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Cultural Potpourri | A Merienda Cena before the Lockdown

A few days before the announced COVID-19 lockdown of Davao City, the Honorary Consul of Bangladesh and Davao’s respected icon for Education and Fashion, madame Purita Arsenia “Joji” Ilagan-Bian, decided on having a special merienda cena. The afternoon treat was some sort of a thanksgiving for talented Davaoenos who have shone ever so brightly in their respective fields of expertise in the past few months.

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First on Joji’s guest list was the veteran designer, Alfonso “Boy” Guinoo, who is Davao’s sovereign fashion designer for five generations of Davaoenas. Joji Ilagan-Bian has always shown her devotion to this best dressed senior citizen of Davao City. For more than half-a-century now, tito Boy never fails to enthral and mesmerize ordinary mortals with his own unique brand of glamour style. Tito Boy is definitely Davao’s legendary fashion maker of an icon who has dressed his favorite muse Joji Ilagan-Bian in fabulous gowns embellished with colorful feathers in various lengths plucked from various birds of prey; and of course the matching headdresses enough to make the ever devoted “Guinoo Ko” fashion mannequin standout like she’s the Queen of Ladislawa. Bow!

Happily, my palangga Ann Tiukinhoy-Pamintuan is also in town and made it to the merienda cena despite her very busy schedule welding her sculptural artworks. The glorious Ann Tiukinhoy-Pamintuan is, of course, the multi-awarded furniture, home accessories and jewelry designer. This fine artiste distinguishes herself as the first Asian woman designer to be included in the prestigious International Design Yearbook which is a survey of the best furniture, lighting, textile and product designs found around the world. Despite Ann’s many labor-intensive projects in Luzon, she finds time in giving attention to a proposed project she is doing for the Redemptorist Church of Davao City. God bless you always, dear Ann.

Yes, the merienda cena was moved to a later schedule owing to our love for businesswoman, Magdalena “Lena” Atilano- Benedicto, who we had to wait for to accomplish her business trip in Manila. Lena was popularly adored as the disco queen of sorts when DIs (dance instructors) were so popular then with the dancing matronas of Davao who could afford their fees. Why even madame Dionesia consults with dear Lena when it comes to the best dance instructors in town. But this lovable woman’s business savvy has made an indelible culinary mark in Davao City with her Patok sa Manok, Golden Brown Specialties, Rekado, and the recently opened Mr. & Mrs. B.
One product of the JIB Schools madame Joji is proud of is international fashion designer Sherwin Darrel Magtulis. Sherwin has returned to the Philippines after honing his haute couture skills in China and Saudi Arabia for years. The Ilonggo-speaking fashion designer, who is from Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, was named by Illustrado Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf who have elevated the Filipino people as game changers in its advocacy “towards championing the image of Filipinos abroad.” Sherwin has a fashion house called “Tenue de Soiree” located at the North Zen Hotel along Sobrecarey Street, Davao City, and another one in Makati City. Sherwin works closely with the lumads of Sultan Kurdarat in producing beautifully handwoven fabrics of life which he uses for his Mindanaoan high fashion collection.

It was Sherwin Darrel who actually told me that the tall and handsome mestizo named Christopher “Toping” Lim Zamora was actually a popular model of Davao City years before he became a fashion designer himself. A Fashion Design graduate of the Philippine Women’s College in 2017 (his second course), the talented Toping was the Grand Prix Winner of the Kadayawan Ball (2018); the Grand Prize Winner of the Stellar Young Designers Competition (2019); and the lone Mindanaoan finalist in the Cultural Center of the Philippines/Bench TernoCon 2020 Competition. This conscientious fashion designer collaborates and promotes a creative community among the B’laan weavers of Kiblaawan, Davao del Sur, and the Bagobo-Tagabawa weavers of Lubogan, Toril.

Finally, but definitely not the least, on Joji and my guest list were young Davao judo athletes Sydney and Chino Tancontian, who won medals for the Philippines in the 30th Southeast Asian Games. These committed young athletes are presently freshmen athletic scholars of the University of Sto. Tomas. Both are aiming for a degree in Sports Science. I have watched ever so proudly these two judokas grow up like they were my own nephew and niece. It’s always such a joy for me when they come to visit me.

That afternoon, we shared lots of laughter and food; and tito Boy’s love confessions. Joji brought with her chef Patrick Co’s Phad Thai from the Asian Cow; plus Cecile’s fried lumpia ubod and sweet biko. Lena came with desserts from Mr. & Mrs. B; while I offered them my family’s pancit molo, chicken potato salad, and Joji’s request of palitao and siopao which I got from Kuilan’s. Thank you, dear Ann Tiukinhoy-Pamintuan for the gorgeous lamp; and tito Boy for the vintage jewelry box.

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