Clothed In Culture

Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club members prepare for the organization’s 55th annual Terno Ball.

More than beautiful gowns, the 55th annual Terno Ball will showcase Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club’s desire to share the culture’s sense of community with others.

Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club is gearing up for its signature fashion and culture event of the year — the 55th annual Terno Ball — slated for Sept. 21 at Kaua‘i Marriott Beach Club in Līhu‘e.

The terno is the national formal women’s gown of the Philippines. Originally, women of the Philippines would wear an ensemble of a blouse, long skirt and scarf, also known as the baro’t saya. After Spanish and American influence, as well as a character in a Jose Rizal novel, the baro’t saya became more affectionately referred to as the “Maria Clara.”

Through modern influence, the big bell sleeves of the Maria Clara evolved into what is today commonly recognized as “butterfly sleeves.”

Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club president Barbara Green shows off a barong, a men’s formal shirt.

The terno, though, is much more than a fashion statement. For many, it is an important piece of their cultural heritage.

“Many cultures can be recognized by their national costume and dress,” says Barbara Green, Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club president and Terno Ball co-chairwoman. “Though we celebrate our culture in many ways such as language, food, fellowship, dance, etc., the Terno Ball is a red carpet occasion that brings us together by placing the terno, barong and couples Filipiniana attire in the spotlight.”

As a designer herself, Green says, “For the majority of my hours awake, I am constantly creating. Every component of our environment carries a potential for inspiration. Inspiration for me can come from a flower, the architectural lines of a building, the ripples in the ocean’s surface, the colors of a peacock’s feathers.”

For the Terno Ball’s competition aspect, Green says the two main components are creativity and fit.

Designs will be judged on the use of embellishments such as beads, appliqués, natural fibers, colors, lace and embroidery. The other factors are how well a terno complements the wearer’s physique (regardless of size or proportion) and exudes a woman’s character and personality.

Guests at a previous Terno Ball don elaborate dresses with the terno’s iconic butterfly sleeves.

For over five decades, Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club has been using this fund-raiser to award scholarships to a graduating senior from each high school on the island.

In its 55 years of existence, the club has awarded more than $250,000 in scholarship funds to deserving female scholars of Filipino ancestry. Recipients, then, have gone on to earn higher level degrees and become leaders in their communities.

Over the years, funds raised from the Terno Ball have also afforded the organization the ability to empower women through guest speakers, workshops, and community events and service. These include Mother’s Day picnics, participating in the Tree Lighting Ceremony at Mahelona hospital, providing blankets to care homes and the Dialysis Center during the holidays, supporting the development of Kaua‘i Philippine Cultural Center, and participating in many events and activities with affiliated Filipino community organizations.

Green’s tenure as club president began in 2015.

“My mother was a former president of this very organization,” she says. “A genuine desire to serve our community came naturally to my mother, and I wanted very much to emulate this great quality about her.”

The Terno Ball serves as an important fundraiser for the club and, for Green, it is also about a shared sense of community.

“(It’s about) spending the evening with individuals that share our desire to help our youth further their education; getting to know people in our community that want to celebrate, honor and share in our Filipino culture,” she says.

“Our attendees feel not only a sense of belonging, but also a sense of contributing to our great community.”

This year, the Terno Ball not only marks a celebration of Filipino culture and community, but will also feature the transfer of crowns for the Miss Kaua‘i Filipina pageant.

“This formal event creates an ideal environment for a queen to crown a queen,” says Green.

On July 27, the reigning Miss Kaua‘i Filipina Isabel Gampon was named Miss Hawai‘i Filipina. At the Terno Ball on Saturday, Gampon will pass the Miss Kaua‘i Filipina crown to the Kaua‘i pageant’s first runner-up, Tiffany Sagucio.

“Given the many imperative roles that women play in daily life, my goal in our Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club is to create an environment where women can thrive,” Green adds. “When we support, empower, encourage and enable our mothers, wives, sisters, friends, women in business, we uplift our entire community.”

Terno contestants begin preliminary judging for various different categories at 5:30 p.m. on event day. Dinner and entertainment starts at 6 p.m. For more information on the Terno Ball, email kauaifwc@gmail.com.

For interested high school seniors, Kaua‘i Filipino Women’s Club scholarship applications are distributed to each high school’s senior counselors. Students can pick up and fill out these applications and submit to their counselors by the due date.

For more information, visit kauaifilipinowomensclub.org.