At De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde is a rare opportunity for the public to see the ternos of Filipino masters all in one gallery. The Center for Campus Art has just opened an exhibit of The Ternos of Benilde Collections, Power Fashion and Modernity, featuring 31 ternos and four trajes de mestiza by the masters of Philippine fashion design from the mid-20th century—National Artist Ramon Valera, Aureo Alonzo, Ben Farrales, and Pitoy Moreno.
The ternos were either donated to or are on loan to the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, from famous women who wore these and were good friends of the designers themselves: Conchitina Sevilla Bernardo for Pitoy Moreno, Bambi Harper for Ben Farrales, Carmelita Evangelista Pineda for Aureo Alonzo, and Mila Magsaysay Valenzuela and Vicky Rodriguez for Ramon Valera.
A walk around the gallery is a swift visual journey to the design genius of the four stalwarts of Philippine fashion, as proved in their individual design approaches to and the innovations done on the national dress. They prove how the terno has been adapted to contemporary times, the modernity of Filipino fashion, and more important, its feminine elegance.
A visit to the gallery is a rare immersion in terno design, its silhouette, shape and cut, its handcraftsmanship, its detailing, its manipulation of fabric, its highly judicious ornamentation.
Architect and interior designer Gerry Torres, the president and curator of Center for Campus Art, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, has had some of the garments for some time, since after the family of Ben Farrales and Bambi Harper herself donated about 200 of Farrales’ creations after his death in 2021. This was followed by the donations of a few ternos of the former First Lady Luz Banzon Magsaysay by her daughter, former hotelier Mila Magsaysay Valenzuela. Eric Pineda, a leading fashion and costume designer himself and member of the Benilde faculty, decided to loan the Aureo Alonzo wedding terno of his mother, Carmelita Evangelista Pineda.
Having these priceless garments from the ‘60s in the possession of Saint Benilde motivated Torres to conceptualize the exhibit and interview some of the owners, particularly Vicky Rodriguez who lives in Bacolod. “It is serendipity,” Torres says of the gathering of the national dress designs during an exhibit preview/interview with TheDiarist.ph a few days before the exhibit opened Oct. 13, 2023.
“It shows that through the years, the terno has become a garment of innovation…. Flexible enough to take all sorts of designs…has many variations but one look at it proves why it is our national dress,” Torres explains. “Its evolution is ripe for experimentation, endless permutations.”
Torres notes the resurgence of the terno, whether it is through fashion shows, events or private gathering. “So the time has come for younger people to give their take on the terno.”
Torres recalls how in 2018, in mounting the Ramon Valera exhibit, he made an open call for Benilde students to make their own terno designs, and realized that the students then didn’t know how. So a workshop under designer Lulu Tan Gan was held, breaking the terno down to its various components.
In support of this exhibit is another exhibit on the wings, also on the 12th floor gallery, by Benilde’s leading cosplayers tasked to design ternos inspired by their favorite Filipino heroes.
Architect Gerry Torres walks us through the choice pieces of the exhibit, which runs until Dec. 15, 2023, 12f, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Manila.