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Cebu Fashion Designer Malayka Yamas Shares Meaning Behind Steffi Aberasturi’s National Costume

Malayka Yamas uses humble strips of palm for a gown with a dramatic reveal.

Rattan isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for material to make a beauty queen’s national costume. But that’s exactly what Cebu fashion designer Malayka Yamas saw in the humble strips of palm.

As the story goes, Malayka and Miss Universe Philippines Cebu Province representative (and fierce walker) Steffi Rose Aberasturi were traveling to Sogod, Northern Cebu, when they chanced upon roadside vendors selling decorative baskets made of rattan. “Ininterview ni Steffi ang mga rattan weavers tungkol sa small businesses nila, ako naman tingin ng tingin [sa mga basket. Inisip ko] parang mas maganda gawin itong costume.”     

Thus began the two-week process of creating the gold terno, one of the most striking national costumes of the recent Miss Universe Philippines 2021. Malayka tells My Pope Philippines what went into the gown’s making and why this designer doesn’t shy away from unconventional materials.

Rattan is a challenging material

Cebu Fashion Designer Malayka Yamas Shares Meaning Behind Steffi Aberasturi's National Costume
Queen maker and designer Malayka Yamas shares the materials used in the making of Steffi Aberasturi’s national costume in a Facebook post. (Photos from Malayka Yamas Facebook)

According to the designer, the material was so stiff, Steffi couldn’t even sit when she wore the gown. How Malayka achieved the graceful curves and intricate curlicues of the armor-type terno? With heat, which makes rattan pliant.

Gold lame was used for the skirt and a flesh-colored tulle served as the lining of the rattan top. A zipper that ran all the way down to the hips allowed Steffi to get into the gown with relative ease.

The costume included a dramatic reveal

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Steffi Aberasturi (@steffiaberasturi)

From the videos of her practicing in the gown, Steffi begins her walk in a short, bright red electric-pleated skirt with floral appliques. With a quick tug on the waist and a spin, the short red skirt becomes the lining of a long, gold draped trumpet skirt.

The costume holds a special meaning to Steffi and Malayka

The costume was made from rattan courtesy of the local weavers of Sogod town, in northern Cebu, which is also Steffi’s way of promoting local business in line with her advocacy as Cebu’s “Queendera.” (Photos from Malayka Yamas Facebook)

For Steffi, a self-proclaimed Queendera (a fusion of “Queen” and “tindera,” it means seller) who champions local businesses, the gown “pays homage to a traditional Cebuano livelihood that’s been more profound during the pandemic–rattan weaving,” she said in a report.

“During a trip to the north of Cebu, I, along with mother @malayka, had the chance to meet the rattan weavers of Sogod, whose stories of hope inspired me. A legacy of immense craftsmanship that’s been continued from generation to generation has been revived and given a modern take by the new generation of weavers. This represents how Cebuanos honor the past by using it to move forward, adapt, and innovate a better future.”

For Malayka, the gown celebrates 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines through the colors of the Señor Sto Niño. The designer happens to be a devotee and has been designing costumes for the popular Sinulog Festival and Sinulog Festival Queen for over 20 years. “Yearly panata ko na ‘to,” says Malayka. 

The designer is no stranger to unconventional materials.

Photos courtesy of Malayka Yamas

Malayka, who has designed for many of Cebu’s beauty pageant contestants, used a guitar as inspiration for a gown worn by a candidate from Mandaue City.  The designer has also created a terno top and crown made of capiz shells, and fashioned a fabulous gown detailed with paper pleats. “’Yung iba pare-pareho ang dating,” says Malayka. “Gusto ko naman maiba.”

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