Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

The Broken Marriage Vow: When Filipino design becomes the best revenge

Connie Macatuno turns blockbuster series into a showcase of indigenous chic—and a woman’s kick-ass power

Connie Macatuno and son Caxantino in LOKAL

Jill in Tausug coat by Len Cabili and Beatriz bag

Faced with pressure from family and society, Dr. Jill Ilustre takes a tough but feminine stance.  In The Broken Marriage Vow, a remake of the British drama series Dr. Foster, Jill, played by Jodi Sta. Maria, uses clothing as if it were ammunition.  Upon finding a lipstick stain and a strand of blonde hair on her wayward husband’s clothes, she confronts him in the bathroom. Husband David is half-dressed, while Jill is in her armor—a navy coat embroidered with cadena de amor symbolic of Jill’s bleeding heart. Tiers of soft white pleats peeking from under the coat symbolize her vulnerable side. A red and orange purse by Beatriz is slung across her body and her feet shod in killer, four-inch-high stilettoes with a handwoven vamp, made by Zapateria Hub.

Come what may, Jill will always be well-turned out and beautiful,  says Concepcion “Connie” Macatuno, the drama series’ director and the woman behind LOKAL Home+Art+Fashion (IG @iamlokal), a Filipino contemporary fashion and home brand.

Macatuno redefines power dressing even in her private life. She has always worn indigenous-inspired fashion to convey her individuality. Her aesthetic is integrated into the TV series, where contemporary Filipino design becomes an expression of who we are and what we create. This styling generated a lot of buzz for the show.

Initially, the audience was curious about how local design becomes part of the story. The viewers invariably become hooked on the characters’ lives. Twenty local designer brands have been used in the ongoing series, such as Ilonggo Jor-el Espina, Rhett Eala, Tina Campos, and Zarah Juan.

The Broken Marriage Vow (ABS-CBN Entertainment, viewed on Kapamilya Channel) is about a successful doctor whose husband cheats on her and ends up marrying his mistress. But unlike in the original, in which Dr. Gemma Foster exacts revenge on her ex and his new wife, Macatuno’s concept dwells on the dynamics between Jill and her ex-husband David Ilustre (Zanjoe Marudo), and between them and their teenage son Gio (Zaijian Jaranilla), who is in his mother’s custody.

“This is the Filipino family context.  When parents make that decision, they don’t know its long-term effects. I want the show to look into that,” says the director. Like Jill, Macatuno is a single parent who understands the emotional impact of a break-up on the family.

Still, all eyes are on Jill, whose style embodies the definition of power dressing: self-expression and femininity. The Manila-bred Jill uprooted herself for love of David to restart her life in Baguio. Although she lives in a society prevailed upon by conventional morality, societal expectations, and challenges from people close to her, she has the freedom to express herself through her fashion, home, and food choices, explains the director.

When a younger man, Gabby dela Rosa (Jake Ejercito), pays Jill a surprise visit, she is in a white blouse and a LOKAL skirt, painted with Venus de Milo motifs and embroidered by Kalinga artisans. “I want her to be the quintessential woman,” says Macatuno.

Jill’s ‘up yours’ look when facing off with her husband’s mistress includes bold Joyce Makitalo earrings

Facing off with David’s mistress Alexis (Sue Ramirez), Jill’s “up yours” look is a slit skirt and bold earrings. Her earrings are mostly by Farah Abu or Mjorian.

Jill is in a prickly situation when she meets her lawyer, Atty. Dante Pugong (Franco Laurel) in a Nino Franco polo barong, to seek an annulment. The doktora is accessorized with Ken Samudio’s signature coral necklace and purse, made from hundreds of spike-like spines crafted from recycled water bottles and glass.

“It’s sexy even if it’s tusok-tusok (spiky)” says Macatuno. “You have to ask, why give the character that item? Why did you make her wear this or those shoes?”

Jill likes to present herself in a perfect world where everything is styled, from the wooden plate of her crispy pata and local craft beer to her interior decor. In the bedroom scene, she stands out in a feminine floral-printed tank and pleat-front pants against a bed with woven cane headboards, sheets with monstera leaf patterns, and an inabel blanket from AbelPH. The throw pillows are embroidered with eagle patterns and pinilian, brocade-like weaves from Abra.

In the hospital, Dr Sandy Alipio (Angeli Bayani) looks up to Dr. Jill, and her awe is manifested in their twinning moments. On top of their white coats, they’re brandishing bold necklaces, but Jill takes things a notch higher with statement earrings.

