Local crafts for Christmas

Published November 29, 2021, 11:49 AM

by John Legaspi

Supporting Philippine-made products means more than just putting a penny in the pockets for Filipino craftsmen and entrepreneurs

In the past years, “patriotic shopping” has been at the core of the Filipino retail industry. We’ve seen it through the numerous government initiatives with the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) “Buy Local, Go Lokal” and “One Town, One Product” and shopping establishments offering spaces to homegrown brands with pop-ups and bazaars, ultimately bringing local crafts from different parts of the Philippines closer to the market, especially to the young ones. While these programs have kept local goods on the shoppers’ must-buy list, people didn’t fully understand the importance of patriotic shopping until the pandemic hit the country.

According to the 2021 survey Who Cares, Who Does by Kantar, one of the world’s leading data, insights, and consulting groups, 90 percent of its respondents expressed that they are more likely to purchase locally made products. Apart from gaining quality goods and sustainability concerns, they do it to support the local economy and to keep Filipinos’ livelihood going during a health crisis. Truly, COVID-19 has affected the way we shop today. As the holidays near, the government, small business owners, and Filipino artisans and creatives are continuously rallying to still keep that patriotic shopping mindset alive.

To help understand more of what it means to support locals this Christmastime, we’ve chatted with creative leaders and purveyors of Philippine-made goods from different fields about patronizing what is ours and why focusing on them can make the holidays more joyful for many Filipino families and brings more value to your purchase.

Empowering local business owners

Surviving the pandemic and keeping the business afloat are already tough for many business owners, especially in the food industry. Some have braved their way to e-commerce while others have sadly closed their doors. Bouncing back with reopening their physical stores is the next challenge to face. Among those that understand the situation is Abba Napa, founding partner of The Moment Group.

“Throughout such a challenging time, entrepreneurs and teams in every industry have gone above and beyond to find ways to meet the needs of our communities and continue to do what we do best,” the restaurateur says. “We show our hope for the future and a return to a safe and happy new normalcy by creating anew, and as Filipinos, it is important to support each other as we do so.”

Special puto bumbong and bibingka (Photo from The Moment Group’s Manam)

Managing a delicious portfolio of concept restaurants and bars, Abba knows that achieving a successful return requires good and comforting food to gain customers’ support. For the season, she and the brands under her belt are offering thoughtful ways to say “thank you,” “happy holidays,” and even “see you soon” through eats and treats that highlight Filipino flavors, from their locally-inspired bottled sauces to reimaginations of the traditional puto bumbong and bibingka, for diners to enjoy in their space or at the comfort of their home.

“This is our way of hopefully being part of gift-giving and a lot of handaans this Christmas,” Abba says.

Valuing Filipino artisans

Working with local artisan communities is part of many social enterprises’ operations. Not only does it provide a means of livelihood for these communities, it also gives them a sense of importance. Danielle Tan and Christine Tiu, the women behind Amami PH, a homegrown brand on a mission to keep the Philippines’ traditional art of jewelry-making from dying, have been witnesses to the power of customers in changing artisans’ lives.

Filipino craftsman keeping the country’s ancient art of making filigree jewelry (Photos from Amami)

“Our customers are our lifelines. They allow us to preserve a vanishing jewelry tradition, create and provide a continuous livelihood for our local craftsmen and their families,” they say. “ Local, handmade crafts are often a labor of love and so choosing to support these industries is a way to invest directly into our local economy, strengthen communities, and enable them to prosper.”

Keeping Liliw, Laguna as the Tsinelas Capital of the country is part of Corazon Coligado’s plan when she established her brand Aishe Footwear, which is geared toward helping families and craftsmen in the community. Thankfully, even with the rise of foreign brands entering the country’s retail landscape today, she is happy that many Filipinos are still supporting her cause.

Artisan meticulously working on an embroidery for a weaved mule (Photo from Aishe Footwear)

“During this pandemic, napatunayan ko na maraming kababayan natin ang sumusuporta sa mga locally-made products. I am very thankful kasi ang dami nating magagaling na Filipino craftsmen at mga community na may iba’t ibang galing sa paglikha ng mga disenyo at materyales (During the pandemic, I have proven that many Filipinos support locally-made products. I am thankful because we have many Filipino craftsmen and communities that are good in creating designs and materials),” Corazon says. She adds that, through collaborations, they have been able to showcase their craft in different parts of the Philippines, and help local communities and families. “Christmas is about family and helping one another, and that’s what we will continue to do,” she says.

Keeping the craft alive

More than just giving financial support to the people behind local goods and crafts, patronizing these helps the country’s identity be relevant for generations to come. Mark Wilson, the interior and lighting designer behind the wonderful works of Caro Wilson, has worked with Filipino artisans and learned the country’s age-old techniques to understand the purpose of recognizing these works in modern times.

“An object made by a skilled hand connects the person who uses it to the person who makes it. The maker and the user are intimately connected, without ever knowing each other. There is a further intimate connection: to all the people before who used and made objects in this craft tradition,” Mark says. “But we no longer need, for instance, to weave baskets. Industrial production has ensured that we have more than enough bags in the world, mostly in plastic. A basket-maker weaves her basket because she wants to; she no longer needs to. This raises the question about what place crafts have in our contemporary world.”

Caro Wilson’s native holiday lantern (Photo from Caro Wilson)

“Craft at its essence has always been about technique, not about innovations in design. In indigenous cultures, forms tend to stay uniform for quite a long time. But today, humans need craft to morph into new forms. Design is leading the way. It is very exciting to see this phenomenon blossoming in the Philippines,” he continues. “It would be a tragedy if we lose the few hands that today still work in the Filipino craft traditions of basket-weaving, metalsmithing, wood carving furniture making, banig-weaving, etc. Only by buying locally can we ensure making-by-hand stays alive.”