Frontliner dolls for a cause

Get into the spirit of bayanihan with these health worker-inspired collectibles.

“Dolls are safe companions,” said the American novelist Louisa May Alcott. Dolls symbolize an age of innocence, wonder, and happiness, and provide a practice ground for developing special friendships. When lost, dolls cause heartbreak. Mark Twain writes, “A child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.” In this pandemic, with many lives gone and medical workers at risk, we are feeling loss and hopelessness the size of the entire world.

To uplift spirits, product designer Jojo Sonillo decided to create a line of collectible dolls inspired by medical workers, the “Our Frontliners, Our Heroes” 2020 Collectible Dolls Series. For him, designing these dolls is a way to tell frontliners that they are not alone in this battle, and that their sacrifices are not forgotten.

“After talking to some frontliners, I found out that after three months under quarantine, donations sent to hospitals had been decreasing,” Jojo tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “I thought of creating a product I could tie up with an initiative group and raise money, something that would encourage people to donate food or send help to the frontliners. That’s when I designed the frontliner collectible dolls.”

Apart from the vinyl dolls, Jojo also launched Products with Purpose PH on Facebook. It is a digital marketplace where people can support their Bayanihan Moment Impact initiative by purchasing locally-made merchandise, donating cash or items to its causes, and volunteering, all for the benefit of medical workers and other frontliners.

“Before, I produced different products and made all sorts of decorations and gift items. But with this pandemic, I have to repurpose and rethink the way I produce them,” he says. “My idea for this is that people will buy these dolls and maybe give them as gifts to frontliners. This can boost their morale.”

This is not the first time Jojo worked on products for a cause. As president and CEO of a gifts and specialty products company, Precious Moment Manila, he has partnered with various charity institutions such as the Philippine Red Cross and Bantay Bata. In 2015, he was able to donate eight fishing boats to Leyte through the proceeds from the sales of his Pope Francis dolls. 

Manila FAME's Katha Awards, which spotlights sustainable products by Filipino designers and artisans organized by Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), also recognized some of his masterpieces. These include his ethereal works with local materials like the “Peacock and Pinya Bird” collection in 2016 and the Abaca Seda Tree in 2019, both were awarded the title Best Product Design for Home and Holiday Dècor.

Peacock and Pinya Bird (Photo from Precious Moments Manila)
Abaca Seda Tree (Photo from Manila FAME)

“Our Frontliners, Our Heroes” dolls cost P595 each, with 20 percent of its sales given to Food for Frontliners PH, a non-profit organization providing free meals to hospital staff and displaced workers in different parts of the country.

“This is a perfect time for me to do this, because during the quarantine I really wanted to extend help or volunteer to a referral hospital, but I couldn’t,” Jojo says. “I am very thankful for the frontliners’ above and beyond service. We have been praying for them, that God will continue to empower them to continue their mission.”