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How Katutubo Pop Up Market helps local weavers preserve tradition while earning a living


By Kerry Tinga

In recent years, there has been a heighted level of attentiveness to purchasing habits—what we purchase as a reflection of our personality and, more significantly, our values.

Our clothes, our style, our appearance can let people know a bit about ourselves, such as whether we are risk takers when it comes to fashion choices, or prefer classic and timeless looks (I myself fit in more with the latter).

More than that, it can let people know our beliefs and what we stand for. We can, for example, look at some people’s conscious efforts to purchase and promote slow fashion, moving beyond the prevalent consumer capitalism culture of modern industries.

A Filipino core value that has stood the test of time, throughout the various eras of colonialism, from the Spanish to the American to the Japanese, is how family-oriented we Pinoys are. It goes beyond having lunch with our families on a weekly basis. It is a value that even guides Filipino enterprises.

According to a report by Credit Suisse Research Institute, the Philippines ranked 11th in the number of family-run firms globally. Around 80 percent of businesses in the Philippines are family-owned and family–controlled.

Our “families” can also take on numerous shapes and forms. We do not limit ourselves to our immediate family. We call people ate and kuya and tita and tito with such ease and comfort because we recognize that we are all one family.

It comes as no surprise that with greater attention to how purchases can reflect certain inner values, many Filipinos have begun to promote local designs and products.

The Katutubo Pop Up Market is an almostmonthly curated event that supports local fashion designers and brands from around the country, recognizing the skill and diversity of Filipino talent. Started by Mons Romulo, she is supported by her daughters Cara and Cheskie, each with a role in the Katutubo team, a family microcosm of the Philippines as a nation.

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY Mons Romulo with her two duaghters Cara and Cheskie

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY Mons Romulo with her two duaghters Cara and Cheskie

Having my mother as my boss is quite challenging to say the least, but it can also be rewarding,” says Cara. “There would be times I’d catch myself in a situation where, if my boss was not my mother, I would have already been given a red card, as they would call it in soccer. But I must say, without our team’s special arrangement, we wouldn’t be the team that we are, and able to accomplish what we have today.”

Katutubo has grown in the past couple of years. With an initial run that helped 11 brands, it now involves over 100 long-lasting relationships. Furthermore, Katutubo’s partnerships have gone on to support the often-overlooked local weavers from indigenous communities around the country.

“We get to promote and help the different weaving communities survive and truly thrive,” says Cheskie. “Our weavers get to pass on their customs to the younger generation, sustaining a great tradition in the long run.”

Cara adds that it’s the love for the craft the indigenous women show that inspires her. “Being able to see the passion these women have for their craft and their love for all things local inspires me to continuously improve on this platform we have created for them,” she says. “Not to mention that some of these ladies have also been like second mothers and adopted sisters to Cheskie and me, having been able to spend time building relationships with them throughout the years.”

Modern entrepreneurship and marketing have recognized the importance of creating customer experiences. For the Katutubo Pop Up, it’s about providing a true experience as customers walk through the beautifully decorated and lively market. The concept also captures the value of supporting the greater Filipino family, which customers do when they purchase from the list of curated local brands.

“We also try to make the venue appealing, fun, and festive,” says Cheskie. “We bring a different theme with every Pop Up. This in turn adds to the feel-good element and mood setting that both the customers and brand owners will enjoy.”

What we show expresses our personal style and the values we represent. For us Filipinos, it is the hard work and creativity of our people, and the love and respect we have for our nation, for our family.

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