Filipino artistry and craftsmanship are on spotlight this month with shows here and abroad.
The Filipino as an artist is one that works deftly with his hands, molding every known material.
Rizal’s time saw these craftsmen shape native hardwoods and made exquisite and intricately designed cabinets, dressers and furniture, bearing the leading styles of their era.
Time’s passing consequentially influence design concepts, as it usually does with other disciplines and schools of thought.
Fast forward to the 21st century: the Filipino home is an amalgam of influences both from the East and West. Amid these long-staying traditional design concepts, the realities of the modern world have also greatly affected the design process.
Thus, sustainable, eco-friendly and green designs are translated into furniture and fixtures made from recycled, reused or upcycled materials.
Some of these pieces, both old and new, are currently presented in two remarkable shows. Kathleen Llemit
The treasures from Rizal’s time are part of The Magnificent September Auction 2008 happening on 14 September at the Leon Gallery in Makati City.
Headlining these is a pair of tampipi or woven rattan cases, wherein the hero inconspicuously carried the Filipino classic novel Noli Me Tangere, the quintessential Filipino novel that inspired the Philippine Revolution of 1896 for its no-holds barred critique of the Spanish rule. These native bags are prized family heirlooms for having survived the revolution along with the twin world wars.
The Bantug Virgin, a precious statuette of the Immaculate Concepcion, from the pioneering Filipino collector Don Antonio Bantug of Ilocos Norte, marks the pinnacle of ivory sculpture in the country. It has been described by antiquarian Martin I Tinio Jr., as “the most beautiful virgin in the Philippine Islands.”
Magnificent furniture include the desk of President Elpidio Quirino and the Ah-Tay bed of President Manuel Roxas. There are also two cabinets along with a pair of kamagong aparadors from the collection of Romeo Jorge as well as an escritorio and a bargueno (a two-chested portable desk) from the collection of Enrique Barretto y de Ycaza, who founded San Miguel Brewery.
Also included are several noteworthy sculptural oeuvres, including two geometric abstractions and two crucifixes from Eduardo Castrillo, famous for the Bonifacio and People Power monuments; two brass works from Solomon Saprid, including a frivolous “Mother and Child,” 1978; a marble totem from National Artist Napoleon Abueva and a playful and resin figure from CCP Thirteen Artist Awardee Lynyrd Paras.
Over in Paris for the Maison & Objet are four brands that will join for the first time at the prestigious show, happening from 6 to 10 September.
Gathered under the theme “Kindred: A Design Collective” and the creative direction of Rita Nazareno and Gabby Lichauco, 13 Philippine design brands — CDO Handmade, CSM Philippines, E. Murio, Finali, HaloHalo, JB Woodcraft, Nature’s Legacy, Schema, Southsea Veneer, Tali Handmade, Vito Selma, Weave Manila and Zacarias 1925 — are representing the country and are bringing proudly Filipino designs to a global audience.
While most of this year’s participants have previously participated at Maison & Objet, four are joining the prestigious design event for the first time: E. Murio, HaloHalo, JB Woodcraft and South Sea Veneer.
Heritage furniture maker E. Murio has produced over 40 years’ worth of finely crafted furniture, home interiors and accessories. Working with tropical woods, bamboo, rattan and grass weaves, as well as metal and leather finishes, E. Murio’s timeless, tropical designs echo its Spanish and Asian roots. Infusing fresh ideas and innovative designs to their traditional pieces is creative director Tisha de Borja-Samson, who is also an architect and interior designer.
E. Murio is bringing in pieces from their rattan and bamboo collection called “Unadorned” which features simple and functional yet exquisitely made everyday objects.
Another industry veteran is South Sea Veneer. Based in Mabalacat, Pampanga, South Sea Veneer — an offshoot of family business Betis Crafts — has had years of experience in exporting their products to countries like Japan, Australia and the US. Known for their expertise in various woodcraft techniques translated onto wall décor, bed frames, chairs, tables, cabinetry, and even tabletop décor, what sets South Sea Veneer apart is their mastery of marquetry or veneer inlay. They will showcase their nesting trays made with lahar casted in resin and wood covered in faux shagreen, as well as decorative bauble boxes made of mappa burl veneer.
JB Woodcraft, sister company to South Sea Veneer is also a subsidiary to core family business Betis Crafts. But unlike South Sea Veneer’s clean and modern lines, JB Woodcraft specializes in intricately carved wood. Founded in 1972 in Betis, Pampanga, the brand established itself as the leading exporter of hand-carved components and furniture. Bold, ultra-detailed and life-like, JB Woodcraft’s skilled artisans, helmed by Leslie Bituin-Mendoza, hand-carve each design from old-world romantic filigrees that fill entire bed frames to more contemporary pieces that feature a single carved element. Their collection for Maison, however, is all about accent pieces, like a floral wreath mirror or tabletop candleholders, made more contemporary with a sleek black finish.
The youngest brand of the group is HaloHalo. Established in 2013 by the brother-and-sister team of Rocco and Cara Sumabat, HaloHalo is a lifestyle brand based in Manila. Much like the local delicacy it is named after, HaloHalo is a mélange of handbags and home accessories made with various materials and unlikely combinations.
They initially designed large multipurpose tote bags aptly called Bayong, made out of recycled plastic banig, that could be used for grocery runs, as a planter, or even storage. While the traditional banigs we have come to know are made with brightly-colored weaves, HaloHalo recreated their version in muted tones and fine patterns, lending it a more contemporary feel. After a sold-out first collection, the brand expanded their line to include smaller totes with leather straps and fun bungee cord details, to home and outdoor accessories like roll-up travel mats or poolside recliners — all made with their signature banig material.
For their first international trade show, HaloHalo will showcase their time-tested pieces like their Sopa ottomans. Also made with their recycled plastic banig, these ottomans come in various shapes and sizes that can be stacked or styled together. The brand has also collaborated with E. Murio, providing their signature banig on the latter’s dog houses and small furniture pieces.