Sunday, December 16, 2007


KASANTING DA RENG BAINTAU! Well-to-do Kapampangans during the American rule dressed in the de riguer daywear: stiff collar, tie, vest and a white Americana suit with matching white baston pants. Even the subject of this photo signed off with an Americanized name: Frank Ocampo. Dated 1924.
Our taste for fashion defines not just our individuality but also our collective cultural identity as one nation. Today, it is the unkempt , metrosexual, long-hair look that’s the hit of the season, no doubt promoted by the Taiwanese ├╝bergroup F4 and TV pre-Superman’s Tom Welling. Out on the streets, under the sweltering sun, you will meet male teens in bleached jeans, elephant pants, loose long sleeved shirts matched with a knitted bonnet or skullcap, bowling shoes and messenger bags.

Apparently, after all these years, nothing has changed in so far as assimilating fashion trends is concerned. Then, as now, youngsters looked to the West to inspire and build the contents of their wardrobe. At the height of our Hispanization, young men—especially of the mestizo and ilustrado stock—displayed their unabashed loyalty to Spain by donning European fashions that were oftentimes incompatible with the tropical heat. In the 1890s, they had opted to trade the wide Chinese-looking pants in favor of a pantalon de fina lana. On their head sat a more comfortable Bowler hat (Rizal wore one to his execution). They now also wore imported shirts which they tucked into their pants and strutted around like a peacock in their pointed leather shoes while brandishing a silver-tipped baston (swagger stick). Under the heat of the sun, they slicked their moustache to a curl with pomade and parted their hair in the middle, a trademark Cachupoy look the comedian popularized many years later.

But such fashions were to change dramatically with the coming of our new colonial masters, the Americans, who brought a whole cabinet of stylistic influences that would hasten the Americanization of our Philippine dressing tradition.

“Sajonista” was a term for Americanized Filipinos who took to the new ways like the proverbial duck to water. Initial hatred and fear of the damned Yanquis slowly changed to fond affection, especially when the policy of “benevolent assimilation” , which sounded so sincere to many Filipinos, was introduced. Youngsters didn’t just infect their speech with American twang but also adapted the fashions of “Modern Youth” and the “Young Generation”.

For the first 3 decades of American rule, the educated Kapampangan elite wore white baston pants, white shirts and a long tie with the new white Americana that had open, thin lapels (as opposed to the closed americana cerrada). For Manila school boys, only primera clase (first class) suiting materials bought from Paris Manila would do. Young Kapampangan boys, however, trooped to local tailoring shops in San Fernando to have their suits made, the popular choices being the shop of C. Hugo, the “Gentlemen’s Tailor Modernist and P.G. Tuazon Gentleman’s Tailor (“Fit and Elegance Characterize our Work”). In nearby Angeles, one could go to Cunanan’s Tailoring managed by master cutter Aproniano Cunanan, Angeles Fashion and A.D. Fajardo’s Tailoring (“Espesyalista ya qng Pamanabas at Pamiayus qng Imalan. Migcamit yang Diploma qng Sartorial Academy of the Philippines” ).

For the latest in sharp-pointed shoes, the places to visit were El 96 in Angeles, Zapateria de la Moda y Bazar of Alejo T. Roque (“Matibe, Mura at Masanting”), Zapateria Popular, Zapateria Miranda and Zapateria Moderna in San Fernando, established in 1907. Accessories like hats were sourced from Bazar L. Magat which sold varias clases sombrero del pais y extranjero (various kinds of local and imported hats).

By the 1930s, the Aguinaldo crew cut was a thing of the past. Instead, young men opted for the well-groomed Valentino look with hair parted in the middle (or left or right.), plastered with Tarzan, Tres Flores or Verbena pomade.At the start of a new decade, Kapampangans emulated the Jazz Era look popular in U.S. campuses: super -wide bell-bottomed pants worn with flannel scarves. Favorite khakis continued to be worn in the 1940s but for formal events, young men shifted to double-breasted American suits made of sharkskin, a look our glamor stars like Rogelio de la Rosa frequently sported.

Today, traditional Philippine costumes like the barong are worn only on special occasions like weddings, funerals, or during cultural shows. But it seems that our vain Kapampangan menfolk, whether attired in an Americana, a camisa chino, tie-dyed T-shirt, an Armani suit, a punky leather jacket, Banlon polyesters or even in a Bench underwear —can carry it all with confidence and aplomb, proof that when it comes to all-time porma, the Kapampangan is second to none.

1 comment:

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