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Berna Romulo Puyat wears her patriotic heart on her sleeve

By MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 06, 2022 5:00 am

Berna Romulo- Puyat is one of my poster girls for being nationalistic in thought, in word, in deed, and in fashion.

But hers is not the obligatory attire usually worn by government officials. She gives it her own personal touch, putting together creations by different local designers or brands. She mixes traditional with current, creating a look to suit her modern taste.

Wearing Bea Valdes dress and clutch to receive the Order of Agricultural Merit from the French government

“I have been wearing Filipiniana even during my stint at the Department of Agriculture,” says Berna whose many accomplishments as Secretary of Tourism includes showing this, by sheer example: It’s more fun to wear Philippine creations.

Her curating eye for Philippine designs includes not only clothes, but accessories as well. I remember during the last Tatler ball before the pandemic, I loved her clutch, and I was not surprised it was by Kenneth Coponbue.

At the Tatler Ball in Inno Sotto terno; and bag by Kenneth Cobonpue

I know I’m dreaming, but how I wish our Best-Dressed Lists would cover women who mostly wear Philippine-made, though mixing in their fave foreign brands.

Here, Berna explains her wardrobe choices. To tweak a Shakespearean phrase, she wears her patriotic heart on her sleeve.

Great Women top and Everyday Pnay skirt; shoes by Tish. With dog Biggie

PHILIPPINE STAR: When did you have that consciousness for Filipino-made apparel? What were your thoughts about it?

BERNA ROMULO-PUYAT: I’ve been proudly wearing Filipino labels for more than a decade. People often ask me if I am required to wear Filipino-made clothing. The simple answer is no. I wear local because I love local!

We’ve moved away from the mentality that imported brands are automatically better. We’ve also discovered how traditional textiles can be used in modern ways.

And now, what do you think about it? Why has our local fashion evolved to become an expression of patriotism?

Jean Avellanosa-Dee top and skirt, with Berna’s fave accessory, Biggie

We’ve moved away from the mentality that imported brands are automatically better. We’ve also discovered how traditional textiles can be used in modern ways.

What were the factors that helped make Pinoys love local more?

Ben Chan's “Love Local” campaign, which promotes nationalism and support of local products, and his Ternocon, whose goal has always been to make Filipinos wear the terno.

Sassa Jimenez top with Jewelmer pearl brooch

The Katutubo Pop-Up Market and SM Kultura also make local wearable designs easily available.

Who are your fave fashion designers and why? Your fave accessories and bag makers?

On top of her career with a Randy Ortiz top

For special occassions I always wear Filip + Inna — I’ve been her client for over a decade and she was the first to sell modern Mindanao weaves. Lately she has been using piña cloth from Kalibo, Aklan.

Filip+Inna dress for receiving Presidential Medal of Merit in Malacañang, with son Vito and daughter Maia

Bea Valdes’ clothes and bags are not traditional but her style incorporates the best in Filipino craftsmanship, weaving and materials.

I recently discovered Jean Avellanosa-Dee who was one of the finalists of Ternocon 2020.

Oath-taking as Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor with Finance Secretary Ben Diokno and BSP Governor Felipe Medalla, in Filip+Inna camisa and panuelo, tambourine by Amami, and skirt by Rhett Eala

I love all the brands sold in the Katutubo Pop-Up market since they are already curated. I also find nice and affordable clothes from SM Kultura.

For formal attire I go to Inno Sotto, Rhett Eala, Dennis Lustico and Ivar Aseron.

Barong top from SM Kultura; shoes by Tish

You also wear a lot of local during your trips abroad.

I wore a terno in 2013 for the opening of the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, France, and Parisians non-stop were asking me what I was wearing.

Everyone loved the blue terno jacket I wore during the WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council) summit last April. They were amazed that it was leather but were also curious about the sleeves. It was the first time for a lot of foreigners to see a terno.

Berna Romulo-Puyat in Filip+Inna leather terno top, matched with skirt by Jean Avellanosa-Dee

In Bhutan, people wear their traditional clothes — gho for men, and kira for women — for formal events and during business hours. This was suggested by their government to preserve their national heritage. What should our own government do to make Filipinos wear local more often, other than making it a requirement?

Filipinos would wear Filipino attire more often if they were more affordable and accessible.