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With every weave and stroke, the Maria Clara blooms

By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA, The Philippine Star Published Aug 11, 2023 5:00 am

No piece in Filipino fashion tells a story of strength and tenderness such as the Maria Clara. It’s an ongoing story now being rewritten by its own wearers—the modern Filipinas who are celebrating their roots and redefining in their own way what it means to be a woman today.

The artist Aileen Lanuza has made it her career’s work to put the spectrum of the female experience onto the canvas, whether it’s with realistic Filipinianas and pop art homages, to impressionistic self-portraits and enigmatic figures in her signature floral compositions.

“Cor Rosae (The Heart Of A Rose)”

Meanwhile, Kaayo, a collective by mother-daughter Baby Montemayor and Marga Nograles, has been collaborating with women from the T’boli, B’laan, Mandaya, Bagobo Tagabawa, Tagakaolo and Ata Manobo since 2016. In this way, Kaayo has been telling the woven stories of Mindanaoan artisans in contemporary ready-to-wear, bringing our wearable heritage to the present time and to the world.

“I share the same passion as Kaayo has in maintaining our roots and bringing forth our custom indigenous weaves that are inherently Filipino,” Lanuza shares. “It is important for me in my works to highlight the best of what we are, maintaining our identity and always, bearing the power to be who we are.”


“When Abby Teotico asked us in Kaayo if we were open to this, we jumped at it as it is once again another avenue to bring our Mindanao heritage and unique Filipino identity to the world,” recalls Nograles.

“This collaboration shows that each thread, each brushstroke traces a strand of a long and rich history, woven into symphonic tapestries. Each creation carries the weight of ages past, a tale of triumph and struggle that echoes through time.”

“Dulce Melodiam (Sweet Melody)”

Working closely with Mindanaoan artisans of Kaayo, Lanuza hearkens back to our roots,

meticulously painting indigenous weaves from tribes across the region into her compositions. Filipino native blooms are far from dainty and sweet in Lanuza’s compositions. They are bold, almost as if they are exploding on canvas, as they follow the bold form and eloquence of the Maria Clara. Lanuza delineates a heritage that is not just a relic of the past but reclaiming it as a symbol of who we are.

“Solis (Sunlight)”


“A Symphony of Roots” is on view until Aug. 27 at Galerie Stephanie, 4th floor, Shangri-la Plaza East Wing, Mandaluyong City. Call +63 7940-5726 or email [email protected] for more information.