Michael Leyva’s ‘Isang Bansa’: A Leyva of Love

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Michael Leyva�s �Isang Bansa�: A Leyva of Love
The Goldenberg Mansion: Art showcasing art.

Michael Leyva crossed islands and bridged political colors with his spectacular 65-piece fashion show “Isang Pilipinas” Tuesday at the Goldenberg Mansion in Manila. It was part of a series of fashion and cultural shows spearheaded by First Lady Liza Marcos at the picturesque mansion near Malacañang Palace.

Every piece of Michael’s collection, his first using woven fabric from around the Philippines, was bursting Filipiniana. The show, directed by Robby Carmona, was staged on the grounds fronting Goldenberg,  whose façade was the giant screen on which photos and video footage of the Philippine flag, the weavers, Michael himself, and the colors of the islands were splashed. The first to walk down the circular driveway of the Goldenberg was Heart Evangelista, who donned an ecru terno dripping with natural pearls that took Michael three months to finish. Other spouses of senators who slayed the ramp included Audrey Tan-Zubiri, Em Aglipay-Villar, Tootsy Angara, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado Revilla, Kathryna Pimentel, Gladys Villanueva and Mariel Padilla. After Michael took his bow, fireworks dazzled over old Manila to the melody of Umagang Kay Ganda popularized by Ray-An Fuentes and Tillie Moreno in the ‘80s, rendered by the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a nod to the “Isang Pilipinas” theme.

‘Isang Bansa

“This is a showcase of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao’s rich culture, heritage and history,  and a collaboration with the country’s weavers,” Michael told us before his well-attended show, where he revealed his own life’s pattern.

“I believe that I have been blessed by the Almighty because I have a purpose, and I can be an instrument in giving sources of livelihood to our fellow Filipinos — like the weavers and embroiderers  — and revitalize the industry. I also want to spread the message that the talent and culture they have shouldn’t be confined to where they are.”

Inspired by the First Lady’s “Likha” program, he and his group traveled all over the Philippines to see for themselves the talent of Filipino weavers. Their first stop was Albay, known for its abaca fiber.

Em Villar.

Woven by destiny

The 6-foot-tall former flight attendant, who could easily model his barongs as well, is grateful he has made a career shift.  “I am grateful to have a job that I love.”

You could say destiny designed his career. His older brother Brian was already making waves as a designer while Michael was still in school — till Brian was shot dead in the head by cellphone thieves.

At the time, Brian had three pending projects. Michael, a UST Tourism graduate, took it upon himself to fulfill his brother’s commitments although he knew next to nothing about fashion. So he picked up where Brian left off.

He told PeopleAsia in 2018  that during his first foray into designing, he was at a loss as to how to start and finish his first client’s dress — until his brother Brian appeared  to him in a dream. In that dream, he finished the dress for Michael.

And the next thing Michael knew, he was weaving dreams  for countless of women, and men. For the recent State of the Nation Address alone, he made over 100 outfits!

He described his style to me as “more of classic, detailed, and romantic.”

“Aside from my fashion techniques, I want to be remembered as a designer who creates pieces based on the personality of the person to make it more unique.”

He has several muses, but at the end of the day, his family is his inspiration.

“My family inspires me to keep going as they are the reason behind my success, most especially my late brother Kuya Brian. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. Until today, I can still feel his presence, guiding me in everything that I do.”

That’s why Michael’s works are a labor of love. A Leyva of love, too.

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