‘Philippine Tapestry’ goes to Philadelphia

Rain-soaked fashion show at City Hall highlights Filipino fashion, culture

Intermittent rains and inclement weather did not dampen the spirits of guests and community members who trooped to the Philadelphia City Hall Courtyard on Wednesday, May 16 to attend the Pennsylvania leg of the Philippine Tapestry Fashion Show.

The Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs (MCAAA) partnered with the Philippine Department of Tourism to host the fashion show featuring the work and design of world-class fashion designer Renee Salud.

John Chin, Executive Director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and Chair of the Commission welcomed the guests to the evening’s festivities and introduced Philadelphia’s Mayor James Kenney who delivered a short speech.
Mayor Kenney welcomed the guests to the event and thanked them for being “so strong and hardy to be out on this weather.”

“You’re all troopers!,” Mayor Kenney said as he talked about the collaboration between the city and the Philippine Department of Tourism and how this event was also held in celebration of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. “We welcome the cross-cultural exchange that promotes a deeper understanding between Philadelphia and the Philippines.”

The mayor also said that the Filipino community’s population in Philadelphia is growing as he took the opportunity to thank them for helping enrich the cultural fabric of the city and for their contributions to Philadelphia’s progress.

Mayor Kenney then presented ceremonial Liberty Bells to Minister Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga, representing Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Renee Salud.
The show featured various facets of Filipino heritage through indigenous fabrics and weaves of major regions of the country.

“This one is definitely for the books and is on my list of the most challenging fashions shows we have staged ever,” a smiling Renee Salud told us backstage. “And this is why you work with professional models who are trained properly and who know how to react (when) given these difficult situations.”

It has been raining intermittently in the city since Tuesday and according to forecast, there was about 60 to 70 percent chance of rain on Wednesday afternoon, leading up to the outdoor event.

Tents were put up over the stage and the runway on Wednesday morning, along with the VIP area for the reception prior to the show. Everything was held in the courtyard of the Philadelphia City Hall.

“In spite of the rain, the Philippine Tapestry Fashion Show was a huge success! Our local Filipino community came together and was extremely proud of this moment. We had a strong turnout from the Filipino community with the embassy and consulate also supporting,” said Brad Baldia, President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce of PA & Southern NJ. “I was so proud to see such a major production of the Philippines supported by the city.”

Baldia, a member of PA Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs said he appreciates the efforts poured into the event, held in the city hall’s grand courtyard, no less.

“From stunning backdrops of the Philippines, gorgeous clothing designs with dancers and moving music, it was great for myself and other Filipinos in the Greater Philadelphia area to see the very best of the Philippines and share it with the mainstream,” he shared.

Parts of the stage were wet and there were disruptions in the flow of the show when water would fall from the edges of the makeshift tent and drench the audience members seated, some with their umbrellas already protecting them from the wind gust and rain.

The event aimed to gather various stakeholders and community members to build awareness about the Filipino culture and the strong community in Philadelphia and despite the nasty weather, about a hundred community leaders and friends in the Asian American community attended.

For the models, it was business as usual.

The ladies in particular worked the runway wearing their high heels and long-train evening gowns and dresses, the heaviest of which weighs about 33 pounds (15 kilograms).

From the makeshift backstage area, they would walk and run and avoid the puddles that have formed throughout the afternoon to climb a set of stairs with an assistant carrying a golf umbrella to prevent them from getting wet.

“Doing a show under the rain is pretty much challenging,” shared one of the models, Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International 2016, Leren Mae Bautista. “But what keeps me going is the thought that I’m doing this for the love of my country and for those people
behind Philippine Tapestry. Rain won’t stop us!”

Angelee de los Reyes, Miss Philippines Earth 2013, echoed Bautista’s sentiments.

“It was my first time to walk on the ramp outdoor and raining… one for the books,” she said. “What we were thinking of was that we still had to show the beauty of the Philippines and give justice to Mama Renee Salud’s creations, and everyone’s effort for the entertainment and happiness of the people who were watching despite the rain.”

Emmy Award-winning reporter Christie Ileto of ABC6 Philadelphia, host of the event shared on her social media account some behind the scenes photos and clips of the models running and prepping backstage, including her favorite looks on the runway.

She also expressed astonishment as to how the models – some wearing 6-inch heels, could effortlessly walk the partly wet runway.

Other guests had positive reactions about the event and the show in particular.

“The show was awesome and the participants did a wonderful job despite the weather challenges. Proud that we are able to showcase our authentic fabrics and the beautiful creations of our own Renee Salud in Philadelphia,” said Dr. Aida Rivera, Region I chair of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations. “The venue set up was not ideal but the show still turned out to be classy. My hats off to the beautiful models for being so professional, the weather not withstanding.”

“This was a good opportunity to promote the Philippines in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly affection. The timing is perfect as we are celebrating the AAPI month, a great tradition we keep in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with the Filipino community as a vibrant component,” Dr. Rivera added.

“Tonight’s event at City Hall to showcase Philippine Tapestry Fashion Show was absolutely spectacular! Renee Salud is amazing with his talent and skills and the models were magical,” said Sheila Hess, city representative. “I didn’t even realize it was raining anymore as I was captivated by the videos highlighting tourism in the Philippines and the outstanding performances of the runway models.”

The Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs comprises of 25 professionals and community leaders that represent the diversity of Asian American Communities in Philadelphia.

The Commission advises the Mayor on issues and policies pertinent to Asian communities in the city, ensures diversity and inclusion for Asian communities within city policies, and also assists Asian American community organizations in developing strategies and programs to enhance the social, cultural, and economic status of the Asian American community.

Grace Rustia, Associate State Director, AARP Pennsylvania State Office sits as the Vice Chair of the commission, and was instrumental in partnering with Tourism Attache Susan del Mundo of the Philippine Department of Tourism to bring the show to the City of Brotherly Love.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf sent his representative to the event, Tiffany Chang Lawson, executive director of Governor Wolf’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.

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