Binibining Pilipinas 2020 national costume review

Last January 22, 2021, the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. formally restarted the Bb. Pilipinas 2020 pageant through the National Costume Photo Exhibit Virtual Launch, hosted by Bb. Pilipinas International 2019 Patch Magtanong. For several weeks, a candidates’ national costume portrait photographed by Raymond Saldaña was posted daily on the Bb. Pilipinas social media accounts. Mrs. Stella Araneta, BPCI Chairperson, also announced that the Bb. Pilipinas Coronation night will be on April 17, 2021.

Since Pia Wurtzbach’s Miss Universe victory in 2015, there has been a conscious effort from the designers to create costumes beyond the terno, the baro’t saya, and the manton de Manila. It is not so much that there is anything wrong with these concepts. But as the eyes of the world have focused on Bb. Pilipinas queens, designers found a need to be more imaginative and offer a wider variety to wow the universe. 

Although technically not a part of the scoring, a stunning costume can get an unknown candidate noticed or help a fan favorite to solidify her popularity. As a result, the costumes in recent years require an enormous amount of hours to produce and are, often, logistical nightmares. 

As each and every costume this year is worthy to be worn in the international competitions, some capture the eye and the imagination just a bit more than others. It would have been easier to create a top 10 list but I wanted to celebrate the uniqueness of the different inspirations the costumes come from.

National costumes worn in beauty pageants are meant to be visual spectacles on stage. They need to have what I call… I.M.P.A.C.T (Inspirational, Mobility, Pageantry, Artistry, Creativity, and Theatricality). 

Whether they are wearable, authentic pieces or Las Vegas showgirl-worthy creations, the costume should wow but not overpower the candidate. Even though a costume tells a story, ultimately it has to evoke oohs and aahs from the audience.

I have created the following categories to evenly and fairly showcase the national costumes:

  1. Festival Inspired
  2. Regional Folklore Inspired
  3. Warrior Queen
  4. Religious Themed
  5. Terno-based costume
  6. Fantasy/Avant Garde/Showgirl

Best Festival Costumes

The Festival inspired costumes are meant to dominate the stage in their size and grandeur. They are an exaggerated version of reality that celebrate a very important tradition. The bigger, the better is the motto. Maximalist designs reign supreme.

Bb. 29 Honey Cartasano – Rizal

Title: Higantes Queen

Inspiration: Angono’s Higantes Festival

Designer: Paolo Ballesteros

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

A very imaginative interpretation of the “higantes” (giants) parading at the festival, the design is suited for a beauty pageant but maintains the feel of the original inspiration. This concept can easily go comical if not executed properly. It is also a masterpiece in construction with its perfect silhouette and mobility. Balancing the proportions that does not overpower the candidate is very tricky. They’ve succeeded in creating an innovative and fun costume. 

Bb. 21 Hannah Arnold – Masbate

Inspiration: Bulaklakan Festival

Designer: Louis Pangilinan

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

The signature Louis Pangilinan aesthetic with the voluminous skirt and intricate embroidery, patterns, and designs is evident in this piece. This costume needs a statuesque beauty to be able to give it justice and Hannah does that so beautifully. 

Bb. 19 Kimberly Tiques Tiques – Balagtas, Bulacan

Inspiration: Flores de Mayo

Designer: Marvin Garcia

This is unmistakably Flores de Mayo. Since Kimberly is a tall woman, she can command the costume easily. An overly decorated costume can make her look like a float at the Rose Parade. But there is still a sense of fragility and lightness to this design. When properly lit, the colors of the flowers and intricacies will probably come out better.

Bb. 20 Ana Thea Cenarosa – Pototan, Iloilo

Title: Amakan

Inspiration: Amakan and the Iwag Festival (Festival of Lights)

Designers: Jun-g Bayona Candelario, Backpiece by Brent Naranja

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

The moment Bb. 20 steps onto that stage, the others better get out of the way. It certainly grabs everyone’s attention, literally. The dress concept itself is not that new but what makes this outstanding is the addition of the back piece. Together, it forms a show-stopping costume that will delight everyone who sees it.

