by Devi De Veyra
The Philippine exhibition for AMBIENTE 2017 in Frankfurt, Germany promises to be a strong and intriguing show. Presented by Center for International Trade Expositions and Mission (CITEM) through its industry brand, Lifestyle Philippines, the Philippine Pavilion in AMBIENTE pays homage to the unseen hands that have heroically preserved the country’s artisanal traditions despite the threats of modernity, competition and global disruptions.
14 companies from 7 regions around the country will take part in this poignant paean. In splendid collections for home interiors and decor, the participants exploit a wide range of materials such as hard wood, shell, plant fibers, carabao horn, bone and metals, as well as diverse techniques to illuminate the Filipino artisan’s virtuosity.
With the craftsmen’s thoughtful interventions, materials come to life as functional or decorative articles imbued with character and meaning. At times, technique is restrained to give way to natural textures and patterns, while for some objects, weavings, carvings and other craft techniques lead the narratives.
Identity and sense of place is powerfully evoked but not explicitly portrayed. Instead, the participants invite AMBIENTE’s visitors to closely examine the various objects on show and unravel meanings, stories and coy references to local culture hidden in the gestures.
Though absent from the show, the Filipino artisans’ presence will be strongly felt. Basket & Weaves and Lapekto Lapel are exhibiting tabletop wares with contrasting woodworking techniques. The former shows its expertise in highlighting wood’s brusque, rustic character by way of irregular, robust volumes that follow the material’s natural grooves and knots, and the latter evokes a more delicate and serene vibe with precision shapes and delicate finishes.
Carabao horn and bone lie at the core of Elms Accessoria’s presentation. Their serving spoons, dipping bowls and other dining accessories are devoid of obtrusive decorations to draw focus on the rich tones of both materials.
A few of the participants exploit the tension created by juxtaposing opposing elements. Such is the case with Bon Ace’s series of tabletop articles made with a mix of humble wood and polished metals, the calm and luminous character of capiz shells covering Robles Heritage’s hard-angled products, and Larone’s ancient patterns set against streamlined shapes and brooding colors.
33 Point 3 elevates traditional basketry with its play on scale and subdued tones, while Celestial Arts and Department 24 combine weaving and carving expertise for its line of décor and small accessories.
Cagayan de Oro Handmade Paper and Maddela Flowers & Crafts present a thoughtful response to environmental issues, with the former showcasing the versatility of tree-less paper in a line of sculptural lights and the latter’s collection of vibrant blooms made from desiccated, locally-grown Alibangbang leaves.
All these objects have deeper meanings beyond their function and aesthetic values, and deserve more than just a passing glance. The materials, the manner of manufacture, the details added to the objects and the concepts make these pieces far more precious.
Chanalli’s sacral icons, such as the granary idols called bulols and the Filipino-Hispanic colonial santos, are removed from their original context and reappropriated as decorations for the home. Though the forms are faithfully reproduced, they are stripped of their traditional colorations and vestments associated with ritualistic pageantries.
Oricon’s tabletop wares are carved from stones harvested from the northern rivers of Tarlac, their surfaces polished through years of gentle tides and the furious wrath of typhoons. These objects are silent witnesses to cyclical passages and encapsulate the infallible spirit of a river’s people.
Even the simple placemats from Julie Anne’s Handicrafts are rife with meanings. Its mats, runners and other products made mostly from the humble buri palm evoke the lively conversations and camaraderie present in every Filipino dining table.
There are more stories waiting to be told.
Catch Lifestyle Philippines in AMBIENTE at the Living – Passage Home & Garden Select, Hall 10.2, Stand A51.
Lifestyle Philippines at AMBIENTE is organized by CITEM, the export marketing and promotions arm of the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry, in association with Philippine Trade and Investment Centre (PTIC Berlin) – the commercial section of the Philippine Embassy in Berlin.