Marawing Salamat – The Best of Opera & Fashion for Marawi

Set at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo, the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, last April 6, 2018, “MARAWING SALAMAT — The Best of Opera & Fashion for Marawi,” was a magnificent collaboration of the BIG NAMES in Opera & Fashion Circles, all for the LOVE of Marawi. Presented by The Cultural Center of the Philippines and LYRIC OPERA of the PHILIPPINES, it brought us all back to the pomp and pageantry of early 20th Century Philippines. 


Spearheading this remarkable fund-raising project are the producers, namely: Book Author & Publisher and Fashion Impresario ZARDO A. AUSTRIA; Former President of Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines & Heritage Advocate LITO P. PEREZ; Renowned Tenor and Co-Founder of Lyric Opera of the Philippines SHERWIN K. SOZON; and Award-Winning Theater, TV & Film Actress and Educator LORLI VILLANUEVA. The net proceeds of the event are intended to support the Rebuilding of Marawi City, the Artistic & Cultural Mecca of Muslim Mindanao, via DUYOG MARAWI – a church-based and interfaith response to the Marawi Crisis, together with the Social Action Center Prelature of Marawi 

THE BEST OF FASHION: With a unique concept & script by Zardo Austria, “THE POMP & PAGEANTRY OF PHILIPPINE CARNIVAL QUEENS” was a cultural & artistic presentation showcasing Filipino Beauty & Talent in a breath-taking parade of traditional & contemporary Filipiniana creations inspired by  the Glorious Era of the Carnival Queens (circa 1908-1939). Playing immortal Kundiman classics & folk songs, along with adorable Pinoy pop tunes, the UST Symphony Orchestra was conducted this time by Maestro HERMINIGILDO RANERA, former resident conductor of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a splendid display of Filipino Ingenuity, Music and Heritage.

Famous personalities in the world of Philippine Pageantry and Fashion were present and this include these gorgeous beings:

CRISTINA GALANG CAEDO – our Miss Philippines 1953 graced the event and indeed she was one of the main highlights! Cristina was crowned as Miss Philippines during the 1st Philippine International Fair.

Her victory was significant, for she was crowned by no less than the visiting 1st Miss Universe of 1952, Armi Kuusela of Finland (Armi later married rich Filipino businessman Virgilio Hilario after a much-publicized whirlwind courtship). Armi was assisted by the 1952 queen, Teresita Sanchez. Cristina’s escort was her kabalen (provincemate), the young Ninoy Aquino.


The pageant committee originally wanted Cristina to join the 1953 Miss Universe in Long Beach, California, but this did not push through. Instead, a namesake, Cristina Pacheco was sent to the international competition. 

BEA ROSE SANTIAGO – Miss International 2013 looked so lovely and playfully emoted in front of our camera but lost her composure and burst out in giggles as we teased her. She was this fiery Red Queen Muse of Gerry Sunga.


JUSTINE GABIONZA – Miss Tourism Queen International 2006 didn’t seem to have aged! She is gorgeous and still commands attention. This dusky Beauty Queen can still win any crown any given day!


TERESITA “WYNWYN” MARQUEZ  – our reigning Reina Hispanoamericana 2017, whom we watched grow up in front of our eyes, has learned the art of fashion projection and has become more womanly. She looked so regal in both of her Peri Diaz costumes which she presented so flawlessly on stage. No wonder she is Reina Hispanoamericana!


LEREN MAE BAUTISTA – Our Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International 2015/2016. We didn’t recognize this International Beauty Queen initially but when we realized who she was, we were pleasantly surprised!


KRIS TIFFANY JANSON  – Our Miss Intercontinental 2014 Second Runner-up. This rightful winner of Miss Intercontinental 2014 still looked so fresh and lovely and very cordial after all these years! She is still very approachable and looked so ethereal in the Renee Salud creation she wore so effortlessly. That’s why we don’t wonder why she is receiving so much blessings these days!)

