Monday, August 4, 2008


STRIKE A POSE. Students of Salgado Fashion School--aspiring purveyors of beauty--with the school founder, Florencia Salgado. At the San Fernando school, girls learned the fine art of fashion designing, beauty culture and hair science. ca. 1946.

Kapampangan women, like all daughters of Eve, love to dress up and strut their stuff, making statements with the latest fashions and style. The pre-War economic boom brought about a new level of prosperity to Kapampangans allowing women to indulge in a bit of vanity, including resources to pursue her personal interests for beauty, fashion and grooming.

Alta sociedad events of yore have often served as centerstages for a Kapampangan lady to strut her stuff and display her sense of style. To be seen in her best finery in one of Pampanga’s socio-civic balls like those staged by El Circulo Fernandino is definitely one of the most flattering experiences she could ever have. It was a must then for a modern Kapampangan to be abreast of the latest trends in fashion and beauty, and for these, she turned to the known fashion schools of Pampanga.

R. T. Paras is perhaps the most notable fashion house established by a Kapampangan. It was put up by the enterprising Roberta Tablante Paras, a woman of extraordinary talent and character, very much ahead of her times. Roberta was one of the daughters of Modesto Paras, a former juez de paz (justice of the peace) of Culiat. Her dressmaking skills were recognized early. But a romantic liaison with a married doctor caused her to be disowned; she fled to Manila and open a small dressmaking shop in Binondo in 1902 and in Quiapo in 1912.

Slowly but surely, she built her business while building a list of prominent clients, that would come to include First Lady Aurora Aragon Quezon. Roberta’s daughter by the doctor, Josefina, acquired her mother’s skills and business acumen, establishing R. T. Paras as one of the country’s most popular couture shops in the 40s and 50s. Josefina’s son, Froilan “Roy” Gonzales would later graduate at the top of his class at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and, at age 22, would join the House of Pierre Cardin in Paris as a designer in the early ‘60s. He would eventually also become head designer for Jean Patou and Leocanent-Hemant. He came home to head R.T.Paras Haute Couture which has become a name synonymous with excellence in the domain of high quality wedding gowns, corporate attire, suits and formal wear.

In San Fernando, Florencia Salgado Paloma was another trailblazer who put up the famous Salgado Fashion School in the 1940s. It had a complete curriculum, offering courses in dressmaking, beauty culture and hair science. The school boasted of the international credentials of its instructors—one, Miss Erlinda Miranda, had “just arrived from America where she graduated from Hollywood hair science and beauty culture in New York”--as a signboard proclaimed. The founder herself was educated in France. Florencia’s son, Albert Paloma, inherited his mother’s creative genes and is an accomplished interior designer, artist and art connoisseur.

In the 70s and 80s, Gang Hizon Gomez and Efren Ocampo, both of San Fernando, made their own distinctive marks in the Philippine fashion scene. Gomez (now Dom Martin) created haute couture for Manila’s 400, while Ocampo found success in the RTW business, and is still active today. Sisters Peanut and Patis Tesoro, who trace their roots to the Pamintuans of Angeles, are also recognized couturiers noted for weaving in traditional materials into modern creations. Indeed, if there is one thing that never goes out of style, it is the Kapampangan’s passion for fashion.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")


Doddie Tayag Batac said...

Greetings! This is a great blog. As a "kapampangan" who is extremely proud of my heritage, I am happy to learn more about Pampango culture. I would, however, like to make a correction: Roberta Paras established her Binondo shop in 1902 (not 1912). In fact the house celebrated its centennial at the NBC Tent in 2002. The year 1912 was when her daughter, Josefina (Inang), was born.

Josefina's son, Roy, asked me to inform you of this error. We are glad, however, that you have chronicled these events. Thank you very much.

alex r. castro said...

Hi, Thanks for calling my attention to the correct date. I will correct the date immediately. I still have the 1960s Sunday Times Magazine write-up about Roy.A great Kapampangan talent!

doddie tayag batac said...

Thanks for the correction. Roy is flying back to Paris today... I'll tell him you've made the correction. I'm sure he'll be glad to hear of it. Keep it up...

alex r. castro said...

Hi again, now here's an interesting tidbit. my mother, a Del Rosario from Angeles City, actually enrolled at the dressmaking school of Roy's mother, Josefina. My mom, who is 80, is still adept with the needle and sewing machine, thanks to Apung Inang.

jane po said...

terrific blog.

btw, doddie, capatad na cang roberta? tabalu nung atatandanan mu cu pa. acu i jane po, matalic nang caluguran from grade school. paquicumusta mu cu.

doddie tayag batac said...

(Sorry, I haven't checked back here since September)

@ jane po: Roberta is my elder sister and she currently resides in Sweden. I'll pass a link to this page to her; maybe you two could link up.

@ Alex: I'll ask the old timers if they remember your mom. She might even have been a contemporary of my mom, (the late) Lolita Tayag, or my aunt Pining. Very few of them are still around, you know, I'm happy to hear your mother still is.

alex r. castro said...

My mother has a great memory. She even recalled for me the drowning death of Roy's only brother (is this correct?) Sadly, this December, she was diagnosed with a very serious illness. My mom's best friend was the late Mang Nila Tayag. I myself was a high school classmate of Claude Tayag. Many thanks for your comments.