The “Dean of Philippine Fashion,” Benjamin “Mang Ben” Samio Farrales, succumbed to complications of prostate cancer on March 6. He was 88.

Farrales was an alumnus of the old UST College of Architecture and Fine Arts.

The legendary fashion designer was widely known for integrating Philippine and Muslim culture in his works. He used local fabrics such as piña, hablon and jusi.

In 2015, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) granted him its most prestigious award, the “Gawad CCP Para sa Sining,” for his works that interpreted Mindanao’s vivid and rich culture.

Farrales was also a philanthropist, known for raising millions of pesos for organizations such as the Philippine Red Cross, and a supporter of religious devotions, particularly the yearly grand procession of the Santo Niño in Manila.

He also founded the Ben Farrales Scholarship Foundation dedicated to helping talented yet underprivileged youth obtain education.

“Lolo Ben was an inspiration. He was really generous… always willing to help, lalo na if it concerns your studies,” Jaimie Farrales, his grandniece, told the Varsitarian.

“We all look up to him. [Despite being] famous that time, he remained humble. If you’re going to ask any of our relatives, for sure they will tell you how he helped so many children in the family na [hindi] afford mag-aral,” she added.

Mang Ben’s career

Farrales, a Cotabato City native, moved to Manila to study in UST. He started his career as a fashion designer by doing apprentice work at Aurelia’s in Malate, a boutique frequented by upper-class women in the 1950s.

Soon after, Farrales established his own shop where he designed outfits for numerous personalities. He designed Ruffa Gutierrez’s sarimanok-inspired national costume for the Miss World 1993 competition.

Even as a neophyte designer, he was sought after by Manila’s elite and was admired by no less than Ramon Valera, the only National Artist for Fashion Design.

He also designed costumes for the Bayanihan Dance Troupe and uniforms for the Philippine Airlines early in his career.

Farrales was the first and only Filipino to exhibit a fashion collection at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C. with his all-Muslim-inspired “Maranaw,” mounted in 1984. The collection toured in Canada and other major cities in the US.

“He is very professional when it comes to the fashion world, and he is not selfish in sharing to other designers, especially the new ones, the reason he was called the Dean of Philippine Fashion,” Bong Regala, a former model and official photographer of Farrales’ shows and photoshoots, told the Varsitarian.

The “Dean of Philippine Fashion” title was conferred on Farrales by no other than the late grand dame Conching Sunico, the socialite and civic leader.

The CCP, in granting Farrales its most prestigious award, cited him for being “much more than a fashion designer, a true innovator and artist who brought Muslim Southern Mindanao culture into couture and made the Muslim-inspired gown his signature look..”

“Weaving together the vivid colors of the malong and utilizing indigenous materials, Farrales was not only an exponent of Muslim craft andculture but a preservationist of Filipino heritage,” it said.


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