To commemorate the Philippine Independence Day, the Filipino community has organized different events for the month of June. One event was the Philippine Independence Day Gala Night and Dance held in Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside Hotel on June 13th, 2014. It was a gala night, so most of the crowd were wearing their best, authentic Filipino traditional attires. I’ve never seen so many people wearing variety of traditional clothes such as the “Barong Tagalog” and “Baro’t Saya” in my life. In fact, the environment felt like I was in a wedding in the 1950’s.
It was a great opportunity for me to be included in the mini fashion show. I was one of the “amateur” models to walk the runway along with my other friends. We represented the people from the Northern Cordillera region of the Philippines called the “Igorots.” As the Igorots have been struggling with ethnic discrimination as far as I can remember, the event was a fitting moment for us to showcase our traditional costumes, our traditional dance and of course, what Igorots look like physically and socially.
Prior to the event, our group arrived at the venue an hour early to practice our “walk.” I was standing by the door barefoot looking at the stage and stressing out how I was going to pull this whole thing off. The thought of tripping over my feet and embarrassing myself in front of the crowd was horrifying. It was not helping either that I had to wear heels and pretend that my calves and feet were not being tortured every now and then. As our anxiety skyrocketed, me and my friend decided to head to the bar to have some drinks to settle our nerves. However, it was useless because the buzz went away before the fashion show even started. Giving ourselves a pep talk was the best we could do to survive until the fashion show ended. And we did survive, with flying colors as a matter of fact.
Indeed, it was a surreal experience for me to pretend to walk like a “model” in front of a huge crowd. That in spite of my legs almost giving out multiple times while I was walking on the runway, I am still proud of the fact that we got the chance to show the Filipino community who we are and what our traditional costumes look like. It is an honor to wear these traditional clothes, as even I who is an Igorot rarely get the chance to wear them. The intricate beads, the “wanes” or g-string, the feather headpiece, the detailed “engay” or skirt, and the stylish, modern Igorot dresses we proudly wore and displayed in front of everyone with elegance and confidence were something to brag about. That despite having the most scarred and chunky legs, we still have the confidence to walk like Victoria’s Secret models be it on the sidewalk or on the runway. Lastly, despite being a minority group in BC, our Igorot blood running in our veins has the power to unite us in an instant to show what and who Igorots are when the situation calls for it. I call this, the versatile and fearless character of the Igorots. Mabuhay BIBAK!! 🙂