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It’s time for thinking design

The recently concluded Manila FAME left a subtle yet resounding message: We have an abundance of materials in the Philippines, but we have yet to use them fully to our advantage


By Gian Cruz

The latest installation of Manila FAME, which took place last weekend, left a subtle yet resounding and very strong message. It’s all about design that makes us think. Moreover, thinking design is for highlighting what is intrinsically Filipino.

Spotlight on Filipino Artisanship

For the 65th edition, Clayton Tugonon, executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions of the Department of Trade and Industry, shares that “we want to put into light the ingenuity and versatility of our artisans as they create innovative products, while also promoting its traditional applications.” This made itself manifest by way of three things (that I found most compelling) —“Kalikasan Sorsogon” (winner of two Katha Awards namely for the Eco Design Award and Best Booth Display), the special presentation “Materia: Coconut,” and “The Lucent Objects” exhibit.

“Kalikasan Sorsogon” is a collaborative project that operates on “simplicity in nature.” The name translates into the English as “Nature of Sorsogon.” It makes use of the abundance of natural resources in Sorsogon, particularly the use of raw materials and reassessing new methods of developing them.

The “Lucent Objects” exhibit with multi-awarded international designer Stanley Ruiz delivers a vast array of lighting fixtures that offers a sleek contemporary feel but still touches on some traditional motifs re-evaluated to suit the pulse of the now. The subtle yet very radical gesture with this one lies on a sustainability model where the designer makes use of architectural waste like pandan leaves, cornhusk, fossilized leaves, and many others to realize these lighting pieces.

  • The Mindanao One collection showcases the colorful style of Filipinos

  • Tuy Arts and Designs gives the classic woman an upgrade in Modern Mona Lisa

  • The Lucent Objects by Stanley Ruiz uses natural materials such as pandan leaves on its light fixture

  • Horses sculpture by A&S

  • The Maco Custodio backpack is made from recycled materials

  • Bicol’s best a piece from Kalikasan Sorsogon booth, which won the Eco Design Award and Best Booth Display

    Intelligent Design

    “Materia: Coconut,” a showcase developed together with Design Center specialist Wataru Sakuma, is worth a mention because this rethinks ways of delivering one of our very abundant raw materials in the country, coconut. It featured a vast array of products where coconut materials were treated and manipulated with a variety of techniques for interiors.

    Altogether these give us a very clear-cut cue on how to come up with more intelligent design. We should look more inward, particularly at the often-neglected but abundant materials we have here in the Philippines, and redefine ways of looking into them instead of always looking at what the international scene has been projecting as the currents.

    Clearly, I might have missed out on a lot of other things that were showcased at the trade event. But these fine examples need to be stressed as they give a glimmer of hope where Philippine design should be heading. It also should be the core of design practices here as well.

    If we take things into perspective, perhaps the beauty of design is that it works more with designing lives and working closely with the lives it affects. Perhaps that is why people more and more these days, have gained more awareness of designers and how their interventions have become helpful in improving lives.

    Project: Sustainability

    The case of “Kalikasan Sorsogon” is very strategic. It works closely with small-scale producers and also, thanks to an exchange between Japan and the Philippines, it creates a crucial dialogue between the two. It aims to enhance and, together with a team of experts from Musashino Art University overseeing design and technical aspects, to educate Sorsogon producers on how they can improve their knowledge and skills while also innovating their product range. The project allows a deeper knowledge about how much more can be done with what’s available in the communities of these producers.

    A synergy of Japanese aesthetics and technological know-how meets Filipino craftsmanship and the bounties of nature help project a feasible sustainable model. It helps give more jobs and open more possibilities and also helps the producers advance with their craft outside the technical side. When one looks at the objects produced by “Kalikasan Sorsogon,” there is that easily recognizable use of Filipino materials, but it is seen in a new light.

    The key things these days is also how one’s work communicates to people of more persuasions or how something like this one becomes a means of bridging the gap between two cultures working together on sustainability and enforcing livelihood that is more for the long term over those that just work on the frivolity of trends.

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