This Christmas popup at Powerplant Mall at Rockwell is a treasure trove of fresh, distinctly Filipino ideas you can wear, carry, spruce up your home or gift people you love with
Filipino is now officially a brand. It always has been, except we didn’t think really take it seriously or we took it too seriously that back in the day, only as recently as 10 years ago, Filipiniana was limited to either formal events or town fiestas or to a school activity like Linggo ng Wika.
A brand is defined as “a product, service, or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services, or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and marketed.” Thanks to a conglomeration of movements—fueled by more and more Filipinos, from retail visionaries to designers and lifestyle luminaries—that has conflagrated in recent years, the Pinoy brand is fast becoming as covetable for Filipinos as the latest trends from New York, Paris, or Milan.
One such movement is Artefino, which has been envisioned to promote a sustainable livelihood for communities by celebrating Filipino craftsmanship. At Christmas, which we have also made our own by holding the record of celebrating it the longest in the world, the movement founded by Cedie Vargas, Marimel Francisco, Maritess Pineda, Mita Rufino, and Susie Quiros mounts Presente by Artefino, a mindfully created popup for holiday shoppers. “We’ve had Presente every holiday season since 2017,” says Marimel.
This annual gathering of Artefino’s partner vendors, communities, and patrons is a treasure trove of fresh, distinctly Filipino ideas you can wear, carry, spruce up your home or gift people you love with. More important, it is an extension of Artefino’s call for responsible retailing and shopping with purpose. “When buyers go to Presente, they shop for meaningful gifts,” says the founding team. “The brands and products on feature have unique stories to tell about local artistry, communities, and creativity.”
I was invited by the Artefino team to take my picks from the selection on display at the Pinoy wonderland that is Presente by Artefino, which is ongoing until the end of December at the Powerplant Mall, Rockwell Center. I went from booth to booth, often ooh-ing and aah-ing over a lot of the things I saw, whether necklace or shirt or shoes or plate chargers or artworks.
I was, I think, looking for a little quirk in the idea, design, or make of the products I considered, but on the whole everything on display at Presente when I visited early this week had shied away from the constraints of what we used to consider “Filipino.” In a brief chat with one of the vendors, I was saying we shouldn’t be looking at tradition like it were a god that might be offended by a little playfulness on our part or even by irreverence.
In the UK, Oscar Wilde has been portrayed as a sleuth investigating the mysterious deaths of teen male prostitutes. In the US, Abraham Lincoln has been reimagined as a vampire slayer. In Greece long, long ago, even Socrates was lampooned for being “ugly and dirty and unkempt” by the likes of Aristophanes in his comedic play The Clouds but also by comic poets Callias, Eupolis, Telecleid, Mnesimachus, and Ameipsias.
At Presente by Artefino, I was thrilled to have seen the Made-in-the-Philippines brand in a league of its own, although the word brand might sound stiff in this case, as the products are all a labor of love, the storied work of the hands of weavers, woodworkers, embroiderers, sewers, and farmers. For sure, even at the grassroots, the creators of Filipino products have come out of a mold in which as a country we have heretofore limited them for lack of support, recognition, and patronage, leaving them to their own devices, which did not give them the confidence or the wherewithal to explore and to experiment. Now the designs as well as the ideas are bolder, yet still fully, distinctly, and surprisingly Filipino. As a result, whereas we used to look out in the world for style, now we are more and more looking inward.
It’s the curation that sets us apart. Those who go to Presente usually find extra special gifts for those they hold dearest. —Marimel Francisco, Artefino co-founder
I would have chosen a lot more from the selection on offer at Presente by Artefino, in which over 70 partner vendors are participating, taking turns week after week, but I was challenged to choose only my best nine, though here I am sharing with you my best 10, in no particular order.