December 12, 2017, 12:15 pm
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Costumes by Rajo Laurel

WHEN a colleague mentioned that Rajo Laurel was involved in outfitting Asesan dignitaries, I convulsed--what if he outfits them as he did the Filipino Olympiads in London? For that Olympics, Rajo Laurel took our national off-white barong tagalog’s collar and cuffs, replaced with brown. What possessed Rajo to mess-around with our world-recognized, dignified barong tagalog? 

The result? The Philippine athletes were no longer wearing the Philippine national male shirt. For the world to see, Rajo Laurel made the Philippine olympians wear white trubenized kamisadentro sloppily worn outside, with brown collar and cuffs. Cowboy style. 

If you have spent time in the US midwest like I have, you know that cowboys wear long-sleeved kamisadentro with brown cuffs and collar. Cuffs and collars are in brown to conceal cowboys’ neck dirt and wrist grime. Brown cuffs are necessary for cowboys to hide the yuk which accumulates on cowboy cuffs and collar from cleaning up horse manure from stables. Cowboys wear same shirt several days—dirt and grime do not show on the dark collar and cuffs. Rajo Laurel made the Filipino olympians from a distance look like Texas cowboy in work shirt with brown collar and cuffs. What possessed him? 

One resident of London likewise gave his thumbs-down on the abbreviated salakot which Rajo made the Philippine contingent wear during the Olympics opening parade. The writer emailed that in the many years that he lived in the Philippines, he had not been with any Filipino wearing that type of head-cover. He said it is inaccurate to claim that this reed hat is representative and typical Filipino culture/costume. It is not worn by the populace! 

“If I wore one of those reed hats at a Malacañang reception, to my Makati Rotary meetings, Manila malls, at Jollibee or McDo, to the opera, Filipinos around would see my weird affectation; a clownish sight I would make,” he wrote. This Fil-British wants to ask Rajo Laurel: “When was the last time you, yourself, wore such a salakot going around Manila?” In fact, the olympians did not wear the reed hat... they left it strung on their backs, or held it in their hands to wave at the crowd.

I was waiting with anxiety to see what the Asean guests were gifted and made to wear at the Summit reception. Lord, what is Rajo’s creation this time? The Lord intervened. Someone dictated that the costume be the good old honored and respected traditional barong tagalog. Of course, the Asean leaders all look elegant, stately, in formal, brand new, immaculate off-white, sheer barong tagalog with delicate embroidery. At the collar and wrist, bottoned, which should always be.

The traditional barong tagalog made these contemporary world leaders looking as elegant as President Manuel L. Quezon (father of the Philippine republic) and poet laureate Lope K. Santos (father of the national language) when the two wore the same traditional home-spun barong tagalog at their 1st Commonwealth cabinet meeting a century ago.

I perceived Rajo Laurel to be a newfangled space-age designer with predilection for Star Trek clothes. Am I the only one dismayed at Rajo Laurel gone ballistic in his need to mess with our traditional costumes?

Lucky that the country of India does not have Rajo Laurels. Such Space Age fashionistas will look at the traditional elegant shift knee-length Nehru Jacket and proceed to “improved” on it. Rajo will think: How about a wide belt or sash, with sequins and feathers, for the Nehru Jacket? Or, shortened to waist-length bolero-style? New, modern. And comical. This is what Rajo did to Filipino national costume for the London Olympics--new, modern. And comical.

Please, please… leave all our traditions (national anthem, pledge of allegiance, sarsuela, kundiman, terno, panuelo, barong tagalog, flag, etc.) alone: [America already altered our flag from the original sky blue to the navy blue of their flag.] No more newfangled improvements please. Butterfly sleeves a foot wide, almost to the elbow. That cute puffed sleeve of European dresses is not butterfly sleeves. A full kamison--not a bra under the sheer kimona. No butterfly blouse worn with pants. Under a barong tagalog, use front-slitted, buttoned kamisa chino; not a sando, not a t-shirt. Kimona and butterfly sleeves are worn with floor-length or calf-length skirt, not with short skirt, pants, nor shorts. 

Respect the tradition.

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