This clothing shop in Intramuros champions Philippines history, one shirt at a time

Better make a stop at Pilibustero on your next Intramuros trip

One of the best ways to study Philippine history is by looking at past clothing attitudes. First, there were the indigenous pieces such as the bahag, malong, and other items made of local weaves. When the Spaniards came, camisa tops and saya skirts became the fashion norm for women and men donned more intricate versions of the barong. Toward the 1920s, the butterfly sleeves or the terno began its rise, a design that combines Western and Filipino styles. 

Today, during a time when history is being distorted by false information, fashion continues to be a tool for learning history. In Intramuros, a homegrown brand is championing local culture and history one shirt at a time. 

Photos from Pilibustero/Facebook

Established in 2020, Pilibustero puts the spotlight on the country’s past through contemporary designs printed on shirts. Founded by siblings Jorrel and Joyce, a history major and clothing technology major, respectively, Pilibustero is the culmination of their interests and experiences in garment production. This month, their brand opened its flagship store in Intramuros, which is quite fitting as August is also observed as History Month in the Philippines. 

“Pilibustero’s new store location carries all ‘Pilibustero classics’ graphic designed shirts and bucket hats ever released. Available designs may also be viewed at our webshop, We also sell tote bags and books. New T-shirt designs are also underway and will be released very soon,” Jorrel tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Recently, we have been receiving inquiries on consignment, and we’d love to carry other local produce that will blend well with our brand, to promote Filipino arts and crafts. We are also planning to conduct mini-events at the location, such as open mic night and maybe, a tour.”

But setting up the store was not an easy feat. In a post shared on the brand’s Instagram page, prior to it being a warm and inviting boutique, the Intramuros spot looks trashed and neglected. With a limited budget to work with, the siblings were able to create the store of their dream, with luck by their side. They stumbled upon second-hand furnishings that suits their interior design, They were able to seal a great deal for the store's counter from a closed shop in one of the malls in Quezon City. While their four identical stock shelves were posted for sale a week before their opening. 

“We can really say that there must have been a divine guidance during the whole process,” Jorrel muses. “It took us about a month and a half to finish the renovation. There were actually times that we feel discouraged to proceed with the construction due to problems we encountered, but the small serendipitous things that solved our problems, make us want to believe that the space must have been really meant for our small business. We are very grateful for all the support and how the flagship store is well received by everyone. It was way beyond our expectations.”

Apart from putting history lessons into garments, Pilibustero is also known for its collaborations with local artists. In the past, the brand has worked with creatives such as Therese Cruz, Marcel Antonio, and Dengcoy Miel for its holiday collection 2021, reimagining Filipino heroes through graphic shirts. And it looks like more creative partnerships are coming in the future.

“Back in the ‘90s, a popular shirt has been circulating with the face of Che Guevarra, being worn by a lot of Filipinos, who may or may actually not know the story of the face depicted on it. Western intellectual figures like Einstein is also staple favorite print in graphic designed shirt. We thought that our country has great men and women who are worthy to be worn and known, just the same,” Jorrel says. “We believe that clothing is a really powerful means to convey a message of nationalism. Visual depiction of our story as a nation is a start to strengthen our Filipino identity, thereby preserving also, the memory of our great ancestors who dreamt and fought for a better Philippines.”

Pilibusteros’ flagship store is located at General Luna Gap 2, cor. Muralla Street, Intramuros, Metro Manila

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