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If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.”

– Margaret Mead

Bangala Fashion Fair
Photo by Artsie Otic Photography

Sporting a hijab on a runway is not the first in the world. In May, models with headscarves and conservative silk gowns resembling Muslim customary outfits dominated the catwalks in New York during the 2016 Istanbul Modest Fashion Week. Also, the 30-year-old Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan made history when she courageously awed fashion aficionados with hijab-wearing models with her Spring Summer ’17 Collection D’Jakarta.

Bangala Fashion FAir
Photo by Artsie Otic Photography

The rise of the conservative and modest Muslim garb in the limelight had long been drawing controversies, religious and political, as hijab alone suggests drawing attention away from the wearer. It is meant to cover the skin of the women. Thus, the fashion trend is a complete opposite.

However, the issues unfazed the flourishing of the fashion trend. It was even amplified by the advent of social media, the basic tool used by Muslim trendsetters from across the globe, such as the “Hijabis of Instagram” which was featured in the 1st Bangala Fashion Fair last December 15, 2016 in Cotabato City, Philippines. It was an experience new to me as well as of the country.

Bangala Fashion FAir
Photo by Artsie Otic Photography

I and my fellow Davao-based influencers and media friends were invited to witness the fashion fair. We rode a private van and it took us almost six hours from Davao City to Cotabato City, a community of 299, 438 residents as of 2015 in which eighty percent (80%) are Muslims.

Bangala Fashion Fair
Photo by Yasmin Ali Manongkareng

You would that know you are already in Cotabato City when you pass by Rio Grande de Mindanao, one of the largest water system in the Philippines, and of course, the presence of Muslim women in their hijabs. The scarves covering their head except for their faces, or at least eyes, seemed usual. It is just like how we casually wear our shirts or pants. Staple and basic.

Not until I looked closely at the minimalist details. Some wear hijabs with designs from as simple as a plain, dark or pastel-colored soft cloth to a bit intricate as dainty embroidery or sequin-accented hems that glimmer at the struck of a sunshine. I inferred, for a fashion, why not?

Bangala Fashion Fair
Photo by Ian Garcia

The Shariff Kabunsuan Festival and the 1st Bangala Fashion Fair

The 1st Bangala Fashion Fair is part of the city’s celebration of the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival – the annual homage to Shariff Muhammad Kabunsuan, an Arab missionary from Johore who stepped into the soils of now-known as Cotabato City and planted the seeds of Islam in 16th century.

Bangala Fashion FAir
Photo by MIA Sounds and Lights

Shariff Kabunsuan sailed through the Masla Pulangi or the Rio Grande de Mindanao, which stretches an estimated 182 kilometers long and 96 meters wide. He also established the Sultanates of Maguindanao, Rajah Buayan and Kabuntalan. Source: PhilippineCountry.com.

Recognizing its roots, the local government launched for the first time, the Bangala or the traditional dresses of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Bangala Fashion Fair
Photo by Valerie Ann P. Lambo

In the fashion fair, the models flaunted their fashionable hijabs and an array of colorful trousers, flowing tunics, gowns in traditional and luxurious fabrics and detailed embroidery, the distinctive designs of Hijab Ambassadors of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

All designs were meticulously weaved from piece to piece. Every detail of the dress was flawlessly sewn to create a completely stunning look making the Islam Fashion the next new thing in the fashion industry.

Bangala Fashion Fair
Photo by Ian Garcia

My personal favorite is the collections of Alfred Yee. He incorporated Yakan embroidery with detailed hand-sewed silver tapestries. He also made use of Inaul and T’nalak as part of his dresses. It was really an authentic Filipino design.

Hijabis of Instagram: Champions of Islam Fashion

Bangala Fashion FAir
Photo by Escape Manila

The inspiration for a fashionable hijab was mainstreamed by the Hijabis of Instagram. They are the Muslim women who believed that their piece of headgear becomes a self-expression other than religious or political assertion, that it could also complete a women’s ensemble of OOTDs (Outfits of the Day).

The Hijabis of Instagram are empowered Muslim women who brought the Islamic fashion to the next level by showcasing their sense of style and creativity in social media networks such as the photo-sharing site, Instagram. Their influence has dominated the world of Islamic fashion.

On her Instagram account, Dian Pelangi (@dianpelangi) of Indonesia posted her OOTDs of Muslim traditional dresses which inspired 4.8 million followers. And her collection, which is a mix of pastel-colored silk dresses and drapes, demanded attention from the crowd present during the show. An epitome of modern Islam women, Pelangi is one of Indonesia’s modest fashion icons. Her influence reached even to the Western fashion world. Her intricate designs were already shown in London Bulgari Show and London Fashion Week.

Other fashion-setters present in the event are Indah Nada Puspita of Indonesia, Shea Rasol (@shearasol), and Dayah Bakar (@dayahbakar) of Malaysia.

The country’s very own hijab ambassador Ammarah Dumama (@ammarahsahara), a native in Cotabato also joined the roster of well-known hijabi women. She is a blogger, events specialist, photo enthusiast, and an international WHD ambassador. Filipino designers Pepe Quitco and Wilfred Yee also showcased their designs. The show was an overwhelming display of elegance and modesty in style.

Bangala Fashion Fair
Photo by Artsie Otic Photography

Bangala Fashion Fair (“bangala” is a Maguindanaoan term of dress), is an international fashion and textile event organized by the Department of Tourism-XII and the Local Government Unit of Cotabato City, in collaboration with the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), and the Bureau of Cultural Heritage-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BCH-ARMM).

BIMP-EAGA made Shariff Kabunsuan Festival Celebration grander

The event boosted the Shariff Kabunsuan Festival’s cultural experiences by promoting the weaves of the people of Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) as well as raising the economic potentials of the region.

The garments and textiles used were Asian silk, Batik, Syabit, Inaul, Yakan, Tabih, and T’nalak of the BIMP-EAGA nations.

The BIMP-EAGA celebrates with the people of Cotabato by bringing the colorful cultures of ASEAN countries to its runway, putting Cotabato City on the map as one diversified center of culture and tradition in the region.

The BIMP-EAGA is very important for Cotabato City because we have already established a relationship with these countries back in the ancient times. Remember that our forefathers are of Malay blood and Shariff Kabunsuan himself is also a native of Malaysia,” Cotabato City Mayor Atty. Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said in a statement.

Sayadi said it is at the right time that the festival’s theme expands to the culture and tradition of brother ASEAN nations.

As of the moment, Cotabato is starting its commitment towards ASEAN integration in the future.

More than the religious and political implications of the show, the event was a celebration of colorful cultures of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) and a strengthening of cultural and economic ties with the BIMP-EAGA nations.

Bangala Fashion Fair
Photo by Valerie Ann P. Lambo