• Banana fashion from the republic • Angono artist holds painting workshops

Dita’s obi-style top uses dyed banana fiber

Designer Dita Sandico Ong, known for her diaphanous banana fiber — or abaca — clothing collection opened an exhibit, With a Touch of Green, at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center on March 15. The lobby exhibit runs through April 8.

Dita has worked vigorously for the past 25 years, enjoying a reputation for being one of the Philippines’ most culturally aware designers, engaged in contemporary and modern design. Her fashion statement is to promote national pride, cultural awareness and sustainable, ecologically aware design. Nowhere is her commitment to showcasing the ingenuity of Filipino fashion more visible than in her use of the abaca fiber.

“Banana fiber from the Philippines is the best fiber in the world,” said Ong. “It is the strongest in the world as well. With this abaca-inspired fashion, we are getting back to basics in promoting environmental awareness, and we are further raising the bar in terms of high-end fashion which will encourage other countries to have a more acute appreciation for Philippine culture.”

Dita’s trademark ‘lukot’ line and ‘paru-paro’ wraps have reinvented Philippine fashion, while preserving its essence: the sheer fabric-on-fabric, layer-on-layer esthetic of traditional Filipiniana. She has collaborated with indigenous communities, creating designs that promote sustainable livelihood projects, particularly in fishing villages in Baras, Catanduanes.

Descended from a family of retailers, Dita’s love for the arts landed her at prestigious fine arts studies programs at the University of the Philippines and the Tobe-Coburn School in New York where she pursued studies in fashion merchandising. She then went on to become president and designer of her own clothing company named Cache Apparels, and worked as a fiber consultant for the Center for International Trade Missions. In 2010 CITEM showcased the Ten Best Fiber-Producing Companies at the International Gift Show in Tokyo. Additionally, she has exhibited in France, Denmark, Finland, Singapore and Hungary.

Dita aspires to showcase her collection to the global market. Green is the theme of her new line. She said the theme “alludes to the act of planting a seed, an idea, inspiration to return to one’s roots, where new goals can grow and lead to newer and better paths.” Dita’s exhibition has already caught the eye of the New York Metropolitan Opera, which has purchased a few of her abaca items.


Peter Paul's still life

Peter Paul P. Blanco of the famous Blanco family of painters based in Angono, Rizal, will conduct two workshops on still life painting to be held April 9 and 16 in Jersey City and May 7 and 14 in New York City. Blanco will teach the basic skills in oil painting, including how to paint cast shadows and simple forms and how to understand warm and cool colors as well as composition, cropping, and overlapping of forms on the picture pane.

The first workshop (April 9 and 16, 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.) will be held at the University Charter High School in Jersey City. It is sponsored by the Philippine American Friendship Committee-Community Development Center. The Philippine Consulate General will sponsor the second workshop (May 7 and 14, 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.) at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue.

Blanco has exhibited his colorful paintings at international events such as the 2006 Arts and Music Festival in SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City; the First Nanyang Art and Food Festival at the Xiamen Culture and Art Center in China in 2008; the 1992 World Exposition in Spain; and the “Biennale” art exhibit in Havana, Cuba in 1986. He also exhibited his earlier works at the Philippine Center in New York in 1999 and 2005 during the Blanco Family Painting exhibitions. He is youngest artist to exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He is currently an art teacher, administrative officer and member of the board of directors at the Blanco Family Academy in Angono.

A graduate of the School of Fine Art at the Academy of Arts University in San Francisco, Blanco won first place in Spring Show Painting Competition (Still Life) in San Francisco.

The workshops are open to ages 9 and above, but seats are limited. For more information, contact PAFCOM’s Helen Castillo at 201-920-944, Gani Puertollano at 908-230-6468 or email addresses pafcom2011@yahoo.com and hbongon@njcu.edu. For the second workshop, contact Marievic Dimaculangan of the Philippine Consulate at 212-819-9655 or masdimaculangan@aol.com. Participants are requested to bring their own art materials.

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