Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

On Mobo’s gutsy mom, ‘higantes’ parade, floral ternos and fellow Aklanons

He still believes rural Philippines offers hope

Floral print cotton terno, sashed, ruffled, from Mobo’s ‘Masaganang Bukid’ collection

Lesley Mobo at curtain call with Ben Chan and Maine Mendoza who walked the runway

Lesley Mobo terno

“I think the higante was a master touch,” said a well-known editor after the Bench x Lesley Mobo show at the Bench Tower last Sunday Oct 2, capping the Bench Fashion Week that started Friday Sept. 30, 2022.

The runway show kicked off with a marching band, vendors proffering guyabanos, and models carrying palayok and papier mâché animals symbolic of the Philippines, like horses (kalesa), chickens (sabong), and carabaos. Some ternos, gargantuan and beautiful, made us applaud in awe. Layer upon layer of fabric floated down the runway, leading us to reminisce on the puppetry of the Higantes festival, an important traditional parade in Angono, Rizal, showcasing giant papier mâché figures.

Mobo advocates the authenticity of rural Philippine culture, and the message in his Bench show was “more celebration than fashion.” He felt the need to empower farmers and honor and praise the Philippines. “There are rugby shirts, but they’re made of cotton that’s not thick, unlike rugby shirts used in colonial countries,” he told in an interview after the show.

The ready-to-wear included bright blue varsity-type jackets with the words Masaganang Bukid (the show’s title) embroidered on the chest, and tropical-theme mermaids printed on the back, orange floral printed button-down shirts for men, and shirts bearing images of roosters, carabaos and the words Philippines, Hiwaga sa Dilim on them. The collection’s local color bore wit and whimsy. One shirt had a whole buwig or bunch of bananas trailing down its back with the words, Nababaliw, Nasasabik.

The casual and athleisure lines were interspersed with cotton ternos, multi-tiered, ruffled ternos worn by models with huge hay headpieces. Flowers were everywhere, as accessories and as prints on the ternos. A model carried a boxing glove, while another had a slice of watermelon on her head. There were bright colors and prints throughout, and at the end of the show, guests were nudged to dance to OPM. The fiesta vibe lasted long after the show ended, with people laughing and taking groufies.

Mobo said many people who walked the show were farmers from farms near his family’s. Many of the girls ]came from local villages in Aklan, where Mobo originally hails. “If you talk to them, you will find they limit themselves because they know how it is in our society.”

Many of them perhaps lack the aggressiveness Mobo’s mother had when she left her hometown Aklan to try her luck in Manila.

Mobo’s mother would walk a kilometer to school in Aklan and traded fruits for paper. She eventually made her way to Manila and became successful. Mobo shared that he had only 300 British pounds in his pocket when he left for London. But he worked hard, finished his studies, and made it big. He feels a strong ties to his roots and kinship with farmers, telling them to come to Manila and pursue their dreams. He tells the women from his province not to whiten their beautiful brown skin and to love their waifish figures instead.

Mobo’s inspiration for the collection came from the loved ones he lost during the pandemic, to honor the past and revel in the better times ahead. The overarching message he aimed to share was the hope for the Filipinos in the provinces. “Everyone just wants to be abroad,” said Mobo, “and so many people think that anything outside your country is good, but there are so many good things in the Philippines! We always say we appreciate it, but you have so many people who can try harder. You don’t really talk about the other side of the system, and I want to mention the other side a bit. It’s difficult to progress as a society sometimes, but there is so much to celebrate at the same time.”

He added: “In the end, it isn’t about consumption and amassing many things to fill your insecurities. It’s about the message.”

Bench x Lesley Mobo is available in Bench stores nationwide. 

About author


She was fashion editor of Mega and Metro magazines, in different stints, and former editor in chief of Metro style. She also wrote for Philippine Daily Inquirer for a decade. She lived and worked in Paris for eight years, writing for international publications, and worked as copywriter for Louis Vuitton Paris. Now based in Manila, she has a content marketing and copywriting firm. She continues to write about luxury and fashion.

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