Empowered Filipinos take center stage in Europe

Published November 23, 2021, 3:58 PM

by Itchie Yap



Bern, Switzerland. Almost 173 years ago, on Nov. 28, 1848, Bern became the seat of the Swiss government, home of the Federal Authorities. Though it is not properly called “the capital of Switzerland” rather “the Federal City,” because of its perfect geographical positioning, Bern was chosen by the Swiss people to be its political center.

To be at the very center! What perfect reason for empowered Pinoys in Europe to band together and choose Bern, Switzerland as the venue for “Likhang Pinay”—the first-ever Philippine Food and Fashion Show!

Likhang Pinay: Empowered Filipinos in Europe collaborating beautifully

After 17 years in Switzerland, always introducing herself as someone who hails from the Philippines, which introduction was almost always met with a perplexed look followed by the words “where is that?,” accountant-chef Sarah Andrea Banaag decided it is time to tell everyone exactly where she is from. With partner Jennifer Leu, another empowered Pinay, they co-founded Likha Management, an event organization that showcases Europe-based Filipino artists and their crafts.

Pinays performing a cultural dance

Sarah and Jenny are convinced that the world deserves to know about Filipino artistry and craftsmanship, dahil talagang world-class ang Pinoy (because Filipinos are truly world-class)!

Before she became an accountant, having worked as a sous chef for several years at the American embassy with Chef David Lindsey who himself learned from American Chef Alice Waters, Sarah has long hoped to carry the Philippine flag through her cooking of authentic Filipino dishes, introducing the Filipino taste to foreign palates with Sarah’s Kitchen. Now, she and Jenny hold events like this to get every chance they could to let more people see the Philippines in a different light, better, brighter, and in good taste.

“Awareness Campaign. That’s what it is. We strive to make an impact on fellow Filipinos to make them feel proud of our own heritage. If we are proud of who we are and what we have, it will be easier for us to talk to other people about it. Then every Filipina becomes an ambassador for the Philippines.” Sarah hopes that her vision becomes every Filipina’s vision and that it spreads from there, together creating what one may call a “Proud Pinoy Pandemic.”

PamPinay: Bayanihan Spirit

Out of the global COVID outbreak, Europe-based Filipina social entrepreneurs, Pamela Gotangco (from Switzerland) and Christian Belaro (from the United Kingdom) joined forces to provide women in the Philippines a way to fight back the economic beating suffered by many during the pandemic. With their artistic passion, business sense, and compassionate spirits, they provided a way for Filipinas back home to earn a living under safe conditions.

Artworks by Pamela Gotangco (Photo courtesy of PamPinay)

Christian Belaro of PamPinay (left) with writer Itchie Yap (Photo courtesy of PamPinay)

The author (left) with Pamela Gotangco (Photo courtesy of PamPinay)

Propelled by a mission, they incarnated a fashion idea that they had conceptualized a couple of years back, pre-COVID. And from the marriage of Pamela’s visual artistry and Christian’s digital designs, despite the adversity and challenges of the times, three unique clothing lines were born.

  • PamPinay Collection: Designed by Pamela and digitally transformed by Christian, this is truly one “wearable art” brand. With everyday Filipino rants and expressions turned quirky quips like: “Walang Rice! (expletive)” printed on beautifully crafted tops, a Filipina anywhere in the world may now truly claim to wear one’s heart on her sleeve (or in the case of this PamPinay 2021 Fall Collection, on her back).
  • PamPinay Collaboration: The haute couture collection of this Suisse-UK-based tandem is developed in collaboration with Filipino designers based in the Philippines to give talented Filipino artisans a ticket into the global market. For this Likhang Pinay event, PamPinay collaborated with Philippine-based designer, Vorge Cunanan. The collection, dubbed as “PamPinay by Vorge Couture,” was designed by PamPinay designers and technically executed by the fashion designer collaborator.
  • Pampinay Curated Treasures: With this line, the PamPinay tandem hopes to showcase Philippine indigenous art for the world to admire. Currently, they have co-labeled with House of Abella’s Art in Ifugao, for the Ikat—a technique for dyeing fabric to create patterns and designs for weaving.

Empowered Filipinos take center stage in Europe (Photos courtesy of PamPinay)

Vorge Cunanan’s pieces (Photos courtesy of Christian Lanuzo)

This dynamic duo has truly covered every base. Every Pinay of whatever shape, size, and age can find some amazing ways to express themselves with the PamPinay clothing lines. The real gem comes with the opportunity they provide every woman, may they be Filipina, Europeans, or otherwise, with an avenue to showcase their affinity with the Philippine culture by way of peculiar fashion statements, from a fashion line that exudes quality, beauty, class, and versatility, all the while supporting Philippine local talents.

BlckCode: femme fatale en noir

Also showcased at the Likang Pinay Bern fashion show were creations by Switzerland-based Filipina designer and professional make-up artist AbCd (Abseedee Brug), who hails from Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. Branded “BlckCode” the line has emphasized the showcase theme of the evening: Women Empowerment.

There is indeed something about women in black that evokes a kind of strength in spirit, of willpower, and boldness in character. With the BlckCode segment, the venue at Reberhaus Bollingen, Bern, Switzerland on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, was transformed into a catwalk prowled by majestic felines.

As stated in their campaign, the brand “is not for the faint-hearted but it champions the women who dare to be different.”

LCL by Lionell Christian Lanuzo

The organizers opened the fashion show strongly with Pam and Christian (Belaro’s) PamPinay labels collection, and it could not have closed it any better than showcasing Philippine artistry, this time with the LCL brand of yet another Christian, Lionell Christian Lanuzo.

Milan-based, this 33-year-old originally from Pampanga, with a degree in Industrial Chemistry, has defined his own fashion style—artistic and non-conventional. Only four years into fashion design and he is already attracting much attention.

Lionell Christian Lanuzo’s designs (Photos courtesy of Christian Lanuzo)

Finding inspiration in what many of us would consider mundane, Christian Lanuzo transforms ordinary things into extraordinary art forms. Paper cups, plastic spoons, shells, wires, and even discarded cake borders are given new life through his non-verbal expression of self, breathing soul into wearable art fashion.

Lionell Christian Lanuzo’s show (Photos courtesy of Christian Lanuzo)

With his painstaking effort to always use indigenous Philippine materials and incorporate Philippine culture and arts into his designs, as Christian Lanuzo makes a name for himself, he effectively etches the Philippines on the fashion map deeper and stronger. Together with his business partner, Ramonchito Picar, a Pinoy nurse from Germany, Christian hoped that the LCL brand would trigger a wave of European awakening in Philippine culture, artistry, fashion, and design.