Mars Galang — Preserving ethnic culture through tribal costumes

Photographs courtesy of Mars Galang Galang (right) with members of the Dumagat community.

It all started as a dream for Mars Galang, whose execution of ethnic costumes, as he has seen and observed various tribal groups in the hinterlands and seashores of our country, stands out for their rarity and authenticity.

“I realized that the younger generations of Filipinos, especially those from the cities and urban areas, are not aware of their countrymen who belong to indigenous groups,” Galang shared with the Daily Tribune. “I believe young Filipinos should have a better understanding of their roots, and one way of knowing them is to know the culture of the tribes that, to this day, practice traditions handed down to them through the centuries.”

Creating these clothes, he said, “requires a lot of sensitivity. One should have an eye for details as much as an understanding of the whys and hows of what our tribal brothers and sisters wear. Of course, one has to have the heart, the interest in these artifacts.”

The Aetas.

An architecture student in Adamson in his younger years, Galang lamented the lack of interest among Filipinos in this aspect of material culture. “It is unfortunate that foreigners are even more interested in Philippine ethnic costume than our own countrymen. They are more appreciative of the oral and material heritage of many of our tribal groups who are often neglected and taken for granted.”

Galang’s interpretation of the costumes of the Palaw-an, Tinguian, Kankanae, and Tasaday tribes will be worn by models who will be photographed by members of the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. Also included are costumes of the tribe to which Rajah Sulayman belonged. It was known as Entra Morus, Galang said, from which had been derived the name of Intramuros, where the Spaniards lived for centuries.

The designer is grateful that the FPPF “recognized my work and has chosen to photograph my models wearing the tribal wear that I have made. Unfortunately, not many people appreciate my efforts because they feel that the original wear of these tribal groups should not be displayed or documented, pointing out that these are immortal and lewd outfits, when in truth, I am merely recreating what I have seen right in the villages of these people.”

Kuyo Sea Indigenous people of Palawan.

Galang’s portfolio includes his designs for theme parks such as Enchanted Kingdom, and film productions like Encantadia, Sugo, Darna, Zuma, and lately Voltes V. He has also done work for the Universal Studios, Cannon Films, MGM Productions, Golden Harvest Production, Boho Films, and television shows such as Survivor International, Amazing Race, and Next Top Model.s V.

He has, unfortunately, not been recognized as the designer responsible for such works of genius, since the name top production designers who have commissioned him are the ones written about and featured in publicity materials and playbills.

Tausug woman.

Still, Galang is hopeful and confident that he would be given his due and the respect that he deserves.

“I am grateful to those who have helped me by giving me projects. I am praying that they would also recognize me as an artist who has been working hard to ensure that our tribal people become known and appreciated for their real worth,” Galang said.


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