These Filipino Trailblazers Putting the Philippines on the Map Through Sensory Storytelling
Jun 27, 2023   •   Cristina Morales
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Jun 27, 2023   •   Cristina Morales
The Philippines has long been known for its stunning beaches, mouth-watering cuisine, and warm hospitality. However, the world is starting to take notice of something new – the innovative work of Filipinos who are using their talents to put the Philippines on the map.
Recently, Dama Ko Lahi Ko — a volunteer-driven initiative that’s all about celebrating Filipino culture through the five senses — hosted an event to highlight some of these modern creative visionaries. Here’s how each of them is leading the way in showcasing the beauty of their country through sensory storytelling.
“Filipino will always be my design language.”
– Ito Kish
Award-winning furniture designer Ito Kish explained how he drew tactile inspiration from his upbringing in San Pablo, Laguna. Kish spent his childhood observing everything around him — from the intricately woven market basket to the prints on his mother’s dresses. The Solihiya chairs in his grandmother’s home and the balusters that allowed fresh air to flow through became memories that were interwoven into his creativity.
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After working in sales, he moved to Indonesia to study visual merchandising and retail, and then began exploring the world of design. When Kish returned to the Philippines, he opened a small shop selling home accessories from all over the world. But it wasn’t until 2012 that he launched his own furniture line. His brand Ito Kish Design is all about taking traditional Filipino designs and adapting them for modern homes. His designs have won numerous awards both locally and internationally, and he’s launched 13 collections to date.
For Kish, design is personal. He believes that his designs will always reflect who he is and where he comes from. His creations are not just beautiful, but they’re also a reflection of his heritage and upbringing.
“When you wear a terno, you wear your heart on your sleeve. You wear your nationality for everyone to know that you are Filipino.”
– Gino Gonzales
Esteemed scenographer Gino Gonzales used vintage photographs to showcase the impact of the terno on Philippine history. He highlighted how the terno was worn in everyday life, pointing out its cultural significance and historical importance.
Gonzales discovered his passion for set and costume design after joining Tanghalang Ateneo at Ateneo De Manila University. Then, while under the mentorship of Salvador Bernal (National Artist for Theatre and Design), he realized that he could make a living out of his love for theatre production. Gino is passionate about Filipiniana and loves working with period pieces. But what really gets him going is the challenge of making Filipino history relevant to a modern audience.
“I wanted to photograph Apo Whang-od like my lola. When people abroad message me about the cover, they thank me for bringing a piece of home to the world. And now this photo exists in homes everywhere.”
– Artu Nepomuceno
Up-and-coming photographer Artu Nepomuceno recounted his experience photographing cultural icon Apo Whang-od for the April 2023 issue of Vogue Philippines, which received widespread acclaim across the globe.
For Nepomuceno , this shoot wasn’t just about capturing beautiful photos — it was about respecting and understanding the value of traditional tattooing. And that’s exactly what Artu did. He approached photographing Whang-Od like he was visiting his beloved grandmother, treating her with the utmost care and respect. Through his lens, Nepomuceno hopes to inspire interest in pre-colonial Filipino culture and encourage projects that focus on its history and traditions.
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“Kung hindi natin mamahalin ang kulturang atin, tayo po ay magkakawatak-watak at mismong bansa ay hihina at walang mapatutunguhan.”
– Bayang Barrios
The enchanting voice of Bayang Barrios mesmerized the audience as she took the stage, sharing her journey toward embracing her Manobo heritage, culture, and music. The indigenous musician emphasized the importance of appreciating the diverse range of music in our cultural heritage.
Growing up, Barrios witnessed firsthand the discrimination and struggles that they faced as their ancestral lands were taken away. But Bayang didn’t let that hold her back — she left her tribe to become a teacher, and eventually found her way back to the world of the lumads through music.
“Filipino food does not need to be elevated because there is nothing to elevate. All you need to do is to find creative ways of presenting it.”
– Jenny Yrasuegui
Restaurateur Jenny Yrasuegui then highlighted that the unmatched combination of Filipino hospitality and food creates an unforgettable experience. As a restaurateur, Yrasuegui knows just how important it is to create an unforgettable dining experience for her customers.
But for Yrasuegui, it’s not just about running a successful restaurant — it’s also about promoting the beauty and richness of Filipino culture through its food. She knows that Filipino cuisine has so much to offer, and she’s dedicated to sharing those flavors with the world.
During the event, the movement’s co-founders Leigh Reyes and Len Cabili emphasized the importance of Filipino culture as soft power in a world seeking what’s authentic, memorable, and valuable.
“What can help us advance as a nation can come from who we are. We can all be part of it by living our culture collectively, consciously, and consistently in our everyday lives,” the co-founders emphasized.
Dama Ko Lahi Ko is the unifying theme that compiles all Filipino experiences within the framework of the five senses. By using the hashtag #DamaKoLahiKo when sharing Filipino themes, everyone can actively support the growth and recognition of Filipino culture and talent—shaping a future where the Filipino identity thrives both at home and abroad.
Though a chronic dabbler in whatever tickles her fancy, Cristina claims she can count her passions on one hand: feminism, literature, the environment, embroidery, and the power of a solid pop song. She lives in Uniqlo lounge pants and refuses to leave the house without a winged eye.
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