Regional Folklore Inspired

Legends and local folklore have been rich sources of inspiration for designers. These tales may be as old as time but they are interpreted in very modern ways.

Bb. 30 Noriza Valerio – Arayat, Pampanga

Title: Mountain Enchantress

Inspiration: The legend of Maria Sinukuan of Mount Arayat

Designer: Rian Fernandez

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

The Mountain Enchantress truly enchants with this visually stunning masterpiece. It teeters between whimsical and fantastical but still tells a story. It is completely reminiscent of The Lion King costumes in the stage production. The expertly done creatures feel so alive and just amazing to look at. 

Bb. 18 Karen Laurrie Mendoza – Iloilo City

Title: Bulalakaw

Inspiration: The legend of a “diwata”/goddess who descends to earth in the form of a comet

Designer: Tata Pinuela

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Wow Bulalakaw! Despite the humongous headdress and tons of feathers, Karen Laurrie's presence is so powerful that she carries the costume so effortlessly. This type of costume is very typical in the Dinagyang Festival but I appreciate how the designer chose to highlight the story of the “diwata” in the form of a shooting star.

Bb. 27 Jash Dimaculangan – Albay

Inspiration: The legend of Mt. Mayon and the fiery love between Magayon and Panganoron

Designer: Marvin Baloloy

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Jash’s costume is a great example of a non-traditional garment that still comes off as elegant. It’s the superb craftsmanship, perfect proportions, and attention to detail that makes this costume come alive. 

Warrior queens

Since the catchphrase “empowered woman” has overtaken the pageant psyche, it was a natural progression to have warrior costumes. These depict strength and power but it is interesting to see that they are typically just as sexy as well. 

Bb. 33 Alexandra Faith Garcia – Olongapo

Title: The Legend of Olongapo

Inspiration: A dove warrior and the legend from which the city is named after, Ulo ng Apo

Designer: Jorick Lopez Limpag

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Now everyone will know where and how the City of Olongapo got its name from. When a costume not only entertains but educates, that’s precious. The clean, immaculate, shimmery white on stage can be as powerful as a colorful outfit. The dove warrior is said to promote the ideals of peace and love that beloved Apo was known for.

Bb. 39 Bellatrix Tan – Zamboanga City

Title: Subang

Inspiration: Subanen Princess Nayac, who became a warrior

Designer: Erich Minoza

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

The artistry shown in the accessories is outstanding. The simplicity of the black bodysuit highlights the metallic pieces of the princess. She is powerful and ready for battle even on the runway.

Bb. 14 Hazel Ortiz – Pasig City

Inspiration: The two sides of a Filipina - the modest and the warrior

Designer: Edwin Uy

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

At first look, it seemed basic for Edwin Uy, who has done magnificent costumes for so many beauty queens. But this is exactly what it is meant to portray. A seemingly docile woman and after a quick theatrical reveal, out comes a warrior princess that is signature Edwin Uy.

Religious themed

Go to any religious town procession of saints and statues, and you’ll see the most opulent garbs on these icons. This year, designer Chico Estiva dominated this category with exquisite and luxurious national costumes that show off his craftsmanship and taste. It is important to note that not every fashion designer can be a good costume maker and vice versa. Chico Estiva is one of the gifted few who can execute both wonderfully.

Bb. 4 Patrizia Garcia – City of Manila

Title & Inspiration: Santo Niño de Tondo

Designer: Chico Estiva

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Bb. 35 Micca Rosal – Agoncillo, Batangas

Title: Mary Love

Inspiration: Love for Mother Mary

Designer: Chico Estiva

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Terno based costumes

Gone are the days when designers will look for an existing bustier gown, add a matching butterfly sleeve and call it a national costume. The terno will always be a staple and if done well, one can’t go wrong. It can be a safe choice but with a bit more imagination, it can be elevated the way the following have.

