Fashioning Mindanao

Moda Mindanaw is an annual designer’s competition that pushes local, tribal fabrics forward to mainstream fashion. Seen here, the cocktail dress entries of the Mindanao designers.

IT WAS coffee that brought me to SM City, a place I haven’t been to in ages. Call it fated as a montage of highly embellished clothes met me at the hall reminding me of the fashion event happening the next day—ModaMindanaw.

ModaMindanaw has been part of the Kadayawan festival for years now along with the other events that celebrate the culture of the tribes of Mindanao— the Hiyas ng Kadayawan, street dancing competition, tribal sports, food festival, etc.

As the season brought forth the bountiful harvest and the blooms, designers from all over the island and their creation flooded the competition venue with the hopes of bagging the title and the rewards that come along with it.

Prior to pageant night, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the clothes on display as the judges inspected the entries and cast their pre-judging scores. From the array, it was evident that two dresses, a cocktail dress and an evening gown, will win—if I was to judge. The designs had the discipline, the craftsmanship, the wearability (at least the cocktail dress, the longer was avant-garde as it was what the category called for—still, it was wearable), a modern yet modish appeal, and the designer having an eye to edit what to present. Probably with proper/more mentorship, the designers can go places.

From the bust form to the ramp. From the pre-judging stage these two were evidently going to bag the prize. 
Dressed to impress. The winning designs for Cocktail Dress & Long Gown categories.

One of the criteria states that Mindanaoan fabric should be utilized in creating the dress, all the designers abided by the rule. But counting in the two other scoring categories, stage presence and audience impact, the “shock factor” came into play. Time and again, the “the more, the merrier” formula keeps finding its way in majority of the designer’s entries, making them too costume-y for the clothes’ intended purpose.

On the other hand, if it is purely for show creation and it is what ModaMindanaw is asking/searching for then the contestants have succeeded in their designs.

Long gown design competition. Which one would you wear to your next gala?

This year’s crop, both the up and coming as well as seasoned designers, from all over Mindanao undoubtedly had the talent. A little more exposure in the bigger field, in and out of competition, can help in creating their next contest pieces, perhaps designs than can be worn in real life soirees. Take a hint from the recent State of the Nation address where one congressional wife took the Ifugao fabric and incorporated it into the design of Filipiniana dress. That can certainly be a peg to a wearable evening, formal garb. If it needs to be up on stage to compete then go play with the texture and finish if needed to draw out gasps from the audience.

Moda Mindanaw 2014 winners & their designs.

But this is just me speaking my mind. I would love to see a Mindanaoan figure truly make it to the roster of the country’s, if not the world, list of best designers. Keep up the good work everyone. ModaMindanaw may just be the avenue for this.

All photos by Kenneth Hao

For more lifestyle and travel stories, visit and

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 02, 2014.