ELAINE KAY MOLL  – Miss Supranational 2012 Third Runner-up, is one of the queens who continued to look much better and more gorgeous as the years went by! She could be an international supermodel, and she should be!


MARINA BENIPAYO  – Top Model and BBP Maja International 1992 who we adored so much! Miss Universe 2014 Finalist Mary Jean Lastimosa was right in saying that this lady is a legend!

We have met her in 1998 as we worked together for the very grand Centennial Santacruzan held also in the CCP grounds. She was lovely then but we were so pleasantly surprised to see that she is lovelier now!

We think she is a vampire for she looked younger and more radiant now than before. We had a grand time chatting with her and she is indeed a legend both on and off the stage!

JOAN BITAGCOL  – this Top Model is still very unassuming but when she goes on stage, she slays! When we saw her in the backstage, we thought she was not participating as a model since she has been working behind the camera as a photographer. We assumed wrongly and were given a treat when we saw this Supermodel sashay down the Marawing Salamat stage! And slay the stage she did.

CYNTHIA THOMALLA – Our reigning Miss Eco Philippines 2017 looked every inch a Disney a princess in her DELBY BRAGAIS Gown! True to her nature, Thia went onstage and wowed the audience as a Terrestrial Goddess. She glided down onstage looking so radiant and elegant at the same time.

She took time to participate in this endeavor as she is about to leave for Egypt a few days after to compete for the Philippines’  first Miss Eco International Crown – set to happen in Cairo on April 27, 2018. Best of Luck and God bless Thia! And bring home that crown!

MARIE ANN UMALI  – This Bb. Pilipinas World 2009 wore the exquisite Cary Santiago Terno. The intricacies done on the design is a Cary Santiago Signature. This Bb. Pilipinas Queen looked lovelier than her BBP days, and though the gown she wore was used by another BBP Queen during Bb. Pilipinas 2017 National Costume Show, it looked like it was made for her.

BIANCA GUIDOTTI  – Our Bb. Pilipinas International 2014 is still as bubbly as her BBP Days. Her looks hasn’t changed and she still looked as radiant as when she was crowned Bb. Pilipinas Queen. The Edgar Madamba creation she wore fit her personality perfectly – elegant, structured, and fun! 

ANGELEE DELOS REYES – This Beauty Queen and Binibining Pilipinas alumnae is another chameleon! We didn’t recognize her at the backstage but when she sashayed down the stage she really showed the crowd that she is also a queen of the runaway!

AYA ABESAMIS – this Binibining Pilipinas 2018 Semifinalist is truly a chameleon! We actually didn’t recognize Aya and we only realized who she was after the event. She has a statuesque Figure and her modelesque frame was the right muse for the night.

On the side of the Creatives, we take our hats off to these fashion masters and geniuses:

Edgar Allan, Albert Andrada, Ronaldo Arnaldo, Eddie Baddeo, Delby Bragais, Steve de Leon, Peri Diaz, Felizo, Toni Galang, Rocky Gathercole, Nolie Hans, Roland Lirio, Ricci Lizaso, Jojie Loren, Edgar Madamba, Jontie Martinez, Ole Morabe, Jerome Navarro, Richard Papa, Oskar Peralta, Lito Perez, Joyce Peñas Pilarsky, Rholand Roxas, Renee Salud, Ditta Sandico, Edgar San Diego, Cary Santiago, Fanny Serrano, and Gerry Sunga.

ROCKY GATHERCOLE  – His reputation precedes this master! When we saw his creations backstage, we instantly knew they were Gathercoles! And he is very unassuming and very approachable in person. We took the chance to have a photo taken with this genius and he willingly obliged, and we are proud to have made his acquaintance!


FANNY SERRANO – TF or Tita Fanny hasn’t lost his touch! A long-time family friend, TF is still very nice and pleasant in person! He is indeed a legend but a real human being as well! And his creations for Marawing Salamat are very exquisite that only a Fanny Serrano can execute! Congrats Tita Fanny! 


