Wednesday, September 26, 2018
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Our unique identity in the world

/ 12:05 AM October 31, 2016

Three events took place this October that showcased the world-class creativity and unique cultural heritage of Filipinos.

These events are largely under the radar of the wider Filipino audience despite the following: They are held every year; the products exhibited are patronized by high-end foreign buyers; and the items sold are the local equivalent of artisanal products that we admire when we visit foreign countries.


The first event was the “HABI Market Fair,” which showcased fabrics with homegrown designs that are produced painstakingly by hand, mostly by women artisans. The fair takes place every October at Glorietta mall in Makati City.

The unique and varied fabrics include “inabel from Northern Luzon, silk from Negros, the Cordillera fabrics of Sagada, Banawe, and Kalinga, piña from Aklan and Palawan, plus the colorful weaves from all over Mindanao.” These native fabrics are turned into shawls, blankets, table runners, and clothes, among others.

While Filipinos who are partial to western designs view our native weaves as baduy (uncool), foreign specialty stores in cities like London are regular buyers of our heritage designs. Our native fabrics draw wealthy foreign patrons because they are uniquely attractive, and distinct from the usual western designs in an alluring kind of way.

The second event was “Manila FAME,” which is flaunted as the Philippines’ “premier design and lifestyle event.” This trade fair is attended by foreign buyers scouting for manufacturers of new-generation designs of furniture, home accents, and fashion wearables. It is primarily intended for the export market, but local buyers abound.

Many of the new designs featured at Manila FAME are impressive examples of the creativity of Filipinos, especially in the clever use of local materials. Looking at the remarkable designs, one cannot help but feel proud that we truly have world-class creative talents. This fair takes place twice a year, in March and October, at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

The third event is the “National Arts & Crafts Fair,” which brings together village cooperatives and small and medium enterprises from the different regions that produce various arts and crafts like baskets, fabrics, house ornaments, and fashion accessories. It is intended for the domestic market.

The fair is normally held three times a year, with a food fair in March, an arts and crafts fair in October, and a combined food and arts and crafts fair in December, all usually held at SM Megamall.

The variety of the beautiful baskets that were recently exhibited at the fair is particularly extraordinary. It is no wonder that 80 percent of the baskets we produce are purchased by American buyers.

We should note the annual occurrence of these trade fairs and take these occasions to buy the products of our artisans whose ranks are increasingly depleting. The trade fairs are good opportunities to obtain in advance gift items for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas, and for corporate giveaways.


Our artisanal products are produced in limited quantities using traditional methods. Their heritage designs are imprints of our unique cultural identity. While we welcome the evolution of our culture as it imbibes influences from all over the world, its transformation should be rooted in its origins and not completely supplanted by foreign cultures.

With western culture inundating every aspect of our way of life, our identity is being reconfigured by a hodgepodge of everything American, Italian food, Mediterranean houses, and Scandinavian furniture.

When we visit nonwestern countries like Japan, Indonesia, and Thailand, we get enamored of their native cultures that thrive in their arts and crafts, architecture, and food. Our experience is enriched because of our encounter with cultures that are distinctly different from ours.

Buy the products of our artisans and ensure the survival of a beautiful culture that honors us with a unique identity in the world.

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TAGS: art, craft, cultural, design, fabric, opinion, trade fair
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