Designer JC Buendia has dressed up two Philippine heads of state: outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and incoming President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. During the proclamation Wednesday of Aquino, the president-elect wore a piña silk barong Tagalog designed by Buendia.

According to the Buendia, Aquino’s sister Kris asked him to make two barongs. “I did two: one with the [Philippine] archipelago and one with [former president] Cory’s yellow ribbon. I brought them on Sunday [to his residence]. He chose the one with the ribbon,” said Buendia in an interview with Karen Davila on ANC’s Headstart Thursday morning.

The barong Aquino wore is “very simple,” said Buendia, but is also intricate in the sense that it was made in the “suksok” style, a process of weaving.

Buendia revealed that as he was helping Aquino dress up in the holding room at Batasang Pambansa while Jonathan Velasco was fixing his hair, he was shaking. “President Noy was very cool. He said, ‘O, mas kabado ka pa sa akin. Bukas, front page ulit tayo.'”

Buendia got tongue-tied when Aquino said that. “Alam mo naman ako, weakest link, mabagal ako sumagot.”

JC Buendia (back to camera) helping President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III dress up for his proclamation. Credit: ANC

On seeing his design worn by the next president of the Philippines, Buendia said, “Siyempre it’s a different high. It’s a proud moment. Not only for myself but for the country.”

 
JC Buendia with the man of the hour, President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III minutes before his proclamation. Credit: ANC

It took Buendia two days to make the barongs. He already has a pattern, made when he did the barong Aquino wore to the cover shoot for Time Magazine.

“That one [for the Time mag cover] I did in 14 hours. The day before the Time shoot, there was a shoot for a TV ad, so I had to measure him in the studio. Then I had to rush the barong in time for the Time shoot. It’s made of piña abaca. It’s stiffer than piña silk and it’s thicker,” he said.

 
A piña abaca barong for Aquino for his cover shoot for Time magazine. Credit: ANC

Aquino is a size 5 for men, medium, said the designer. Buendia thinks that when it comes to the barong, the regular collar looks better on Aquino rather than a Chinese collar, which is associated with former President Ferdinand Marcos.

But barongs are not all Buendia has done for Aquino. “I made several short-sleeved shirts meant to be untucked. He likes to be comfortable. He does not have to worry about tucking the shirttail,” he said.

Buendia will be joining four other designers in dressing up Aquino during his 6-year term: Paul Cabral, Randy Ortiz, Joey Samson, and Ivarluski Aseron.

JC Buendia is one of five designers tasked to dress up Aquino during his term. Credit: ANC

Designing for a lady president

JC Buendia was already a young designer 10 years ago when stylist and columnist Joanne Zapanta-Andrada interviewed him. When Zapanta-Andrada became President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s stylist, she recommended Buendia to design clothes for Arroyo.

“She [Arroyo] tried a couple of my suits. I’ve been doing her suits for 9 years now,” Buendia said.

JC Buendia designed this grey suit for Arroyo when she went to Spain. Credit: ANC

According to Buendia, Arroyo has a strict budget: “Somewhere along P8,000 to P10,000” per suit. Buendia usually makes a number of clothes for Arroyo for her foreign trips. “We’re given the itinerary and we check the event and then the time.”

Arroyo is a size 6 petite, said the designer. “She’s not fussy. I’m just given the itinerary, the requirements. She follows what’s [required]. For example, in Japan, she won’t wear purple because only royals in Japan wear purple. In Brunei, she can’t wear yellow because it’s for the royal family. She likes wearing pantsuits.”

Arroyo likes wearing pantsuits such as this one designed for her by Buendia when she went to Peru. Credit: ANC

Arroyo’s favorite JC Buendia dress is a light blue coatdress which she wore to meet former US President George W. Bush. “It’s a classic. It makes her look taller,” said Buendia.

Arroyo wears a favorite coatdress designed by JC Buendia when former US President George W. Bush visited Manila. Credit: ANC

Buendia said Arroyo has a lot of estate jewelry, including brooches, from her mother First Lady Eva Macapagal. “We like using them,” said Buendia.

Designers have long been tapped to dress up presidents and their First Ladies. Jacqueline Kennedy wore designs by Oleg Cassini when she was US First Lady, and by Carolina Herrera in her latter years. –ABS-CBNnews

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