Traje de Mestiza to the Terno (1890s-1960s): An Evolution

For each decade, detailed outlines of how the national dress was evolving from the folds of the “panuelo” to the volume of the “saya”, even the women’s current hairstyle have been thoroughly researched to come up with a thesis of how the terno progressed.

During a nationwide terno design competition in 2003, Gino Gonzales fresh from New York, a scenographer, exhibition and costume designer was invited as a curator of the exhibit designs.

Dismayed at the turnout of the young designers’ competition, Gino couldn’t fathom how the terno was stylized, the need to reinvent the butterfly sleeves imposed on a western dress was unnecessary, without regard to its cultural background. When the terno ceased to be worn around the end of the Marcos period, it created a gap and vacuum in history where all the young people growing up in that period didn’t have the idea what the terno is.

Running against time, Gino thought of preserving the photographic sources of Philippine costumes in postcards which were fast deteriorating and disappearing. He only wanted to make a small picture book that was easy to carry around. In the process, he sought the help of Sandy Higgins for photos of the 1940s and 1950s for the planned book , while Mark Higgins, the son of postwar designer Salvacion Lim Higgins and a co-director of the fashion school SLIM’s, on impulse offered to partner in a 200-page magazine-size tome.

They presented the picture book to Ben Chan, chair of Suyen Corporation who loved what he saw and asked them to add another 100 pages resulting in a coffee-table book “Fashionable Filipinas” complete with a slipcase. Bench was on top of their list because it has connection with pop culture. It also has a roster of endorsers that could popularize the terno once more. A more affordable soft-bound version will be available, and Bench is donating copies to municipal libraries.

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At the heart of the old central business district of Naga City stands Plaza Quince Martires. A monument once described by historian Ambeth Ocampo as an “elaborate wedding cake”, immortalized the 15 Bicolano martyrs who fought the oppressive colonial government during the 1896 Revolution. Built in 1926, it was designed by Crispolo Zamora and sculpted by Jose Barcena.

The outbreak of the revolution in Tagalog provinces in August 1896 fueled fears among the Spanish authorities that it might spread to other parts of the country particularly the Bicol region. And it did. To counter, Spaniards instituted reign of terror which resulted in the mass arrests of Filipinos suspected of asserting separatist views. On suspicion of abetting a projected rebellion, 11 of the 15 were executed at Bagumbayan, in Manila: