Ah, National Day. Usually the biggest event an Embassy or a Consulate will host for the year. It’s something that a lot of people either enjoy or stress over – depending on your role for that night.

As a diplomatic reporter and later on as a diplomat’s wife, I’ve been attending a whole lot of National Day celebrations and Embassy events from Manila to KL. Too many for me to count at this point – to think I’ve only been in the diplomatic circle for 5 years. (Diplomatic life does mean events left and right)

Such events are usually a good opportunity for a country to share something from home – their food, culture, history, the talent of their people. For us Filipinos, there’s usually a part of the program dedicated to how talented Filipino performers are.

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One thing I love about attending diplomatic events is the dressing up that it comes with. I happen to love wearing Filipiniana – all forms of it. From the well-known Terno and Maria Clara down to the clothes worn by the different tribes all over the Philippines. However, one thing about National Dresses/Outfits is that they can cost quite a bit. I’ve had one too many fellow diplowives telling me that dressing up for National means parting with a hefty amount. The fact that it happens annually means you also have a repetitive (big) expense.

There are people who enjoy buying expensive Filipiniana and there is really nothing wrong with that. As long as you can afford it, there is really nothing to worry about.

However, I have a different preference when it comes to these things. If you’ve been reading watching this space for a while now, you know by now that I always get a thrill out of spending a bit less without sacrificing the look and quality of my clothes. 😀 (I already spend so much of the money I earn off freelance writing on books and makeup, after all. Although makeup is a work expense.)

I will be going through some tips on how you can dress up for National Day while going easy on your pocket. 🙂


Nothing says ‘National Day Chic’ better than a traditional meets modern look. I love pairing traditional pieces with basics, to be honest. Also, you will end up being a stand out in the sea of ternos!

This T’boli inspired look was such a hit last year. I got diplomats from Western countries asking me where I’m from and it was such a thrill to tell them that I’m from the Philippines! I got to explain that while the Maria Clara and the Terno are the most popular choices when it comes to our National Day outfits, they are clothes that only became popular under Spanish rule and during the time of Imelda Marcos. Before Ferdinand Magellan docked in Mactan in 1521, Filipino tribes were already sporting colourful outfits.

I used a T’boli malong (wrap around skirt) and head dress which I bought from Manila Collectible Co.

The pieces are authentic, but at the same time not too heavy on your pocket. When I say authentic, I mean they were handmade by members of the T’boli tribe and whenever you buy items that are directly sourced from them (not mass produced copies), then you are supporting their livelihood as well!

Invest in Key Pieces

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For this year, I went with my trusty Ditta Sandico Ong wrap. The style is called Mariposa and is one of her most popular pieces. Ditta Sandico Ong has made a name for herself in the Philippines for designing these wraps. A lot of Foreign Service Officers and Diplowives opt for her creations as they can instantly pair it with practically anything in their closet and turn any outfit into something that is appropriate for events tagged as “Black tie, Formal, or National Dress”

While they aren’t necessarily cheap, as this one came with a Php7,000 price tag, it is an investment that I will surely not regret. It has practically paid for itself – thrice – since I bought it. That’s how much use I get out of it!

The diplomatic circle is quite small and this wrap is something that impresses other diplomats and their spouses without fail. I even had a couple who asked me twice about my outfits that I wore on different occasions and they didn’t notice that I’ve repeated the wrap! It’s all about accessorising and tweaking your outfit!

As you can see, I was wearing the shoes and Kate Spade bangle for both National Day 2015 and 2016. 😉 Pretty sure no one noticed.

This year’s clutch is from Kultura and the choker that people kept asking about is from Lovisa. 🙂 No harm in adding a bit of costume jewellery. An outfit doesn’t have to be either cheap or expensive from head to toe. Get creative!

Want to invest on some pieces? Aside from Ditta Sandico Ong’s shop and Manila Collectible Co., I’m also a huge fan of the following:

  • Anthill Fabric – Another shop that sources from local weavers
  • Aranaz PH – Statement accessories by Filipina designer Amina Aranaz-Alunan. Some of her pieces have distinct Filipino designs that will add a pop of colour to any plain outfit
  • Filip+Inna – Met the woman behind the brand at Manila FAME and have been a fan ever since! I have yet to catch their trunk shows once again though. I need me some of their new BALAT Leather Jacket and their T’boli shorts which I know I can’t wear to diplomatic events but there’s always the mall and during our travels! So #OOTD worthy. 😉
  • Zacarias 1925 – A brand introduced to me by my friend Armi. Been stalking their handwoven bags for months. 😉

Note: Manila FAME is also a great event to find unique pieces that you can use! Not jut for clothes and accessories but furniture as well!

