John Carlo Pagunaling's costumes make it to 2017 World Stage Design exhibition

Also featured are designs by Mio Infante, Gino Gonzales and Jethro Joaquin
July 1, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

John Carlo Pagunaling's costume designs for "Ampalaya the Musical" will be exhibited under the Emerging Designers category at the 2017 World Stage Design event in Taipei.

Pagunaling's costume designs for "Ampalaya the Musical."
Photo by Urich Calumpang.

Held every four years, the event showcases works from set, costume, lighting and sound designers from around the world, chosen by an international screening panel.

The works of Mio Infante, Gino Gonzales, and Jethro Joaquin will be exhibited under the Professional Designers category.

Pagunaling's costume designs for "Ampalaya the Musical."
Photo by Adrian Begonia.

Selected for exhibition are Infante's set design for "Rak of Aegis" for Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta); Gonzales' costume designs for "Labaw Donggon" for Ateneo Entablado and "Hakbang sa Hakbang"/"Measure for Measure") for Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP); and Joaquin's sound design for "The Normal Heart" for Actor's Actors, Inc.


"Ampalaya the Musical" is based on Augie Rivera Jr.'s children's story "Alamat ng Ampalaya," on how the vegetable acquired its bitter flavor. It has music by Michael Dadap; libretto by Dadap and Patty Yusah. Music direction was by Elizabeth Vista-Suarez and direction was by Dessa Quesada-Palm.

John Carlo Pagunaling

Produced by Silliman University, the show ran in Dumaguete City in 2014 and 2015. It had a performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2015.

Pagunaling earned the 2014 Philstage Gawad Buhay for outstanding costume design for his work on Peta's "Rak of Aegis." Recent credits include Cornerstone Entertainment's "Ako si Josephine," DUP's "Faust," and Tanghalang Ateneo's "Boy" and "Kalantiaw."

Mio Infante's set design for Peta's "Rak of Aegis."
Photo courtesy of Mio Infante.

Born and raised in Bulacan, Pagunaling's interest in theater began in high school at St. Mary's College of Meycauayan, where he became president of its theater organization Sining na Malaya.

"My teacher, Ms. Adaon, recommended that I audition for University of the Philippines' theater arts program," he says.

Constantly learning 

Pagunaling credits his professors and mentors in college for grounding him in technique, efficiency and discipline. "A good teacher will produce a good student."

In college, he first did costumes for DUP's staging of "Tatarin." Apprenticing in set design under Tuxqs Rutaquio and director Jose Estrella for "Sepharad: Voces de Exilio" and in costume design under the late Ogie Juliano for a trilogy of Severino Montao one-acts steered him towards deciding on a future career in production design.

Gino Gonzales' costume designs for "Labaw Donggon."
Photo from Ateneo Entablado Facebook page.

His first break professionally was working as John Abul's associate designer for the costumes of Peta's "Care Divas."

Pagunaling strives to constantly learn more about his craft. He's taken clothing and textile classes at UP's College of Home Economics and is currently taking dressmaking classes at Slim's Fashion and Arts School. "I want to further enhance my knowledge and skills."


He says the decision to commit is the first step for any project. "If I'm willing to give my one hundred percent to a particular production, I'll join the team and finish the race whatever happens."

Gino Gonzales' costume designs for "Hakbang sa Hakbang."
Photo by Vladimeir Gonzales.

His process begins with reading the script several times. "I analyze it using Jacque Lacan's three psychoanalytic orders of symbolic, real and imaginary."

He stresses the importance of research as the backbone of design. "I always go to libraries, museums, galleries. I also use magazines, films, interviews and credible internet sites like Project Muse."

He then collaborates with the director and other designers (lighting, set, sound, etc.) to craft a "master symbol" or "master concept." "Then I translate that into costume designs."

Filipino exhibited entries in past installments of WSD include Jay Aranda's lighting design for "Turn Up the Quiet, Just Dance" and Gonzales' set design for "Spoliarium" (bronze prize) for WSD 2005 in Toronto, Canada; and Jed Balsamo's sound design for "Amihan" and Joaquin's sound design for "Hamlet" for WSD 2009 in Seoul, Korea.

"World Stage Design 2017" runs Jul. 1-9, Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan. Visit WSD2017. com.

READ about Filipino theater designers featured in 2015 intl exhibitions in Prague and Moscow

READ about Mio Infante's design process for the set of Peta's 'Rak of Aegis' link: