If you have attended a Filipino fiesta or formal party, you probably have seen a Maria Clara gown. More and more Canadians are getting to know the Philippines, as we meet Filipinos at work, at school, at church, in the hospital, or places of business. Philippines is currently one of top 5 Canadian source of immigration, following China which is ranked number 1 source. Followed by India, Pakistan and the United States.
Over 500,000 Filipinos are currently residing in Canada, settling in major cities such as Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver where there are Filipino communities. Many of the Filipinos work in the health industry, as nurses, caregivers, and nannies.
During festive occasions, Filipinos who normally prefer to wear modern western gowns in the Philippines, now long to wear the traditional Barong Tagalog for men and Maria Clara gowns for women. After all, China has its Cheongsam, India has its Sari, so why not.
What is the Maria Clara terno (gown)? It is an outfit named after Maria Clara, the protagonist in Jose Rizal’s book Noli Me Tangere written in 1890. It symbolizes the qualities of being delicate, feminine, self-assured and having a strong sense of identity. In other words, it is named after a literary figure.
The Maria Clara terno has evolved over the years, the main characteristics being its sleeves, shaped like bells with cuffs, sometimes know as “angel wings”. It is made of fine and translucent materials, usually of pineapple fiber and jusi. Imelda Marcos popularized the Maria Clara terno wearing different outfits each time she visited foreign countries. In this photo when she visited the United States, it was reported that she found it patriotic to look good in her Maria Clara gowns.
The gown can come in many colors, the color Filipinos wear tends to reflect the colorful flowers in their countries. However, Maria Clara gown in Western countries look best when worn in pastel, nude or cream colors as shown in Princess Kate outfit above.