Rekindling interest for national identity  

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago - Visaya - The Freeman

The glitz and intricate design of the enthralling national costumes paraded by beautiful ladies in national and international beauty contests keep some of us glued to our televisions, computers, and cellphones as a highly anticipated part of the competition, prompting discourse and comparisons with previous year's national costumes.

But beyond its majesty are the rich and unique stories of a particular race and its people. Even still, it is no longer comparable to what we are familiar with, thanks to the designers' personal and stylistic touches, which have gone far beyond one's knowledge and comprehension. Two national costumes fashioned by a Cebuano artist for two Cebuana beauty queen candidates are an excellent example.

Beatrice Luigi Gomez for Miss Universe and Tracy Maureen Tracy for Miss World wore fascinating national costumes designed by Axel Que. Local designers have been consistently increasing the bar over the past few years, since the rest of the world expects nothing less from us. This is exemplified by the fact that some of them are also responsible for the stunning national costumes of other countries.

This year, in particular, both national costumes are heavily influenced by local legends. As we all know, mythology is an important aspect of a place's identity that is passed down from generation to generation, yet some people may have forgotten about it or lost interest in revisiting it. However, our designers' revisiting of the rich local culture makes an impactful  presence on the international stage.

Take for example, the Bakunawa, is the inspiration behind Miss Gomez's national costume. The myth's re-telling by noted folklorist Damiana Eugenio in her collected book "Philippine Folk Literature: The Myths" is the source of most current literary interpretations of Bakunawa. This, on the other hand, was based on an earlier document by Fernando Buyser, a Filipino poet, publisher, and priest. Eclipses, earthquakes, rains, and wind are thought to be caused by a serpent-like dragon in Philippine mythology. Its motions were part of the babaylan's shamanistic rites and served as a geomantic calendar system for ancient Filipinos. It has a looped tail and a single horn on the nose, as seen in most depictions. It was once thought to be a sea serpent, but it is now thought to live in either the sky or the underworld. The Bakunawa became syncretized with the Nga, Rahu, and Ketu of Hindu-Buddhist mythology as a result of increased commercial links with South Asia and the Indianization of Southeast Asia.

Ms. Perez's national costume, on the other hand, is based on another mythology, Mayari. Mayari is commonly recognized as the beautiful and sweet deity of the moon. Bathala, on the other hand, is a supreme god in Philippine mythology who is the protector of nature and all living things. As Bathala's daughter, Mayari, at night, she has complete control over the universe. In antiquity, most ancient civilizations worshipped her as a celestial creature.

The exquisite national costumes in beauty contests obscure our people's amazing ingenuity and fascination for the world we live in. Although the visual representation of culture has captivated us, it is the story behind it that makes it all the more enthralling. As a result, the platform may rekindle our interest in the race we are so proud of, as well as cultivate a sense of identity for it.

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