by Edwin Quinabo
Arguably the most fashionable event to sport traditional Filipino attire is at a terno ball. Guests don tailor made creations – often ranging in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars – and mingle among high society at a setting gushing with refineries of almost stately formalities.
The terno is often called traje de mestiza (suit of or for a woman of biracial descent: Spanish and indigenous) or a Filipiniana dress. But most popularly, a terno for women is referred to as a Maria Clara, named after a protagonist of the same name from the novel Noli Me Tangere written by Jose Rizal in the late 1800s. So you see how far back the terno has been around.
The terno has four components: a camisa (blouse), a heavily starched pañuelo (neck scarf or shawl), a saya (skirt) and a sobrefalda (overskirt). But what gives the terno an aristocratic flair is that the blouse has butterfly sleeves and the skirt has a train, not the length of a wedding dress but a length practical enough to drape unattended.
The male version of the terno is the barong tagalog, a long-sleeved shirt made of a delicate fiber (usually piña) with embroidered design and long enough (about 12” down from the waist) for it to never be tucked in.
As the formal ball in most countries becomes increasingly uncommon, the terno has evolved to a modernized look with less pomp, and is more commonly worn on many other occasions besides at a ball, like to weddings, cultural and business events.
Carlota Ader, president of Hawaii Filipino Women’s Club and Associates (HFWCA), describes the terno’s significance, “In the United States, the expectation is to assimilate to the American culture. The terno is a symbol of staying true to our roots and taking pride in our cultural heritage that is unique to the Filipino people. The terno carries with it prestige, status and confidence of showcasing your best challenge. As shown by example, the terno is the attire of choice by presidential first ladies for formal occasions.”
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wore a terno during her inauguration. Originally, the terno was reserved for upper crust society in Spanish colonial Philippines. In time, it has become mainstreamed and known as the national formal attire for Filipinos of all economic strata.
In Hawaii the terno is so closely associated with Filipino culture that even non-Filipinos, particularly politicians, will suit up as homage to the culture and respect for hosts at various Filipino functions.
One unique community gala in particular obliges that all guests wear only the terno. That popular event is none other than the annual Terno Ball hosted by HFWCA, formerly known as the Hawaii Filipino Women’s Club.
HFWCA celebrated its 45th anniversary Terno Ball and the Club’s 68th anniversary on April 23, 2022 at the Hibiscus Room of the Ala Moana Hotel. Consul General Emil Fernandez of the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu officiated the affirmation of the Club’s voted officers and installation of appointed officers.
Ader mentions the evening’s program. “There was the annual contests for Terno Gowns for women and Barong Tagalog for men. The outgoing Miss Terno is Aurora Sera and Mr. Barong, Joel Tolentino.
Winners of Terno Ball-Miss Terno or Members Only:
Most Elegant Terno: Evangeline Andres (reining Mrs. Hawaii Filipina 2022)
1st Runner up: Editha Baquio
2nd Runner up: Rose Baybayan
3rd Runner up: Percy Tamayo
Miss Terno 2022
Miss Terno Ball Queen: Jaymie Anderson Tyau (reining Mrs. World Philippines) – the highest point in the history of all contests, garnering 127 points from 5 judges
1st Runner up: Andrea Paeste
2nd Runner up: Rexie Acido
3rd Runner up: Maria Dasigo
Mr. Barong 2022
Mr. Barong 2022: Warlito Macaraeg
1st Runner up: Ikaika Anderson
2nd Runner up: Kurt Favella
3rd Runner up: Froebel Garcia
“Besides the terno contest, HFWCA typically has as a main feature at our annual Terno Ball the awarding of the Club’s scholarship recipients. This year they were Napu Tedtaotao from Moanalua High School and Judith May Yagin Tamayo from Mid-Pacific Institute.
”Ader said the Club’s Woman of the Year awardee was Rosalinda Malalis, a registered nurse and CEO of Nightingale Case Management, Inc.
Margie Alcon Berueda was awarded 2018-2021 Outstanding Women Achiever in Healthcare.
An Appreciation Award was handed to Arthur B. Tolentino, business manager of HSMW Local 293 of A.F.L. C.I.O.Proclamation and Recognition Award: President Carlota Ader from Mayor Rick Blangiardi, presented by Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
Beyond fashion, why we have a Terno Ball
The longest-serving president of HFWCA due to the suspension of activities (including holding elections) brought on by the pandemic, Ader said the Terno Ball is more than just fashion and fun. “The evening is about celebrating lasting friendships among HFWCA members, giving recognition to deserving individuals, and ultimately about community empowerment. Proceeds of that evening also go toward funding our other projects.”
