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Wearing Filipino Pride
Philippine News
Carissa C. Villacorta
February 15, 2006

Days of brainstorming and sketching at the local Dean and Deluca paid off when sisters Ardith and Arlene Ibañez launched a hip t-shirt line inspired by their Filipino culture.

Barkada(ko) was inspired not only by their friends but also their tightly-knit family who have supported them along the way. Their parents, Gloria and Danilo Ibañez of Marikina and Manila and countless relatives have helped out during sales event.

Sized for women, men, kids and babies, the stylish shirts come in a variety of colors available from the American Apparel t-shirt line.

"I was often asked to design t-shirts for numerous student organizations back in college, " said Ardith, who took Studio Art-Design at Stanford University, while Arlene focused on English Literature at UCLA. They make a great team with Ardith's background in visual communication coupled with Arlene's strong storytelling skills.

"We feel a responsibility and a duty to put Filipino American identity out there in mainstream American culture. We need to have more of a role, a presence in film, fashion, the arts and media. It's slowly becoming more visible. We need to contribute in as many ways as possible. "

"Filipino pride worldwide" is the tagline of Barkada(ko). "That's always the overarching goal — affects everything we do. "

Initially selling the shirts at Filipino festivals, including Independence Day fairs in New York, L.A., and San Francisco, Ardith shares her plans for the future. "We primarily want to go forward with our merchandise, sell them offline and in stores. We also want to break into other kinds of apparel."

Aside from the T-shirt design, Ardith also works as a designer for Attik, an international branding agency that handles different types of media from broadcast to print and interactive. She followed them since attending their keynote speech at an AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists) Conference for Design in Film and Television in 1999.

"It's my dream company to work for. And so I was pleased to discover that there was a large percentage of Filipinos in the New York office. I felt so proud! "

Ardith also raves about the city, where she's lived for four years. "I love it here. There is so much creative stimuli! It suits my lifestyle. I definitely haven't had my fill of New York yet."

Ultimately, the sisters would love to work on short films.

"We are interested in the different aspects of production --- writing, directing, art direction, production design, cinematography, costume design, music supervision..."

"But everything reminds us of the Philippines! Ultimately, I want to design with our countrymen in mind," said Ardith, who is fluent in Tagalog.

"I am convinced that there is plenty of material about Filipino culture and stories. I don't see enough Filipino-related stuff out there that I get very excited if there is anything Filipino. So I will continue to focus on that - in shirt designs and eventually, short films - because there is just so much material in the lives of Filipinos."

A couple of designs were inspired by their own family's stories: the "Nanay Knows Best " and the "Arnis" concepts. "We found out that our mother's grandfather, Luis Santos, once taught Arnis in the 1940's in her hometown of Marikina. That design honors the legacy of fighters in our family."

When I was in Thailand in 2002, I felt like a broken record remarking almost every second, " Hey! That's like in the Philippines!" I initially said this about the Thai Water Buffalo that looks like our "kalabaw." Says Ardith of the shirt says "Philippines" in Thai writing. "I plan to develop a whole series of "Reminds me of the Philippines" t-shirts. Suggestions are welcome from my fellow Filipinos!"

Designs viewable on http://www.barkadako.com/, and sold on http://www.fabric8.com/.