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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 36: Patis Tesoro

Maria Beatriz “Patis” Pamintuan Tesoro is a Filipina artist, fashion designer, social activist, heritage conservationist, serial entrepreneur and lifestyle icon. Known as the Grand Dame of Philippine Fashion, Tesoro got her start learning from her mother, a dressmaker, while growing up in Iloilo. She learned how to embroider in high school, and, after marrying into the Tesoro family (a family well-known as purveyors of fine Filipino handicrafts), she learned the business of making indigenous and traditional art sustainable from her mother-in-law.

Tesoro devoted over thirty years of her life to preserving ethnic Filipino clothing, reviving the piña fabric industry and ensuring its longevity and bringing Filipino craftsmanship and fashion to the world stage.

Tesoro is known for making the baro’t saya part of modern day life. She did this by using the finest traditional fabrics, beading and embroidery and breathing new life into the design of the baro’t saya. This and her promotion of the garment made filipiñiana clothing common fare.

After noticing that piña fabric production was on the decline with an aging workforce in the 1980’s, Tesoro also successfully lobbied local government to set up courses to train the next generations of piña producers.

Tesoro also actively searches for indigenous ethnic handicraft production techniques to incorporate into her clothing, accessories and home products.

In the 1980’s Tesoro designed the Barong Tagalog using traditional fabrics and hand embroidery while infusing her own updates, like tailored fits, shorter lengths and her own embroidery designs.

Patis Tesoro’s son models one of her barongs. The barong is a half open button-down design

Patis Tesoro’s son models one of her barongs. The barong is a half open button-down design, featuring a U-shaped embroidery pechera, a pointed fold-down collar and side vents.

Kevin Huang wears a Patis Tesoro striped Barong Tagalog featuring a tailored fit, shorter length

Kevin Huang wears a Patis Tesoro striped Barong Tagalog featuring a tailored fit, shorter length, a half open button-down design, a pointed fold-down collar, side vents and French cuffs.

Lawyer and businessman Tito Tesoro wears a Patis Tesoro Barong Tagalog with all-over embroidery

Lawyer and businessman Tito Tesoro wears a Patis Tesoro Barong Tagalog with all-over embroidery, a tailored fit, shorter length, half open button-down design, a pointed fold-down collar and side vents.

Patis Tesoro in a terno.

Patis Tesoro in a terno.

First four pics are circa 1980’s and are from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s 1986 book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear.

Patis Tesoro in the present day.
Patis Tesoro in the present day. Picture from Ateneo de Manila University