Bb.17 Justine Felizarta – Padada, Davao del Sur

Title: Paglalakbay

Inspiration: Vinta, the sailboat of the Moro and Sama-Bajau tribes

Designer: Jhobes Estrella

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

The vinta inspiration can easily go campy and amateur. Jhobes Estrella was successful in combining a masterfully constructed terno that fits Binibini 17 perfectly. But adding that vinta element in a matching fabric takes it to costume heaven.

Bb.15 Cindy Obeñita – Cagayan de Oro

Title: Belleza de Oro

Inspiration: “The legend that Cagayan de Oro is resting on the back of a giant goldfish.”

Designer: Odelon Simpao

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

There is nothing more befitting a Cagayan de Oro queen than a golden gown of over 10,000 paillettes. It is so beautifully made and Binibini 15 is the perfect muse. If Thierry Mugler and Zac Posen collaborated to do a terno costume, this would be it. 

Bb. 8 Meiji Cruz – Valenzuela City

Inspiration: Lakapati, the goddess of agriculture and fertility

Designer: Manny Halasan

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Manny Halasan is no longer just a creator of stunning crowns but is also an up-and-coming fashion designer. With a very good eye for detail and design, Halasan has translated his skills into costume design. Binibini 8 looks regal, sophisticated, and powerful all the same time. 

Fantasy/Avant Garde/Showgirl

There are some designers who love to step out of the box either in concept or in execution. The fantasy/avant garde/showgirl costumes challenge the norm and when done well, satisfy the need for something outrageous, fabulous, and fresh.

Bb. 23 Gabby Basiano – Borongan, Eastern Samar

Title & inspiration: Golden Kalesa

Designer: Ken Batino and Jevin Salaysay

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Among pageant afficionados, this type of inspiration was popularized by Miss Universe Thailand 2015 “tuk-tuk” costume. But it was during haute couture designer Thierry Mugler’s 1992 Les Cowboys Collection when the motorcycle-inspired bustier truly originated from. This golden kalesa is a genius concept and I am happy that someone finally did it. It will be a joy to see this on the runway. 

Bb. 36 Vickie Rushton - Negros Occidental

Title & Inspiration: the Magellan Birdwing Butterfly

Designer: Jomar Peralta of House of Victoria

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

How can one go wrong with a multi-colored butterfly? It is truly one of nature’s most beautiful creatures and to translate that into a costume worn by an even more gorgeous Vickie Rushton, it is a home run. The wings are magnificent and the gown itself is spectacular. 

Bb. 11 Maureen Montagne – Batangas

Title: “Lakanates”

Inspiration: The history and culture of Batangas

Designer: Nick Guarino Festivali Designs and Concepts

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

I do not know exactly what is going on with this costume. Even after reading the designer’s notes, I struggle with it. However, I am intrigued by the complexity of its construction and mesmerized by its visual appeal. I cannot stop staring at it and even if my brain cannot understand it, my eyes know it is extraordinary.

Bb. 25 Carina Cariño – La Union

Inspiration: The waves in La Union as the Surfing Capital of the Philippines

Designer: Don Cristobal

Raymond Saldaña/Bb Pilipinas

Another one of those very well-constructed costumes that defy gravity. One look at it and it completely reminds you of the ocean waves. The lighting in the photo gives it a bit of mystery but once placed on a stage with bright lights, I feel its crystal blue color will pop and give that ocean feel even more.

In all of Bb. Pilipinas history, this year’s national costumes are the most diverse in inspiration, astounding in their artistry, and simply divine visual spectacles worthy to be displayed in museums. Aside from these, each and every costume have elevated this segment to unprecedented levels. What a fantastic and fitting way to restart the Bb. Pilipinas 2020 Pageant that celebrates the hashtags #IAmFilipina and #IAmBinibini. The costumes showcase the rich history of our country, the creativity of Filipino designers, and the beauty of the Binibinis. –