I was always drawn to an old photograph from the 1930s of my lola and my mother in their ternos. The sepia tones, the younger faces that have since vanished, their kind and enigmatic look, the clothing of a bygone era all draw my attention each time I view the photograph. For a moment, my imagination is engulfed in forgotten stories and histories. How was life in Manila for my mother and grandmother at that time? Where did they live? What were their routines, pastimes, joy, preoccupations, and dreams? Whatever happened to their ternos?
Yes, their ternos. These special dresses worn on special occasions are part of one’s family history and a nation’s cultural history. Their ternos are testimonials of dignity, beauty, promise. They speak of not only the evolution of their lives but of the evolution of a national dress. They would be treasured vestiges of the past.
In the last two decades I have collected and studied textiles from many places. This journey has heightened my appreciation and awareness of the historical and cultural significance of textiles. I wondered about the fate of my mother’s vintage dress worn that day in a photograph with my grandmother. She did bring it with her across the vast Pacific many, many years ago. So one day it occurred to me to ask my mom where she kept that special terno from her youth. I remembered seeing it carefully wrapped in faded paper in a box in a closet as I was helping her organize a room in our house back when I was in high school. Eager and curious, anxious and apprehensive, I awaited her response as she tried to remember. Then it came to her: “I gave it away a long time ago to someone I used to work with.” In an instant all expectations transformed into a defeaning disappointment—treasured vestiges of the past, gone, irretrievable.
At least I still have the photograph of Margarita Sobrepeña Lomboy Hidalgo and her daughter, Lydia Hidalgo Lozada.
With this entry we welcome you to The Hinabi Project Blog where we will give updates on the development of the project and share thoughts, ideas, knowledge, and experiences connected with Philippine textiles. We look forward to hearing from you.