A people's fashion sense tells a lot about its culture. Especially in the Philippines, where style is a barometer of how Hispanized a locale has been, the manner of dress will tell you a lot about a Filipino community's culture.
Take for example the different locales in Western Visayas. In the interest of brevity, we'll just consider three major locales/cultures: Bacolod City, Iloilo City and Kalibo, Aklan.
Residents of both Bacolod and Iloilo City are called "Ilonggos," though, to differentiate, some people call Bacolod natives "Bacolodnons," "Bacoleños," "Negrosanons," "Negrenses," among other monikers. Both cultures have Hiligaynon as their mother tongue, but there are differences in some of the words either use.
But back to the way of dress as a cultural barometer: even as the twin cultures are basically nearly identical in tongue, the way people dress from either city are as different as different gets.
When you stroll through the commercial districts of both Iloilo and Bacolod City, you will get to see how different both are in fashion sense.
In Iloilo, you will be able to see the good majority wearing very plain, very ordinary clothes. Think pastel or light-colored babydoll shirts and good ole jeans. In fact, if you were stylish in Iloilo, you may very well get curious, even critical stares from other people, especially from the women. If a girl wears particularly sexy clothing, she should expect to be ogled.
On the other hand, Bacolod is home to people who know their fashion and won't be caught dead being less than stylish. As we mentioned in "Dressy In Bacolod City," Bacoleñas are among the Philippines' best-dressed; but what an Ilongga from Iloilo City won't understand would be to go malling in heels.
Ilonggas are also very stylish, but they prefer to dress down on a regular day. Ilonggas don't like calling attention to themselves, that's why they would rather choose to look plain. By contrast, Bacoleñas always choose style.
Now we go to the way Akeanons (people from Aklan) prefer to dress. Just as a very objective, very frank observation of the culture, we note that Akeanons, especially the women, tend to be... Overdressed.
For a relatively small, generally rural town, you'd expect the people to dress simply, right? Well, that's where you're -- we're -- wrong.
When we came over, we were expecting fashion sense closer to, or even simpler, than the regular Ilongga from Iloilo City. But we were surprised to see women dressed in glittery, shiny, frilly clothing and headed for -- the supermarket.
We also saw women who were accented with all their GOLD finery. While shopping for coffee and sugar.
In the age of fashionable fake, plastic, even cloth earrings and bracelets, an age where crimes are getting more rife in the cities, and wearing gold jewelry is increasingly a threat to one's safety, it came as a surprise to see women wearing gold on their fingers, earlobes, and wrists, with no jewelry spot left to spare, in the heart of -- Sleepy Kalibo.
That being said, you could never stereotype a locale by its level of urbanization. The way its people wear their clothing and finery seem to be determined by culturally deeper factors. One major commonality is that both Kalibo and Bacolod were more heavily influenced by the Spanish colonial culture, and the Spanish, being fans of indulgence and the fine things in life, seemed to have imparted these traits to the locals of these two communities. This level of Hispanization seems to be a factor that holds the most influence on the way the people of these places dress.
When you travel across the cities and municipalities of the Philippines, keep an open eye for these things; you'd be surprised about what you'd learn about our country and its culture. It's more than just the ribbons and the frills on the blouses; it's actually all about colonial history and its influences on our cultural psyche.
Till the next Talonggo update!
Photo Credits: WikiFilipinas