Year in and year out, one of the most looked forward to events in the Miss Universe Philippines competition is the National Costume presentation. Don't think it's just about pretty garments and over-the-top headdresses though. The segment proves to be a buffet for both the eyes and the mind, as each ensemble aims to bear tidbits of knowledge about our national heritage.
For this year, the candidates were tasked to pay tribute to the Manila Carnival Queens through their ensembles. These queens were the pioneers of local pageantry, and are mostly remembered through black and white photographs.
"We wanted to bring these [photographs] back to life and imagine how they would have looked today," the Miss Universe Philippines organization explains on their Instagram page. "Our delegates' costumes are all masterfully created for them by world-class Filipino designers. It showcases the Filipina beauty, heritage, and artistry interpreted in modern, traditional, and avant-garde ways."
Seeing the vibrant and dynamic costumes from the 28 candidates is proof that our national identity is anything but black and white. Participants like Ayn Bernos and Janela Cuaton made sure to give our native prints and textiles the spotlight they deserve through their intricately made garbs. The eponymous baro't sayas, some with their matching fans, were also given contemporary interpretations, as seen on the likes of Mirjan Hipolito and Nicole Minano.
Filipiniana butterfly sleeves got the avant-garde treatment on a lot of the girls' outfits, such as those of Bea Gomez and Jasmine Umali. Metallic shades of gold and silver were also a prominent motif across the queens' looks, with Maureen Wroblewitz, and Sam Santamaria looking blindingly stunning. Lastly, queens such as Princess Singh and Angela Okol were captivating in aquatic-themed garments, which took inspiration from the landscapes and lifestyles of their home states.
It's safe to say the girls succesfully and vividly exuded the beauty and poise of their pageant queen predecessors. Each of them also served justice to the brilliant craftsmanship that went into each look, thanks to the talents of the Filipino designers behind them. It's really tough for anyone to choose favorites, but we managed to do so.
In no particular order, here are 12 of the most show-stopping national costumes at the Miss Universe Philippines 2021 pageant:
1. Janela Cuaton, Albay
Famed pageant courtier Jearson Demavivas had the Albay delegate slip into an exquisite print-on-print-on-print dress and headpiece that took inspiration from native ethnic designs. The best part of Janela’s ensemble, though? Her fringed butterfly sleeves that double as dramatic twin fans. Talk about fashion as a performance!
2. Jasmine Umali, Manila
Jasmine was a living doll in this gorgeous Filipiniana gown in hues of blues and purples. Designed by June Pugat, handpainted religious iconography and gold plating we’re embedded all over the dress, from the terno sleeves down to the twin capes.
3. Ayn Bernos, San Juan
Marrying together a tribal motif with a Filipiniana silhouette, Ayn looked breathtaking in this custom design by Edwin Uy. She was beaming in gold and purple, with her beaded headdress being the piece de resistance. Our jaws drop to the floor when a body-hugging dress encrusted in even more beads and patterns reveals itself when she takes off the silk jacket and overskirt.
4. Sam Santamaria, Paranaque
Taking inspiration from her grandmother who used to reign as a Carnival Queen, Sam's fringe frock is one of the simplest, yet most mesmerizing looks from the line-up. The exaggerated collar and the asymmetrical hem, coupled with thousands of crystals all over the dress made for a jaw-dropping moment every time the Paranaque representative moved. Such a creation could only be crafted by designer extraordinaire Rajo Laurel himself.
5. Nicole Minano, Romblon
Miss Romblon’s baro’t saya looked like it came straight out of our history books. From the tassels on her saya to the dramatic cape flowing behind her, Nicole was exuding regality in this Erjohn dela Serna original. Even if she was in more muted bronze tones, the attention to detail across her look made her someone we just couldn’t take our eyes off of.
6. Leren Bautista, Laguna
Leren was a golden goddess in this collaboration by Renee Salud and Chico Estiva. Clad in fully beaded gold lame, her ensemble consisted of a hand-woven gown, an overflowing cape and a towering crown adorned with golden leaves akin to her hometown. Matching her incredible headpiece is a collar and a fan, also encrusted in lame.
7. Angela Okol, Siargao Island
In a rouched aquamarine mermaid gown with an over-the-top, ocean-themed headpiece and collar, you could tell Angela was proud to represent the island-state of Siargao. Made by Eva Martinez Javel, the nautical essence of her look was accentuated with floral appliqués and pearls.
8. Maureen Wroblewitz, Pangasinan
Another queen taking inspiration from the sea was Maureen with her bangus-inspired three-piece ensemble by Louis Pangilinan. Paying homage to the fisherfolk and salt harvesters in Pangasinan, Maureen's dress featured a beaded Filipiniana, a structured train and a headdress made of material reminiscient of fish scales.
9. Mirjan Hipolito, Angeles
Mirjan radiates the Carnival spirit with this Frederick Policarpio and Cholo Ayuyao creation. Her gown featured an exaggerated red mermaid skirt and an oversized pink butterfly sleeved top, accessorized with a gold crown, necklace and shoulder brace. The campy proportions of the look made the Angeles native look statuesque, as she posed with a black feather fan.
10. Bea Gomez, Cebu City
Bea was an iridescent mermaid in this Axel Que ensemble. Her captivating jumpsuit combines traditional butterfly sleeves with sea creature-like appliques that ware inspired by the Bakunawa, a mythical moon-eating dragon. As the Cebuana moved, her “fins” at the sides of her legs would also be in motion. With her golden headpiece, Bea resembles a lunar eclipse directly shining unto a vibrant ocean, and we're obsessed.
11. Christelle Abello, Aklan
Christelle's costume is proof that fashion is indeed a language, and a colorful one at that. Crafted by Ryan Lopez, her dress was made of pina fabric sourced straight from Aklan. The floral appliques and multi-colored tassels around the frock represented the vibrant culture of her home province, which was highlighted by Christelle's simple but sleek fingerwaved hair.
12. Princess Singh, Pasig
Carrying on the aquatic theme was Princess, donning a Filipiniana ball gown with an ombre mermaid skirt that imitated flowing water. Designed by Armand Marco, the whimsical but elegant frock represents Pasig City's slogan "Umaagos Ang Pagasa." Given her name, it's only correct that Princess brought her own crown, made for her by Anshari Habol Alonto.
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