Beauty and the Beach: The Filipina and her bikini

By: Anna Oposa

“Filipina girls/they’re unforgettable/bikini and t-shirt on top.”

~ A parody of Katy Perry’s song, “California Girls”


A bikini and a t-shirt on top—in extreme cases, shorts and t-shirt on top–was probably what most Pinays would wear on the beach. Ten to fifteen years ago.

Now, our sunny shores are filled with Filipinas donning two-piece swimsuits in various styles and prints. This month, Illustrado explores why Filipinas dove into this trend.

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From a one-piece to a two-piece

“About ten years ago, I would already see bikinis splattered all over the summer issues of the biggest Philippine women’s magazines. They had headlines like, ‘300 bikinis for the summer.’ Naturally, women want to be in vogue,” says Ria, 24, a social media manager. She holds a master’s degree in Luxury Brand Management from Instituto Maranggoni in Milan, Italy.

“Wearing bikinis started off as a trend I wanted to join. Swimwear brands hadn’t come out with fashion forward one-pieces then, only those that looked like they were for the Olympics,” Ria explains.

Clars, a category manager for a food and beverage company, says she started wearing bikinis 13 years ago, when she was 25 years old, due to the encouragement of her friends. “At first, I was self-conscious because I have an unusual body shape,” she shares. Clars describes her body as “top heavy with a narrow waist but not your typical hourglass body figure”.

“Some girls were already wearing them in the Philippines, but not as common. Today parang mas nakakahiya pa if you’re in a one-piece,” Clars says with a smile.


Bikinis in the Philippines

With the Philippines’ many white-sand beaches, it only seemed natural for Filipinas not just to wear bikinis but produce them.

In 1997, SWIM Philippines Inc. and its retail store Nothing But H2O were established. Over the last 16 years, Nothing But H2O has grown into the prime swimwear store in the country. Anemone is its first house brand. According to Lauren dela Cruz, who is part of the business development team of Nothing But H2O, founder Dimples Balaguer-La O created Anemone with a belief “that the Philippines should be the ultimate source of swimwear because of our never ending summer.”

For fashion designer Twinkle Ferraren, her swimwear line was inspired by homesickness. “TWINKLE FERRAREN Swimwear was conceptualized in 2003, during my first winter experience while studying in London. We were coming up with concepts for clothing lines as a project for school,” Twinkle recalls. “I started missing everyone back home, especially the weather. I wanted to create a brand that encapsulated and represented that part of the country.”


TWINKLE FERRAREN Swimwear offers embellished, bespoke, limited edition swimwear. The brand also offers a new multi-wear swimwear concept, where one can wear the pieces several ways.

Twinkle, like the team behind Anemone, is also passionate about producing a proudly Filipino line: “Since 2005, it’s been my advocacy to produce and source everything locally as much as possible and always to have a hint or touch of something Philippine-made.”

Turning point

There are many reasons why the bikini has gained popularity steadily over the years. Ria thinks that the “growing Western influence, media presence, and increased sense of liberation” caused the trends to tip towards the bikini.

“It could also be because the Filipina is traveling more often now. Being more exposed to other peoples, cultures, lifestyles and traveling bring about confidence in oneself,” says Twinkle.

For Lauren, the spike in bikini sales is more about availability.I think the turning point was really having swimwear styles available in the country,” she muses. “When Nothing But H2O first opened its doors, there was no store like it. It gave Filipinos direct access to a wider selection, more up-to-date swimwear pieces. It has grown and responded to the needs of the Filipinas by empowering its clientele to celebrate their bodies and express their personalities by making available a wider selection of styles and sizes to the Philippine market.”

“There also so many local and foreign brands with different price points,” Clars adds.


The bikini and the body

With easier access to designs and price points, Filipinas of all ages can now be seen in bikinis. Twinkle divulges that she clients who are “way past 50 years old.” “Even one woman who’s over 70 years old!” she exclaims.

Clars, at 38, wears her bikinis with pride. “There are so many styles and cuts that create optical illusions, like high-cut bottoms or tankinis,” she says. “There are also so many designs and sizes to suit your age and personality.”

For Ria, another reason why bikinis are so popular is because they can be mixed and matched. “It won’t be obvious that you only have 2 or 3 bikinis,” she pauses. “And most importantly, it’s so much easier to pee!” she says with a big laugh.

The diversity in styles and sizes prompted Anemone to upload a “Perfect Swimsuit for Your Body” guide on their Facebook that can also be seen in their stores. “We want our clients to be comfortable in whatever it is that they will buy while being comfortable with their own body. Whatever decision they make in purchasing or wearing our swimsuits, we can be sure that we have helped them in making right decisions when it comes to swimwear,” Lauren says.

The future of the bikini

Ria sees no expiration date for the popularity of bikinis in the Philippines. “With social media and more foreign fashion influence, swimwear in the Philippines can go in many different directions all at the same time. This ‘trend’ is going to stay for a very long time!”

“Swimwear in the Philippines will keep growing, until we get into that state where it’s not a big deal and one can flaunt it generously,” says Twinkle. “There will be more innovations, styles, brands and women wearing it. We are a tropical country after all, and that means we have 7,000-plus islands we need to fill up with women in bikinis!”