Mark Bumgarner shares more details on MMD’s Whang Od-inspired homecoming look

December 12, 2023 - 12:41 PM
Michelle Dee_homecoming parade
Miss Universe 2023 Top 10 finalist Michelle Dee in a custom Mark Bumgarner ensemble for her homecoming parade as taken by Dennis Sulit and posted on her Instagram on Dec. 10, 2023 (michelledee/Instagram)

Internationally renowned fashion designer Mark Bumgarner shared more details about the homecoming parade look of Miss Universe 2023 Top 10 finalist Michelle Dee who once again paid tribute to legendary tattoist Apo Whang-Od.

The beauty queen on Sunday had a homecoming parade after representing the Philippines in the prestigious beauty pageant where she took home four special awards — the Carnival Cruise Award, the No. 1 Fan Vote, the Voice for Change Award and the Best in National Costume Award.

RELATED: What to expect: Michelle Dee’s December 10 grand homecoming parade

Michelle met her supporters in a white attire with a sculptural high collar paired with straight-cut structured pants and complemented with a flowy train attached at the waist for that regal effect.

Her look was completed with a sheer bodice that had black embroideries inspired by traditional Kalinga tattoo designs which paid homage to the country’s oldest “mambabatok.”

“My journey of a thousand steps will always lead back to all of you,” the Pinay beauty queen wrote on December 10 with a Philippine flag emoji.


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Mark, who designed her noteworthy black beaded evening gown in Miss Universe 2023, took to Instagram to explain the beauty queen’s look for her homecoming parade.

ALSO READ: ‘Mad respect’ for Whang-Od: Michelle Dee’s Miss Universe 2023 evening gown lauded

The designer said that it was not originally Michelle’s look for the activity, adding that they initially contemplated having her wear her Miss Universe finals gown.

“However, plans shifted, prioritizing her comfort,” Mark said to MEGA magazine.

The gown was replaced with a pantsuit that had a train instead.

He added that they changed her attire to ensure she felt comfortable sitting, standing and walking during the parade.

The designer also said it stemmed from Michelle’s desire for unrestricted movement during the celebration.

“For my dear MMD’s @michelledee homecoming parade, a custom @markbumgarner design in reference to her Miss Universe Whang Od evening gown, this time in white,” the designer said on Instagram.

“The asymmetrical design gives it an edgy and modern look, yet remaining to my aesthetics; clean, structured, romantic,” he added.

“The traditional Kalinga tattoo design was integrated in a more subtle way, as a nod to the legendary icon, Whang Od., and as a representation of our indigenous peoples; a merging of tradition and modern elegance,” Mark continued.

He also said that he is “very proud” of the Philippine bet, adding that he hopes she continues “to inspire and touch the hearts of our kababayans.”

“You are loved as we’ve witnessed in your homecoming. What an amazing [turnout]! I am excited for this next chapter of your life, and can’t wait to see what the Universe has in store. We love you MMD, at maraming, maraming salamat!” Mark said.

Michelle previously said Whang-Od is a “true icon” who is a “symbol of bravery, beauty, and inclusivity” who has preserved the rich cultural heritage of indigenous tattoo art.

“She has achieved global recognition and symbolizes timeless beauty, coinciding with Miss Universe lifting its age restrictions, championing inclusivity and challenging age stereotypes,” the beauty queen said.

Whang-Od is the oldest-living “mamabatok” in the country from Kalinga who has been hand-tapping tattoos since she was a teenager.

She would previously travel to far and neighboring villages to imprint the sacred symbols of their ancestors on individuals who have crossed or are about to cross a threshold in their lives.

Whang-Od is the first and only female “mambabatok” of her time.