Menagerie Vanguard

Writer’s Recap: Rallying on the runway with YACAP

Activists from different sectors of society gather in solidarity for a night of fashion and protest.

Fashion not only concerns itself with the mixture of fabrics and patterns but also reflects the prevailing conditions in society. This was the compelling message conveyed by the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) as they hosted this year’s Fashion Against Fascism and Fossil Fuels last September 15 at Studio 72, Quezon City. 

The fashion show was first launched last year as part of the Global Climate Strike. Now, for its second iteration, the unique runway collection was themed “Empire of The Son: Drought and Deluge.” As part of YACAP’s mission to fight for climate justice, 38 ready-to-wear designs from Filipino brands and designers portrayed the organization’s advocacy through art, delivering a powerful and creative demonstration of protest.

Reverberating statements

The night started with two young boys who walked onto the runway with their lato-lato clacking rhythmically. A cacophony of distorted audio and news snippets from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first year in office filled the room, stirring intrigue and capturing the attention of the audience. Following this was Pasada’s heartfelt rendition of Sa Gitna ng Unos, setting the mood as the night unfolded.

Gabriela She Lang, a drag queen from the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, first graced the runway dressed in the work of local designer Santi Obcena. To integrate the theme of the environment into fashion, Obcena represented nature with futuristic silver and green hues, striving to create memorable clothes that could spark a conversation about the topic. “I wanted it to be subtle, but I also wanted it to be fashionable na hindi lang siya puro statement. I also wanted it to appeal na pag-iisipan mo pa rin at the end of the day,” he explained. The Obcena-designed terno served as the inaugural piece, which kicked off the first half of the show titled Drought. This part spotlighted three pivotal environmental concerns: reclamation, heightened El Niño, and environmental plunder. 

(So that it’s not just a statement. I also wanted it to appeal as something you’d still think about at the end of the day.)

The collection that represented “reclamation” featured shortened hemlines of skirts, which symbolized the diminishing life of the sea due to the state’s pursuit of profits. The works of Kill Joy and Worn Expression, local vintage clothes outlets, hallmarked the vibrant clothing with narrative patterns, each depicting a story of how our waters have been jeopardized by a capitalist society. Statement shirts showed contrast by drawing attention to the texts like “Save Manila Bay” imprinted on the shirts to advocate for the water body’s protection. 

In an interview with model Aries Soledad, who is also the Cavite provincial coordinator of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, she explained how the ongoing reclamation projects in Manila Bay significantly harm the livelihood of the people, particularly fishermen. “Simula nang hinukay ang aming karagatan [noong] 2021 hanggang ngayon ay wala na kaming mahuli [na mga isda] dahil sa [mga] dredging projects,” she pointed out. 

(Ever since the oceans were dug from 2021 until now we could not catch fish because of these dredging projects).

Subsequently, to depict the worsening effects of El Niño, models gradually transitioned into attires that resembled farmers enduring the harsh impacts of drought and extreme heat. Lack of access to water and sugar poses a challenge for Filipinos during these times. It has been reported that the onset of El Niño increases the likelihood of a heart attack and stroke to occur, especially for people at risk. Through the runway, the organization reminded the audience of these concerning effects and why the people must continue to fight for climate justice—a movement that addresses the disproportionate impact of climate change on people, as those who bear the least responsibility for the adverse effects of climate change will suffer the most.

But the Drought of the land persists due to increasing corporate activity that encroaches on nature. Deforestation, illegal logging, and mining are some of the prevailing issues that cause major flooding and fatal landslides. To shed light on those issues, the models served as entities of nature, wearing pants that were cut off significantly, to reflect the intensifying damage inflicted on forests.

The first half of the show concluded with an intermission by switchbitch performing their original rap tune Fax Machine. A model flaunted a Cha Reyes ensemble with drying branches as a headpiece and a painted body that illustrated forest fire, representing the worsening condition of the environment.

Reclaiming rights

The second half of the event, dubbed Deluge, discussed the enduring issues of disinformation, mental health, and impunity. It was kicked off by a striking entrance with works of YACAP’s partner designer XCA, that represented the overwhelming burdens of disinformation on Filipino society. Models confidently paraded down the runway carrying comically oversized bags emblazoned with phrases like “Unleash the truth” and “What the fact,” pertaining to the propagation of disinformation. As more people succumb to distorted facts, combatting disinformation remains a challenge. “We are fighting together, standing together dahil kailangan ng mga ganitong platform para ipagsigawan at ipanawagan [ang] ating mga hinanaing,” She Lang stressed during an interview with The LaSallian.

(We are fighting together, standing together as we need these kinds of platforms to call out and air our concerns.)

The creations of bespoke accessories brand Bice Crafts followed, shedding light on the country’s escalating mental health crisis. Metal jewelry hung heavy on the models as they strutted down the runway, representing how a negative mental state can weigh a person down.

As the runway neared its end, the theme of impunity took its place in the limelight. Designer Joanna Rizza David eloquently depicted the suffering of the victims of human rights violations in the pieces, especially the adversities that plague environmental defenders. 

A report by the Global Witness named the Philippines as the deadliest country in Asia for environmental defenders, recording a total of 11 people killed since Marcos Jr. assumed presidency. Just this week, two activists resurfaced from being missing since September 2 and revealed that they were abducted by the military. By tackling the issue of impunity, the show addressed the lack of accountability for people in power who shamelessly continue to harass and threaten human rights defenders. 

Models wore shield-like gear made from denim jackets; as the models walked by, the audience caught a glimpse of the shirt underneath that bore images of Martial Law victims. The models gently and cautiously sashayed their denim wear through the floor and raised their fists in solidarity with the victims depicted in their clothing. 

Walk the talk

As the second segment came to a close, it was announced that the pieces seen on the runway would be worn during the protest on September 21 in commemoration of the 51st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. 

The thought-provoking, stunning designs by the talented artists and brands of the event were showcased on the runway for a climactic finale. The event ended on a high note with a performance of Jon Bonifacio’s Marcosin while She Lang, together with fellow drag queens Maria Cristina and Lexi Xoxo, walked the runway with banners displaying various messages of solidarity and resistance. All the models gathered for a  final call as they cried out, “Karapatan ng mamamayan, ipaglaban!” 

(Fight for the rights of the people!)

Aleeana Agustin

By Aleeana Agustin

Rachel Manlapig

By Rachel Manlapig

Leave a Reply