A Modern Classic: 12 Designers Present Their Takes On The Balintawak At This Year’s TernoCon - The Scene

This year’s TernoCon contestants honor the Balintawak dress through a modern lens.

Twelve finalists were invited to debut their designs at the third edition of TernoCon, held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez Black Box Theatre last Saturday.

READ ALSO: Interpretations Of Cultural Fashion: See The Personalities Present At This Year’s TernoCon

3rd TernoCon 2023 awardees
This year’s TernoCon awardees at the show’s finale | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Among the finalists is this year’s winner, Yssa Inumerable, who received the Pacita Longos award for her designs. Runner-up Gabbie Sarenas took home the Pura Escurdia award and Glady Rose Pantua received the Ramon Valera award for third place.

According to the competition’s website, the Balintawak’s key components include a camisa (blouse) with butterfly sleeves, a saya (skirt), an alampay (kerchief), and a tapis (a piece of cloth wrapped around the waist).

The dress was worn by Filipino women in the 1920s and 1930s to town fiestas, picnics, and pilgrimages to Antipolo.

Glady Rose Pantua TernoCon 2023
Glady Rose Pantua places Zamboanga City in the spotlight with local textiles | Image courtesy of TernoCon

“I chose the Balintawak in particular because I thought that since we’re emerging from the Pandemic, it’s the most appropriate attire,” says TernoCon artistic director Gino Gonzales. 

“It’s a less formal version of the terno and it also connects people to the countryside, which is what people are pining for these days. In a way, it’s also less ostentatious… It’s the right time for it.”

The competition welcomed designers from all over the country for the first time since the pandemic.

Designers from NCR include Yssa Inumerable from Parañaque, Geom Hernandez from Batangas, and Dee Javier from Manila. Representing Luzon, we have Amor Albano from Ilocos Norte, Glyn Alley Magtibay from Oriental Mindoro, Bon Hansen Reyes from Rizal, and Gabbie Sarenas from Rizal.

Gabbie Sarenas TernoCon 2023
Gabbie Sarenas creates unique designs that can be worn in different ways | Image courtesy of TernoCon

All the way from Visayas, we have designers Bree Esplanada from Cebu, Karl Nadales from Iloilo, Al Rey Rosano from Negros Oriental, and Marc Carcillar from Iloilo. And lastly, from Mindanao, Glady Rose Pantua from Zamboanga made it to TernoCon’s finale.

Each contestant was mentored by one of the competition’s veteran designers, including Inno Sotto, Denis Lustico, Chito Vijandre, Ricky Toledo, and Joey Samson.

Glady Rose Pantua, the bronze awardee, featured local textiles from her city in her collection, as seen in the pants’ weaving and the delicate beading on the sheer fabric.

Runner-up Gabbie Sarenas leaned more towards the colors of a traditional Filipiniana, but with a more relaxed look, with a mix of modern patterns and floral drapings.

Yssa Inumerable TernoCon 2023
Yssa Inumerable’s designs are an intersection of east and west traditions | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Lastly, this year’s winner Yssa Inumerable mixed local and Western styles in her collection. Using the traditional patterns and structure of the Balintawak, Inumerable incorporated elements of the classic 1800s Gibson Girl look.

The designs are completed with vivid fabrics and floral embroidery on the dress’ signature butterfly sleeves, creating a balance between the two contrasting cultures.

Yssa Inumerable’s Gibson Filipina look | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Inumerable says she envisioned her collection to “redefine the balintawak into something more revered, valued and respected, with the ideals of a 21st-century Filipina.”

Silver medal winner Gabbie Sarenas, who had the modern woman in mind, titled her collection “Sumpa Kita” from the sampaguita. “So it’s a promise. It’s always been that soul of the sampaguita that I put in my heart,” she says.

From Gabbie Sarenas’ “Sumpa Kita” collection | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Second runner-up Glady Rose Pantua commented how “we usually associate the balintawak with colonial Manila and the Visayas only but never our city of Zamboanga in Mindanao.”

She used embroidery and beading, skills she learned from her lola, to create intricate designs of flora and cultural icons on her pieces.

Glady Rose Pantua’s design featuring textiles from Zamboanga City | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Fellow finalist, Amor Albano, received special recognition for winning the Joe Salazar Award (Chief Mentor’s Medal) by Inno Sotto.

For her collection, she says she was inspired by the lightness of the layers of pabalat pastillas wrappers as well as the paintings she saw at the National Museum. This resulted in balintawak dresses with flowy tiers of organza, reminiscent of the layers of brushstrokes of Filipino artists.

Amor Albano’s ode to Philippine obra maestras | Image courtesy of TernoCon

For Bon Hansen Reyes’ designs, he says he “played with the tapis and alampay using menswear techniques—a big collar for the alampay and a button-down shirt for the tapis—to create pieces that were genderless and everybody can wear.”

Bon Hansen Reyes’ inclusive design | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Marc Carcillar says his designs reflect “the imperfections and hardships of the creative industry,” recalling his experience with the challenges of designing and crafting a garment.

Marc Carcillar connects the weight of the fabric to the hardships of the creative industry | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Al Rey Rosano translates the sunset in his designs using chiffon and organza in subtle gradients of colors.

Al Rey Rosano recalls the sunset of his municipality in his collection | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Karl Nadales deconstructed the balintawak to create a conceptual piece using found objects and fabric scraps.

Karl Nadales makes use of recycled materials to create his pieces | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Glynn Alley Magtibay found inspiration while looking at X-rays at her local hospital. Her unusual, contemporary designs were also made with sustainability in mind.

Glynn Alley Magtibay makes use of X-rays to create unique patterns | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Dee Javier’s designs, rooted in his relationship, made use of crumpled love letters and verses from Florante at Laura.

Dee Javier draws from personal experiences to create his pieces | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Geom Hernandez’s designs aim for inclusivity, so that “whatever vibe, style or body shape you have, there will always be a terno and balintawak for you.”

Geom Hernandez tries to achieve shapelessness to fit everyone | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Bree Esplanada draws inspiration from taboo things, folklore, and horror, finding beauty in the dark.

Moths, eyes, birds, a tikbalang, and other motifs adorn Bree Esplanada’s collection | Image courtesy of TernoCon

Mentors Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre say that this year’s TernoCon was a success because of how it has “moved the design and appreciation of our national dress forward—appreciating its history while making it relevant for the times.”

Banner image courtesy of TernoCon.

Order your print copy of this month's LIFESTYLE ASIA Magazine:
Download this month's LIFESTYLE ASIA digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]