WHOLESOME FUN and fashion was the name of the game at the recent Baro’t Saya gala, held on Sept. 22 at the Grand Hyatt ballroom. It is an offshoot of the Awit at Laro project, which aimed to bring traditional Filipino games and nursery rhymes to a younger audience. Proceeds of the show will go to support the child-based projects of UNICEF, Tukod Foundation and the renovation of Museo Pambata.

For the gala, designers were each assigned a song from the Awit at Laro album, which they worked in some way through the clothing.

The Baro’t Saya gala brought together designers Len Cabili, Ito Curata, Rhett Eala, Zarah Juan, Marga Nograles’ Kaayo, Anne Marie Saguil, Paloma Zobel’s label PioPio, and Rajo Laurel (serving as overall Fashion Consultant).

The runway read like a social register, with the models, of all ages, from 60-plus to six and below coming from literally the A to Z (we counted) of the nation’s most well-known families.

Rhett Eala opened the show with a collection based on the “Bahay Kubo” song, and a recurring motif of cute little appliques of cats on bomber jackets and eminently wearable balintawaks (less formal traditional dress with a shortened skirt, with butterfly sleeves). His show ended with a little girl in an immaculate white terno (a traditional formal Filipino dress), and one can hope to see more of this on the aisles during society weddings, when they get their flower girls. Part of the show’s aim, after all, was also is to promote the use of indigenous textiles and traditional Filipino clothing, jazzed up to appeal to a younger audience.

A Jak en Poy (rock-paper-scissors) collection by Ito Curata showed off printed denim reminiscent somewhat of Joya works. Len Cabili, meanwhile, worked with the song “Parupaong Bukid,” her collection made with a soft gray binakul fabric, a traditional textile with optical illusions reminiscent of op-art. The fabric is apparently used to ward off evil spirits up in the provinces in Ilocos. Zarah Juan’s Piko (hopscotch) collection showed ruffled baby doll dresses trimmed with native fabric, and the show closed with singer and UNICEF Ambassador Gary Valenciano and his grandchild. The little girl was quite the sensation and charmed the audience.

Rajo Laurel’s “Sitsiritsit” collection showed loose, flowing cuts, all splattered with paint, created during a fun afternoon with his nieces and nephews (according to a release). Marga Nograles showed playsuits in native fabric, while Joey Ayala performed the Piko song from the Awit at Laro album live. Anne Marie Saguil showed off a collection inspired by Tumbang Preso (knock the can), showing a similar playful aesthetic.

The show was closed by Paloma Zobel’s Sipa (similar to sepak takraw) collection, which showed playsuits and tunics, and ended with gowns made with fringes reminiscent of the game’s playing piece.

Overall, the show showed an idealized version of the Filipino and the Filipino family, that in some corner of our minds, all of us could be beaming, blithe, cared for, and proud of who we are. — Joseph L. Garcia