My tita-ness reached its peak when I attended an afternoon lecture at the Makati Garden Club. With me were my classmates: grey-haired 80-year-olds donning their pearls and nuns whose distinct aroma of rose bead rosaries lingered. Our lecturer was Dom Martin de Jesus Gomez, OSB, more popularly known by our lolos and lolas as Gang Gomez.
To Manila’s fashion elite during the seventies, Gang was one of the country’s most sought-after couturiers along with Joe Salazar, Inno Sotto, Ernest Santiago, and Auggie Cordero. He was known for his classic lines and rich embroidery, which championed indigenous materials such as piña, jusi, and abaca. However, things took a different turn in 1990 when he decided to close his shop to join the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Despite efforts of talking him out of it, he ultimately pursued his teenage dream and pushed his application into the monastery.
Dom Martin poses with Mark Higgins, Barge Ramos, Albert Andrada, and Sandra Higgins at the opening of SLIM's Fashion and Arts School 2014 Exhibition.
But like old habits that die hard, his spark for design was re-awakened in 1996 when he when was invited to give a lecture on liturgical vestments in Rome. Following that, he was given a task that required him to flex his creative muscle: to design garments that would be used in Eucharistic celebrations, using fabrics woven by the indigenous tribes of the Philippines. He was given two years to finish the 50-piece collection, just enough time to make it for the centennial celebration of the nation’s independence. The collection was eventually put on display at the Ayala Museum’s centennial offering and ran for half a year.
Design sketches for his 50-piece collection.
Going back to the Makati Garden Club, the grandmas ooh-ed and ahh-ed in fascination with his insightful (not to mention, funny) story of how he pieced the collection by sending it over to different indigenous groups.
He shares having to barter two horses for a panel of woven abaca from a woman from Mindanao's T'boli tribe. The lola’s muffled a laugh. Cute.