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Support Local With These Home Accessories That Celebrate Filipino Design Savvy

Let’s pay homage to the beauty of Filipino craftsmanship and the diversity of Filipino culture that transcends generations


Independence Day is probably the holiday that stirs up the most pride in a year. It is a celebration of our country’s freedom, a celebration of all the heroes and patriots who made it happen, and a day to remember and be thankful for the culture that we were able to preserve, thanks to this freedom.


In the recent years, it’s nice to see the emergence of traditional Filipino elements and materials once again—in clothes, in home décor, and in the regular things that we use everyday. Woven placemats and bags are coming back, demand for rattan baskets are going up, and the popularity of woven fabric from various indigenous tribes and provincial groups are becoming more prevalent as face masks and clothes. And the demand for these proudly Pinoy products are not just rising locally; they’re even taking the international stage. Filipino designers like Ito Kish, Kenneth Cobonpue, and Vito Selma are pushing the envelope in terms of bringing Filipino materials and design to the global stage. How can we forget the news of Brad Pitt’s Kenneth Cobonpue bed, made from buri and abaca?



Cultural (mis)appropriation

On one side of this cultural appropriation spectrum, you have the resurgence of traditional and rich Filipino culture and its applications in international and higher end markets. And on the other side of the spectrum, you have regular bilaos being hung in walls and sold for almost P15,000 at Pottery Barn.


Cultural appropriation has become a tremendous issue in the global scene especially in the last years, when designers and artists started to turn to non-mainstream cultures and tribes for inspiration for their works. Many people have begun to point fingers and shake their heads, saying it’s cultural misappropriation to turn people’s cultures into everyday wearable or usable things. But, is it really a bad thing?



Screen Shot of Pottery Barn site with the round 42" Bamboo Wall Art selling for almost USD 300
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Borrowing of cultures is what gave birth to many treasures like Japanese jeans, California maki, or even the New York pizza. In fact, we daresay that sharing cultures is beautiful and positive, giving more avenues for design inspiration, creating community in a world that could always use more education about the cultures that make up our global population.


But like all things, cultural appropriation cannot be all-encompassing. There are things that we should be wary of, when it comes to borrowing cultures.



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How to err on the right side of designing an object or even your home with indigenous materials? One, we would say, is to always pay homage and acknowledge the origins of ideas and designs. Yakan fabrics, for example, are brightly colored fabrics made by the Yakans from Basilan and Zamboanga. If you can give livelihood to the Yakans by sourcing genuine fabrics from them, then that’s always better than copying their style and having them tailored somewhere else. You can also treat their designs the same way you would treat creative collaborations—give credit and consider royalties.


Religious and sacred artifacts should always be treated with respect, not to be worn as accessories or hung as trophies. There are many headdresses or materials, for example, that have significantly sacred roots and uses in many indigenous tribes. In these cases, it’s never okay to turn them into workaday clothes, accessories, or items, as respect to the culture it came from.


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Diversity of Filipino culture

Filipino culture in itself is very diverse. We have so many indigenous tribes with their own aesthetics, ways of living, and raw materials. We also have designs and items that hail back from olden times, which may have lost their significance and use, but are making a comeback thanks to designers, brands, and small businesses who are striving to bring them back to the mainstream.


Should we be offended that bilaos are being sold for hundreds of dollars as “round bamboo wall art”? Or that rattan baskets are being labeled as “boho chic” in international markets? Honestly, they’re more funny than offensive. And creative, too!


Filipinos ARE creative. And we always find ways to make things work. Old capiz windows and lanterns? Those would make some pretty chic planters. Those out-of-season bayongs that our grandmas would carry to the market? Turn them into stylish banig bags!




If more people are willing to buy from local artisans and craftsmen, then that’s more livelihood for Filipinos. If more people are willing to dress their homes in fabrics from different parts of the country, then that’s a way towards sustainability: preserving many dying arts and practices, not to mention making use of materials that are local, thereby reducing the use of gas and the carbon footprint it takes to procure an item for your home. If people would like to hang bilaos in their bedroom, then so be it! That’s one less bilao waste in our dumpsters.


This Independence Day, we have curated a list of our favorite local home and design pieces, many of them handcrafted from different parts of the country. May these picks inspire you to not just dress your homes and have something “local” in the name of Pinoy pride, but also to be reminded of the beauty of Filipino craftsmanship, the ingenuity of Filipino talent, dexterity of the local skilled worker and the diversity of Filipino culture—and how we’re so lucky to be in the midst of it.


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