OpinionsThe heritage that goes into Sinina Dumagueteña

The heritage that goes into Sinina Dumagueteña


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Last Saturday, May 11  as part of Dumaguete’s Heritage Month celebration, and also its ongoing effort to commemorate the diamond jubilee of its Charter, the City took to the runway at the Pantawan People’s Park to showcase Sinina Dumagueteña, the latest iteration of a fashion show that first bowed—to glowing success—last November.

I remember that first show well; it was an incredible showcase not just of elegance and beauty but also, when done right, of heritage and history.

This time around, it helps that modeling the clothes for this edition are the various faces that make up the candidates of Miss Dumaguete Diamond Jubilee Queen, whose crowning moment will come at the end of the month.

Saturday night truly became a confluence of two riches—arts and beauty: celebrating a sense of Dumaguete fashion, and a sense of Dumagueteña beauty.

What is Sinina Dumagueteña? It is a conflation, and celebration of two things—sinina (dress) and ‘Dumagueteña’, or the fair woman of Dumaguete.

But fashion is not always something we equate with, in terms of Dumaguete culture, but we do have a deep heritage for dress-making over the decades, and a treasury of fashion mavens who have helped shape the industry not just locally, but also nationally, and internationally.

Until the 1980s, most homes in Dumaguete had their own in-house sastre. These women, and often men, just sewed the whole day, mending bedsheets and tablecloths and curtains and table napkins and clothes and socks. They sewed uniforms and dresses and children’s clothes, and some of them came to be known as the best of Dumaguete’s sastres, like Isabel “Boom” Roxas, Jeanne Ong, Digna Coo, and Tingting Delfin.

Some of them opened dressmaking shops that catered to the very discriminating taste of the Dumaguete woman.

Over the years, we’ve also had fashion designers who started out in Dumaguete, and soon came to make their mark in the Manila fashion scene, such as Fred Quimat, Amir Sali, Alexis Monsanto, Rajo Laurel, and Dan Duran.

In the international scene, we have John David Pfeiffer who has worked for so long as the fashion casting agent for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, and who has worked with many designers such as Michael Kors, Vera Wang, and Donna Karan.

Sinina Dumagueteña is an acknowledgement of this fashion heritage, as well as a continuation.

Last night, we showcased the works of five Dumaguete fashion designers—Anthony Sinco, Maui Lezama, Dan Duran, Larry R. Ybesate, and Tingting Delfin because together, they create a spectrum of Dumaguete fashion past and present, but always forever.

Anthony Sinco was born and raised in Dumaguete. His passion for fashion started with a simple Barbie doll—he simply found joy and creativity in dressing the doll up! His determination to become a fashion designer never wavered despite being bullied for these passions, and for him, the journey was not easy.

But he threw himself into every opportunity, participating in school activities, and pushing his talents into the spotlight, from local competitions to national ones.

A fashion competition in Dumaguete paved the way, and his win rekindled the flame of his ambitions, and marked the beginnings of his life as a fashion designer.

He pursued vocational courses in dressmaking and tailoring at TESDA, and gained hands-on experience and technical expertise. He attended the Fashion Institute of the Philippines which embraced his aspirations, and propelled him into a world where he could fully express his creativity.

His designs began to gain recognition, and soon, he was collecting awards, each one a testament to his dedication and the unique vision.

His story is a testament to the power of resilience and the courage to pursue one’s dreams against all odds.

Maui Lezama’s journey into the world of fashion began at four when she discovered her passion for design amidst the bustling atmosphere of her mother’s dress shop in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

Even then, she displayed a keen eye for detail, often requesting the dressmakers to fashion miniature gowns for her beloved Barbie dolls.

Despite initially pursuing a degree in BA Psychology at the University of the Philippines-Cebu, her heart remained drawn to the world of fashion. She embarked on a second degree at UP Diliman, immersing herself in the intricacies of clothing technology.

Though her academic path took unexpected turns, her dedication to her craft never wavered. Continuing her education at FIDA Cebu, under the guidance of a former mentor, she honed her skills and expanded her creative horizons.

Maui’s talent and perseverance soon garnered recognition on a national scale, with notable achievements such as being named a finalist in Josie Natori’s esteemed FDCP Modern Terno Fashion Design Competition in 2014.

Her innovative designs, including a sinamay romper adorned by the radiant Jasmine Curtis on a magazine cover, captivated audiences, and solidified her reputation as a rising star in the industry.

Her journey led her to the vibrant fashion scene of Doha, Qatar, where she lent her expertise as a couture designer in 2019.

However, her heart remained rooted in her homeland, and today, she proudly serves clients in Dumaguete and Cebu, crafting exquisite formal wear for special occasions.

Maui’s contributions extend beyond the realm of fashion. Embracing her role as a custodian of culture, she actively supports the local sinamay industry, infusing her creations with the rich heritage of Negros Oriental.

In doing so, she not only celebrates tradition but also empowers local artisans, ensuring the legacy of Filipino craftsmanship endures for generations to come.

A Siaton-based fashion designer and visual artist, Dan Duran has always been artistic since he was young, and initially decided to focus on becoming a visual artist after finishing college.

But he was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue another passion, fashion design, at the School of Fashion in the Arts on full scholarship.

His practice in fashion is experimental draping and creative pattern cutting, a combination that earned him a medal in the first TernoCon.

In 2022, he decided to pursue the visual arts again, together with fashion. His style in art is defined in expressionist and collage forms, and always trying to answer a question in this world.

Larry R. Ybesate is a versatile professional known for his beauty pageant coaching, makeup artistry, and design. His journey began at an early age, while working alongside his skilled seamstress-mother, which sparked a lifelong passion for design.

Through immersive workshops and hands-on experience, he honed his craft, specializing in creating exquisite evening and bridal gowns that enhance the innate beauty of his clientele.

He has served as both a makeup artist and designer for prestigious competitions such as Miss Universe Philippines, Binibining Pilipinas, and Miss Earth, among others.

His distinctive designs and creations have graced many events, making him a sought-after designer by local celebrities and personalities.

Finally, there’s the legendary Tingting Delfin. Fashion became a significant part of Tingting’s life in the mid-1970s during the Miss Universe pageant, which was held in the country.

His exposure to beautiful dresses during this event, alongside his father who was hosting, sparked his interest.

In grade school, he moved to Cebu City, where he participated in art competitions. He spent high school at Foundation University where he designed the costumes for the dance troupe, as well as his teachers, and later became the founder and choreographer of the Buglasayaw Dance Troupe.

After high school, he spent over two years in Manila, working as a fashion illustrator and creating costumes for various events. In the 1990s, he worked as a fashion designer in Cebu City before being invited to join Jean Ong Fashion Studio as in-house designer in Dumaguete.

He has held multiple roles such as pageant director, choreographer, set designer, make up artist, and more. He has since organized fashion shows such as the back-to-back fashion extravaganzas with Rajo Laurel and Adwin Farajado in 2001, including memorable ones like the 2011 Sinamay Collection at the Intramuros Tourism Conference and the 2007 Dumaguete Kasalang Filipino.

These five, and others like Josip Tumapa and Gerry Fernandez are the continuing evidence that Dumaguete always has a strong heritage of design and style.


Author’s email: [email protected]






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