She said the Terno ball is also about honoring women who’ve achieved success in their respective careers. “Traditionally, women have played the supportive role in the family with being the caretaker while the men have supported the family financially.
Our Terno Ball celebrates the aspirations and the successes of women who dare to dream and break the ‘glass ceiling.’ It is all about empowering and encouraging women to recognize this inner strength and abilities. More Filipino women today are college-educated and have careers. Essentially, we can have the best of both worlds — a happy family and a successful career!”
Ader’s term at the helm of HFWCA will expire at the end of this year. Since being elected in 2017, Ader said she was able to present a total of four college scholarships. The Club also contributed to a number of medical missions by donating cash which she said they learned to be the most effective method of getting help to victims of disasters quickly.
“As an educator, I also volunteered my time to help laboratory personnel in San Fernando City, La Union, Medical Center under the supervision of Dr. Godofredo Rilloraza, Jr. (Guddy), the nephew of the HFWCA adviser, Dr. Belinda Aquino. I gave a seminar-lecture in Modern Phlebotomy that was recognized as credit toward continuing education to all laboratory personnel.
”She said on top of that, donations were made that included laboratory supplies like sterile gloves, syringes, pipettes and the air-conditioning to the laboratory room.“
Some of our cash donations were given to the Philippine National Red Cross under Governor Rosa Rosal and Governor Lina Aurelio. Because our treasurer of the club is Adela Salacup, upon her request, I extended another cash donation to North Provincial High School where she graduated. And just to set the record straight, no monies were taken from our Club as witnessed by all the members and officers of HFWCA.
Lei De Gracia Oakes (RA), Global Realtor Adviser, Aloha A’ina Realtor nominee, said she enjoyed the Terno Ball. She was inspired to join HFWCA after seeing the work Ader has done with charitable projects like donations made to the Philippine Medical Mission, Philippine National Red Cross, and feeding the less fortunate at Hawaii’s Institute For Human Services at both men and women headquarters.“
Carlota exemplifies leadership as a go-getter, someone who gets things done. She’s a hard worker and means well and is sincere, a compassionate person. I most admire her for how she weathers the storm through the adversities she goes through, especially in the midst of her own personal challenges in life. She just dusts off her hands, stands up and keeps going! Way to go Carlota. Congratulations on leading by example. The Terno Ball was a success,” said Gracia.
Adela Domingo Salacup, business woman, owner of Alsley’s Chair covers, vice president of the HFWCA and treasurer of the United Filipino Council of Hawaii, has known Carlota for many years while working together on several projects at HFWCA.“I admire her time management skills and multi-tasking while carrying a very busy schedule. Another skill of hers that I admire is her ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Not surprisingly, she is well-respected by the community. She is generous with both her time and personal resources, often mentoring younger women and lending a helping hand. Keep up the good work, Ate Carla! We appreciate all you’ve done for the community.”
Ader has received certificates of recognition from the Philippine government for her medical missions. All the while, she says she always gives credit to HFWCA whenever she gets a chance during public events.
On several occasions she’s tapped into her own personal funds in partnership with the Johnny Hufana Scholarship Foundation (named after her late father) to support charitable projects.
History of HFWCA
In 1954, five years after Maria Clara club (founded by Mrs. Angeles Mangaser Sevilla) disbanded during her 1949 social mission stint in the Philippines, its former members who were also associated with the International Institute and its affiliate Young Women Christian Association (YMCA), established a women’s organization with a different mission and vision.
The new group was called the Hawaii Filipino Women’s Club and was registered for charity with a goal of self-improvement for those who joined.Its constitution and bylaws were patterned from the International Training in Communications (ITC), equivalent to Toast Master club by the writers, Josephine Raquel, Matilda Molina and Pauline Remular.
Josephine Raquel started the Terno Ball in February 1974 and proceeds of the annual event were used to fund projects of worthy organizations like Catholic Charities, Aloha Medical Missions, Hawaii Food Bank, and the Filipino community Center, to name a few.
As the Filipino community resumes holding in-person community functions, many have expressed excitement that the HFWCA Terno Ball is back, and hopefully will continue for generations to come.
by Edwin Quinabo