It's a stark contrast from the sartorially casual academic setting in Dumaguete but, yes, undergraduate students of Ateneo de Davao University -- both male and female -- are required to wear school uniforms.
For the women, it's a long white dress with blousy sleeves, ending just the below the knee as a moderate A-line skirt. As a final touch is a small blue ribbon and a little just below the neck. This is a classic design, worn by female students of Ateneo, for as long as I can remember. Many years ago, the university held a vote among students to determine whether the uniform should go in favor of civilian attire. Surprisingly, the majority opted to keep it.
For the men, it's khaki pants with a light blue short sleeved barong. This, I learned, was a more recent innovation, only put into place two years ago. One wonders at the imposition, but I suppose it was intended both for security -- to identify the students -- and for elegance.
If it was the latter, then I would count it as an experiment with a dismal result. Though the women sometimes do injury to their virginal raiment by pairing it with heavily painted faces, the men -- or should I say boys? -- seem to have mastered the art of turning their wear into an insult.
Most times, it's the faux bishounen look that many youths today prefer to affect. Bishounen means "beautiful", but the unkempt male bouffants framing fat, pimply faces is certainly anything but. On other days, they hide these hideous 'dos in equally hideous 'rasta caps. Paired with their light blue barongs, they merely look like goons.
But the real atrocities are, well, just so far out. Last week there was this young man, the back and the sides of his head clean shaven, yet the long unshorn locks on top were bunned up stiffly with heavy gel. He looked like he was balancing a huge siopao on his head. Oh, let's not forget: in light blue short-sleeved barong.
And just yesterday, too, was a budding transvestite, finely-conditioned hair tinted light brown and draping across his shoulders. Parang nagpa-salon, as they say. His face was made up, highlights, shadows, lipstick and all. And lest we forget: in a light blue short-sleeved barong.
All this big city avant garde fashion really makes me yearn for the simplicity of Dumaguete couture. Sure, it may be t-shirts and jeans or walking shorts on the men; and sure, the it may t-shirts and tight pedals on the women; and sure, it may all be of an inbred type as everyone does their shopping at Super Lee Plaza; but at least there's some congruity in all that. (And really, nothing -- in my opinion -- beats the classy youthful hipness of Foundation University's subdued golf shirts.)
Now, if only the teachers wouldn't dress so much like the students.