The newly restored Balay San Nicolas recently served as the backdrop to the fashion collections of three Ilocano designers.
Nina Inabel by Nina Corpuz, Barba by Vic Barba, and Edgar Madamba held an intimate fashion showcase during the inauguration of the century-old heritage house in San Nicolas, Ilocos last December 28.
The event, which also included fashion show director Cata Figueroa and makeup artist Jinkgy Illusorio, highlighted Ilocano handwoven fabrics called Inabel or Abel Iloko. Nina Inabel launched N Active, which features the elaborate pinilian Inabel design on dri-fit tank tops, t-shirts, and bike jerseys.
"We wanted people who are active to wear their heritage at the same time, even when you’re sweating it out," Corpuz said.
Nina Inabel also unveiled creations using Inabel fabric woven from organic cotton grown in a farm in Pinili, Ilocos Norte which also uses solar irrigation technology.
"What you see is from end to end, the vision of our patron Dr. Joven Cuanang has turned into reality. He wanted designers like me to use Inabel that came from the seed -- from farm to fabric to fashion -- which makes it more sustainable for the entire community," added Corpuz.
Barba, on the other hand, combined Abel Iloko with other fabrics like denim and linen so they can be easily adapted into one's daily wardrobe.
"We always strive for our pieces to be at once cosmopolitan and Filipino," he said.
Madamba, meanwhile, presented his classic 1950s inspired designs which highlighted eye-catching pieces made out of Abel Iloko strips that look like a mosaic.
He wanted his creation to relive the vintage appeal of the mid-century. "It's all about the glamorous character of the era. Abel Iloko fitted the fall of the outfits all in the 1950’s silhouette. Some came in modern Filipiniana," he said.
The Inabel creations of Corpuz, Barba, and Madamba are among the products that await visitors of Balay San Nicolas. Lakomi, the heritage house's store, is also home to accessories, native baskets, bricks, and other products of the town.
The plan for Balay San Nicolas is for it to become a living museum of Ilocano art, crafts, and traditions. Aside from the shop, the heritage house also features an events place and cultural center, with Ladrillo restaurant on the ground floor serving traditional and new Ilocano cuisine.
"Balay San Nicolas is one of the most important examples of bahay na bato in Ilocos Norte. Most of the bahay na bato are in Vigan, the rows of beautiful houses along Calle Crisologo. Here, we have a living example of a huge, standalone bahay na bato at the very center of the town," said art patron and Ilocano Dr. Joven Cuanang, who coordinated efforts to refurbish Balay San Nicolas.
"We want to make sure that the people of Ilocos Norte and all Filipinos, both here and abroad, will appreciate the beauty of an old structure when they come here to visit," he added.