MANILA, October 6, 2005
 (MALAYA) By Barge Ramos - Zamboanga is one destination that we will always go back to over and over again. Like most places in Mindanao, Zamboanga is blessed with good weather, bountiful harvest from the sea, exotic and friendly people, plus an interesting mix of cultures.

Fort del Pilar, where the image of Our Lady of the Pillar is enshrined, holds its own mystical allure, only meters away from a solemn-looking mosque. Sta. Cruz Island, with its gleaming pink coral sand looks magical from Lantaka Hotel. The Cathedral in the heart of the city, built by former President Joseph Estrada, is a huge cavern where one can spend hours in prayer and worship in silence.

But this time of the year, Zamboanga breaks its silence and celebrates for one long week the Feast of Our Lady of the Pillar with a series of shows and pageantry. Last Sept. 30, we were invited to be part of "Alta Moda 3", a dinner-fashion show held at the Astoria Regency in Pasonanca to raise funds for the construction of Our Mother of Perpetual Help parish church in Guiwan, Archdiocese of Zamboanga.

Zenaida Torres of the executive committee and Felizardo Rebollos, president of the Parish Pastoral Council, invited Danilo Franco, Edgar Madamba and me to participate in the fashion gala together with local designers Neri Jaruda, Angking, Federico Navarro, Nilo Lacson, Dodong Palmes and Bert Torres. The Manila designers were flown in by Cebu Pacific and billeted at La Vina Hotel. Sonny Villares choreographed the fashion segments.

Bert Torres, otherwise known as the Ben Farrales of Zamboanga City, presented a full collection of evening wear, debutante gowns and a whole bridal entourage, complete with sponsors and guest-models wearing Torres’ best creations. Torres is also director of the Office of Culture and Arts of Western Mindanao State University, national executive committee member on communication and drama of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts; author of the book "Mascota Costume," and a pioneer of the fashion industry Region 9, Mindanao. He has also been awarded Outstanding Zamboangueno for Fashion Design and is cited by the Kadayawan Foundation as a lifetime achievement awardee in Mindanao for having laid the promotion and preservation of indigenous textiles and design patterns.

Camille Navarro modeled a two-piece formal gown in black silk organza with a be-ribboned pale pink skirt and off-shoulder top. Twins Sharmaine and Shereen Martinez, wore bias cut appliqué skirts in matte gold and turquoise. Cory Navarro, one of Zamboanga’s best dressed women modeled a purple gown in pieces-cut (made of fabric cut in panels) with an off-shoulder top and a second gown of, a fully embroidered and beaded piña terno.

Two little girls, Athena Corteza and Little Cua, served as flower girls of the entourage. The matron of honor was Sally Eisma. Carolyn Fabian, Jenielyn Victoria and Dimmette Wooten modeled princess-style ballroom gowns with fully beaded tops. A former Miss Zamboanga, Myra Abubakar, wore a burnt orange cocktail dress in silk chiffon with a hanky drop hemline and bias cut off-shoulder; the second gown in aqua blue was designed with a petalled overblouse. For Lita Salilig, Bert Torres designed a burgundy evening dress with pieces-cut chiffon skirt.

Three priests modeled Bert Torres’ liturgical vestments. Fr. Joel Malcampo, Fr. Francis Jacinto and Fr. Jonathan Verdejo wore contemporary clerical barongs and modern variations of traditional vestments and chasubles.

The other Zamboanga designers showcased their signature styles, like Federico Navarro’s beaded denim jeans and Neri Jaruda’s sleek body-conscious tailored outfits with beaded ethnic patterns. The highlight of the show was a full scale bridal parade of the six local designers and three Manila designers.

Zamboanga will always continue to fascinate. Timeless in its allure, this city of multi-cultural traditions, fair-skinned women and exotic dialects will always be a rare gem in this land of promise.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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