“Dr. Sandy is envious because Jill got David, who was the crème de la crème of their batch. You tend to copy the one you admire,” explains Macatuno.

The director leaves no stone unturned. David’s secretary, Grace Jimenez (Empress Schuck), uses one bag throughout the series, by Agsam Fashion Fern X Khristina Manansala. “She saved some P10,000 for the bag,” says the director, referring to the woven bag made in Surigao that was handpainted by the granddaughter of National Artist Vicente Manansala.

The director did extensive research on how costumes evoke a sense of place. The American culture in Baguio has a lot of bearing in the styling of the Baguio-born characters, including David.

“For a doctor to fall in love with architect David, he has to exude something unique. When I interviewed the locals about the must-haves for men, they cited the leather jacket, Levi’s jeans and mountain hiking boots—Timberland—because of the rugged terrain. That’s like the James Dean rebel type. David visits the sites which are not flat, so he has to be in hiking boots,” explains Macatuno.  David wears a Guayabera (Mexican wedding shirt) by Davao designer Niño Franco and is shod in Mu by TMK footwear or Lalapatos shoes made of leather and sustainable materials.

Director Connie Macatuno did extensive research on how costumes evoke a sense of place

Atty. Pugong doesn’t wear just any barong. LOKAL’s polo barong with contrasting weaves on the pechera, yoke, sleeves, and collar makes a youthful statement.

The design sensibilities echo characteristics of Macatuno’s Generation X—open-minded on social issues, very tech-savvy, but bred in conservative households. “I grew in a traditional family. Yet, I put a contemporary look into the storytelling because there are traditional core values in the characterization,” she says.

She cites a scene showing David’s collection of old cameras in the house. An enraged Jill destroys the drone and his camera. “The cameras may be traditional and David has a new family. But we are not like the Kano. May kapit pa rin tayo sa unang pamilya. (We tend to be attached to the first family.)”

Macatuno’s passion for local culture is celebrated in LOKAL and her production design. It also shows in her fashion independence and her flair for selecting stylish clothes and accessories.

A broadcast communications alumna from the University of the Philippines,  Macatuno began her career with ABS-CBN, then ventured into filmmaking and designing.  The freelance life freed her from corporate structures and allowed her to spend more time with her son, Roco Caxantino Corona. More than a decade ago, she noticed that her child had a talent for painting and with a refined sense of color. The mother and son would paint together for bonding moments.

“One day we went to Legazpi Market. I wanted to sell his art. Since I liked handmade things, we created cards and hand-painted shirts. LOKAL evolved into clothing and furniture” she says. It was her son who wanted to see his art initially, not she.

Macatuno recalls that in the early ’90s she bought a blouse with ethnic designs at the then Aldevinco Mall, a shopping destination in Davao. Macatuno wore the blouse until it got ratty. In 2000, she cut up the blouse and patched the scraps on her branded denim jacket. She still has that jacket.

“When I started designing, I had people like me in mind. They want to diversify their look and be unique,” she says.

Macatuno describes LOKAL’s fashion as mixed-media, which consists of embroidery, appliqué, and hand-painting. Denim is her staple fabric because of its durability and longevity, but she uses Philippine weaves more than denim. “It’s what brings out our national identity in contemporary designs.”

She supports sewers from Bulacan and Tiaong, Quezon, weavers from the North, and embroiderers from Lake Sebu. It takes a month for the beaders from the South to sew the native beads.

“This is slow fashion, but it adds character,” she says. “The sewers and beaders are like family.”  Practising zero waste, Lokal upcycles remnants and scraps into the garments to lend uniqueness. The styles are one-of-a-kind.

The clothes are competitively priced (P5,000 to P45,000). Sales from the IG account @Iamlokal have been steady.

The Broken Marriage Vow represents our local products and foods. Based on the messages from strangers, friends, and my inner circle, they were reawakened to being Filipino. As for the story, the audience can see themselves in the characters. Sometimes emotions can get intense as we are passionate, we love to the fullest. Family is important in our lives,” she says.

At this writing, Jill seems lukewarm towards Gabby, who is also her son’s teacher. Will she fall for a younger guy?

“Time will tell,” replies Macatuno.

Check out LOKAL IG @iamlokal. Some items are also at ArteFino (IG artefinoph).

About author


She is a veteran journalist who’s covered the gamut of lifestyle subjects. Since this pandemic she has been giving free raja yoga meditation online.

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