I was at the recent Philippine Festival held in Stockton-on-Tees (England), where all Filipinos were encouraged to wear traditional Filipiniana outfits. This normally means that men wear barong tagalogs and the women wear mestiza (or terno) dresses to help promote the Philippine tradition and culture. As I am from Talakag, Bukidnon, I decided to wear a traditional Bukidnon dress to help promote the province of Bukidnon in Mindanao.
I was overwhelmed by the attention I got when I arrived at the venue. Lots of people wanted to take my photograph. They were interested in my Bukidnon attire. One particular British woman said to me, “I recognised the (mestiza) dress that the others are wearing because I saw Imelda Marcos in it but not this one”. I explained that it’s a traditional dress from the province of Bukidnon in Mindanao and fortunately, I was close to the Philippine Embassy’s Tourism booth and I pointed out the island of Mindanao from the map on display. But what really surprised me and I didn’t expect it at all was that even a number of fellow Filipinos who were at the festival didn’t know where Bukidnon is (some thought it’s in Baguio, while others thought it’s in Palawan) nor were they aware of the existence of the traditional Bukidnon dress. This is what prompted me to write about it here.
The traditional Bukidnon women are remarkable for their most colourful dress. They use dyes acquired from plants and trees and typical combination of colours used by the tribes in Bukidnon are red, black and white. They are renowned for their elaborate use of embroidery, appliqué and beadwork. They wear pleated and voluminous skirts of brightly embroidered material. Their skirts are held together by decorative belts with extra embroidered or beaded material hanging on each side of the hips. Their jackets are made of bright material stitched together like patchwork with geometric designs from different bright coloured materials.
With their hair combed back, held by headbands with tassels of red or yellow yarn and the ends tied in a bun, they wear fan-shaped headdresses made of bamboo sticks or rattan covered with material and decorated with beads, shells and feathers. Their jewellery includes beaded earrings, bright multi-coloured bracelets, rings and anklets with tiny bells attached to them, making musical sounds as they walk. They also wear layers of necklaces made of beads, seeds, shells and old coins.
The amount of time and work that goes with the creation of their outfit is priceless. Every material, colour, bead, shell, coin, feather is detailed to represent some aspect of their inner selves. The beauty of the Bukidnon women is always complemented by the style of the traditional dress they wear, specifically designed to show their great pride, dignity and the great characteristics of their tribe and their people.
The traditional Bukidnon dress is now only worn on special occasions like weddings, during the fiestas and Christmas seasons or in shows put on for visitors. My Bukidnon dress (complete with accessories) was specially made by Mrs Flora dela Torre who is a retired elementary school teacher and resident of Barangay 2, Talakag, Bukidnon. I heard she was asked to make one for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she visited Talakag last year. So the next time you're in Talakag why not have one made for yourself and help promote Talakag, Bukidnon. And if you want to catch the biggest parade of colourful traditional Bukidnon costumes from different tribes, come to Bukidnon’s Kaamulan Festival (the social gathering), held in Malaybalay during the month of March each year.
Adapted from my article in the Mindanao Blog