Mix and Match

With diplomatic life comes the inevitable move every couple of years. Being portable is something a lot of people may struggle with – I’m one of them. The amount of books, clothes, and makeup I have is just crazy. So before moving to KL, I had to downsize. A full-on Terno and Maria Clara will take up a ton of space. Couture pieces will need their own box and will require special handling during the move.

That means extra space, extra weight, extra costs. Once you arrive at post, they will also take so much space in your closet. By the time you’re going back home, you’re back to square one with shipping woes.

I opted for pieces that I can mix and match and here are some of them:

  • A T’nalak skirt
  • Maria Clara alampay
  • barong
  • A multi-wear, handmade, Bontoc shawl

… and a couple more.

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Mixing and matching can be as easy as making sure the length of what you’re wearing is different. This red alampay is also something I love to bits. As pictured above, I wore it with a short, black, fitted dress for a seminar hosted by the Philippines for the ASEAN Ladies’ Circle here in KL.

I also wore the same alampay when we visited the Palace to meet the Queen. I paired it with a long, black skirt and made sure to stick to silver hardware on everything. I did wear it with gold the last time. 😉

My T’nalak skirt is also something that I love dearly. I found the rare pink and purple T’nalak in Manila Collectible Co. before moving to KL and was instantly smitten. Normally, T’nalak comes in red and black but the T’boli are also trying to provide more choices for people who may want to wear them.

I bought one and a half yards of the T’nalak and had my friendly neighbourhood seamstress turn it into a pencil skirt and add lining to it. It then became one of my favourites for events where I can get away with a shorter length.

I always complain about how I'm running out of #clothes. And when a lot of the events you need to attend involve wearing clothes that represent your country, it's way more easier and faster to run out of things to wear. So before coming to KL, I made sure I packed #Filipiniana outfits that I can mix and match. Though I love the #terno and the full-on Maria Clara to bits, I knew that it's impractical to bring a lot of them abroad — space & money wise. So I opted for something unique but easier to pack and it ended up being such a stand out! I love my T'nalak skirt! It's so purrty and paired with the right pieces of clothing, it's a modern-chic tribal look! It's also a great ice breaker and people who ask me about it end up learning more about our #culture back home! Photoas taken at the ASEAN Law Association's Governing Meeting and 2nd Chief Justice's Meeting Gala Dinner. ☺Will definitely blog about this soon. ❤💃👌#twitter #fashion

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Doesn’t it look great with the barong? The barong was traditionally for men but it’s starting to become popular among women as well. Of course, we do wear it in a different, more feminine cut. I’ve also worn my barong with a long, black skirt and even fitted slacks. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. 😉

Monday! 👌#modern #filipiniana

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Note: The alampay and the barong are from designer Cora Manimbo. She works a lot with people from our Department of Foreign Affairs too. 😉 Her shop is in Greenhills.

Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise!

It can be a T’nalak clutch or earrings that are distinctly from the Ifugao province paired with an LBD.

You can easily take any outfit and use it to pay homage to your roots. Just make sure that you have one piece that people can focus on. I tend to keep everything else plain if I will be having a T’nalak or any tribal piece that has a lot of colours going on.

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This clutch is from Mga Likha ni Inay, a brand that reaches out to Filipino local artisans and underprivileged yet talented rural women. They work closely with the tribes so that’s really a good plus!

Armi was also the one to introduce this brand to me. She gave me this clutch and told me about them. The amazing man in her life, Jake Verzosa – photographer extraordinaire, took the photos for this brand’s catalogue. You can check some of the photos on his Instagram.

And now, here’s the Get Ready with Me (GWRM) video I so haphazardly made on the 24th of May. Had very little time and was running around like a headless chicken. I had to go to the venue alone and early ‘cos the husband had to attend to a cabinet official that was here in KL for an important meeting. He did make it in time for the program though. 😉

Thanks for dropping by, loves!

More later.


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