LITO PEREZ  – This personal friend is a master of his craft! And when you think of Costume, Lito tops the list! His costumes give credence to the word, “Authentic”! But his creations were not the only reason why this designer was magnificent in Marawing Salamat! He has been a proponent of Philippine fashion and culture and is one of the producers of this Fund Raising Event to help Marawi recover. Yes, he has golden touch with his creations and a golden heart for the country! Kudos Lito! Want to experience his creations? Google Camp Suki and experience his world of authentic costumes.


EDDIE BADDEO  – This is one designer whom we think can compete with the models she had at the event. Yes, we were pleasantly surprised to see that she hasn’t aged and her creativity is still on the top. There’s still only one Eddie Baddeo! 


EDGAR MADAMBA  – This is one of the designers whom we admire so much, both as a person and as a designer! His creations are exquisite and structural! You’d instantly recognize a Madamba when you see one. 


RONALDO ARNALDO  – His creations for Marawing Salamat are very fresh and have International flare! Modern and elegant, his gowns at the event can be worn as is and still the wearer would look like she is a goddess who went down from the heavens! Yes, his work is very exquisite and a pride to have! 



PERI DIAZ  – It’s the first time we have met this designer from Paranaque City, and his designs are worth an Oscar in Costume Design! His muse that night was our Reina Hispanoamericana Teresita Marquez, and she looked every inch a Royal! His first number was this black creation and it instantly brought us to the renaissance. Teresita looked so out of this world as she looked so very regal as if we were standing in front of Queen Victoria herself!


Diaz’s second gown is a white and black Terno with a dramatic train. Teresita gave us the feels of a real Carnival Queen 100 years ago! Congrats, Peri! 

RENEE SALUD  – Mama Renee as he’s fondly called in fashion and Pageantry world, showed ethereal creations. His gowns made our queens looked lovelier and more angelic while looking so grand! He has never stopped mesmerizing people with his creations. Well, he’s not called the Mother of Beauty Queens for nothing!

GERRY SUNGA  – This Haute Couture Jewelry Designer can easily transition to being a high fashion designer. His creation for Marawing Salamat is not just theatrical but very high fashion as well. Worn by his muse Bea Rose Santiago, the 2013 Miss International looked every inch a Filipino Royalty in this Gerry Sunga creation!

All in all, all the other participating designers were magnificent in their own right, and that includes their creations for Marawing Salamat! This is why the Filipino Designers are not just at par with the more famous couture houses of Europe and the USA, they surpass them! With their hearts of gold, who else can say they’re better than these Filipino geniuses?! No one!

The other half of this unforgettable event is the THE BEST OF OPERA.

The LYRIC OPERA OF THE PHILIPPINES, the most prestigious non-profit opera company in the Philippines,  staged “The World’s Best-Loved Opera Arias” from ‘Carmen,’ ‘Tosca,’ ‘La Traviata,’ ‘Turandot,’ ‘Madame Butterfly’, ‘Rigoletto,’ ‘I Pagliacci,’ among others for this lovely evening of culture and high society. Directed by internationally-acclaimed filmmaker CARLITOS SIGUION REYNA, with the lighting designed by JOHN BATALLA, the grand production also featured the 70-piece UST Symphony Orchestra, a CCP resident company, under the baton of guest conductor, American Maestro WILLIAM BARKHYMER. Their collaboration showed everyone in attendance how magnificent the Filipinos are even in opera and in philharmonic music!

It was indeed an experiential night of sights and sounds which also fed our Filipino souls! We came out of the CCP as better human beings and more proud of the pomp and pageantry of our Filipino culture.


The Pomp and Pageantry brought us back to 20 years ago to the Centennial SantaCruzan held with the same grandeur and cultural relevance! Thanks to Zardo Austria, Lito Perez, Sherwin Sozon, and Lorli Villanueva, who all made sure that Marawing Salamat will be a Grand night to be remembered for the rest of our lives! 

MABUHAY and congratulations again to Marawing Salamat!

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