVD, the CEO of Veritas Social Empowerment Inc.

Of course, the highlight of the event is The Philippine Cultural Heritage Show: An Evening of Cultural Exchange and Fashion Elegance, to be directed by Nilo Agustin presenting the collections of outstanding designers Albert Andrada, Sophia Therese Manimbo and Amir Sali.  An intimate sendoff for the fashion designers was held at the Grand Hyatt in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, on Saturday. Andrada, who opened the doors to Filipino designers on the Miss Universe stage when he designed the evening gown of Pia Wurtzbach on her way to her unforgettable triumph in 2015, hardly needs any introduction. As such, luxury and sophistication are expected in his blockbuster collection.

The neophyte in the trio is Sophia Therese Manimbo, who professes an innate love for Philippine weaves. “I’ll be presenting modern Filipiniana ready-to-wear in inabel and inaul malong collage patchwork embroidery. I will also showcase my Spring/Summer 2023 collection called ‘Pandanggo.’ It’s a very colorful, vibrant collection inspired by Philippine dances and festivities, also using our signature patchworks,” she says.   “I source my materials all over the Philippines. But because I’m a second-generation designer, we already have our suppliers from Mindanao and Ilocos, and piña from Aklan and Lumban. For the ‘Pandanggo’ collection, there’ll be around 10 to 12 pieces. For the RTW, there’ll be around 15 to 30 pieces,” Sophia shares.

Her fashion influences include Guo Pei, Thakoon, Ashi Studio and Carolina Herrera. She deeply admires newly minted National Artist Salvacion Lim Higgins, which is why she also studied at the Slim’s Fashion and Arts School, where her idols Albert Andrada and Ezra Santos also honed their skills.

Meanwhile, the “Prince of Beads” Amir Sali, will offer hints and whispers of Filipiniana in his opulent pieces. There will be touches of abel and handwoven local fabrics but most of the materials he will use for his 20 elaborate gowns were purchased abroad.

“I am friends with Mitzie Gil. They really wanted something different for the show because most of the designs are from Luzon designers. When they discovered that I’m from Mindanao, they wanted me to participate. But I’m known to have intricate lines and I’m not good at doing Filipiniana but when they told me that I could do just hints of it, I decided to participate,” says Amir Sali.

Though he was born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Dumaguete and studied college in Cebu, Sali practiced his fashion craft in Saudi Arabia. In between his years designing for the royal family, he was given a scholarship to study haute couture and embellishments at the École Lesage in Paris.

“These days, I love to do Filipino things. For the country. It’s like paying back for what this country gave to me, for this nationality. Because for three decades, I was always going abroad, I didn’t have clients here. I was totally alienated in my own land,” Sali shares.

“When I came back, I was like gathering the shattered pieces, like starting all over again. Thank God after I did the wedding gown of Korina Sanchez in 2009, projects came pouring in. So I decided to stay. I was interviewed many times about why I came back when I was enjoying a fat salary overseas. I told them that there’s no place like home—and there’s no banana cue abroad.”