By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo

ILOILO CITY — Creators of some of the best Philippine products — local crafts, home and lifestyle items, food, jewelry and fashion products — converged in Iloilo City late February for the first Tahum Pop Up Festival.

The event, participated in by almost 60 exhibitors from around the country, reinforced a growing “local revolution” or a love for locally made goods.

The appreciation for what we can call our own was deepened by the inspiring tales from the exhibitors, the stories behind their things of tahum, the Hiligaynon word for beauty or beautiful.

Vincent Ascalon, owner of the Manila-based Custorero Studio, takes pride in his laid back and comfortable pieces which he said are perfect for career men and women who are always on the go.

But more than that, Mr. Ascalon said he is proud how he has been able to help local dressmakers.

“I help the small-time mananahis (tailors and seamstresses) in Manila because they usually just alter or fix clothes. Through my business, I was able to give them a livelihood. It’s also one way for them to develop their creativity and become hard working because I am here to help them,” he said.

Maco Custodio of Maco Manila, which makes art pieces and fashion products using recylable materials such as foil and plastic, said three communities are involved in his venture.

“We incorporate three communities, first is Rizal for the weaving in Antipolo. In Baseco, Manila, that is where we get some of the materials, and Marikina for the shoes,” he said.

Mr. Custodio said he wants budding fashion designers to be inspired by his art as well as his business model. “Right now, in the time where everyone copies what they see, I think it is a good time that they can also copy the entire thing of helping a community,” he said.

Kikulo from Bacolod, a brand of handwoven bags made from pandan (screwpine) leaves and wood, was set up as a livelihood project for farmers’ wives in Victorias, Negros Occidental.

It’s sister brand, Tickled Tripple, is also helping the Gawad Kalinga community in Negros through the production of totes, canvas bags, and macramé bags.

“It’s really to help out, to give an opportunity to the less fortunate people to help them earn money. They cannot get a job in the corporate (world), but with this kind of craft, they can easily learn a skill and they can earn like a regular employee working in office,” said Tickle Tripple owner MM Cusi. Ms. Cusi said joining Tahum is special because it is not just a bazaar that showcases Philippine products, but one that gives emphasis to the advocacies of the participants.

“Aside from the fact that we are just neighbors, we also wanted to try the market and Tahum is really the advocacy. When you see anybody who helps, because it’s also our advocacy, we also want to help them as well,” she said.

Iloilo’s homegrown fashion designer Nono Palmos, meanwhile, said his Filipineo line is all about marrying the traditional and modern.

“The name is Filipineo, like a modern Filipino, because I blend the local fabric like hablon from Visayas with modern fabrics,” he explained.

When doing shows abroad, he makes sure that the local weaving communities share the spotlight.

“For the love of weavers in the community, when I did a show in Switzerland, I promoted Filipineo including four regions, from our fabric here in Western Visayas and piña (pinable fiber fabric) in Aklan, (and the cloth of two indigenous groups, the) Gaddang in Northern Luzon and Yakan in Mindanao,” he said.

“It’s fulfilling to help the community and (combine it with your) creativity as a designer. I’m glad that many have been embracing this concept,” he said, speaking in a mix of English and Filipino.

Jewelers also shared the stories of collaboration behind their products.

Manila-based Adante Leyesa said they mainly use handmade techniques from different communities for the design of their accessories.

“Our intricate products are composed of various techniques and majority are handmade. They are fusion of communities from Luzon to Mindanao,” Mr. Leyesa said.

Iloilo’s own BJ Chavez said he believes the Ilonggo market is ready to patronize this fashion-with-a-local-heart trend.

“Ilonggos are creative and fashionable. I think it’s about time that Iloilo is introduced to this kind of thing, I know Ilonggos are ready to embrace a more forward type of fashion,” he said.

The Tahum Pop Up Festival was organized by the Assumption Iloilo Educational Foundation, Inc. (AIEF), which handles scholarships for underprivileged but deserving students.

The net proceeds of the event will go to the AIEF’s scholarship program and an indigenous community to help them further develop their craft.

AIEF said Tahum was about showcasing beautiful Filipino products, and, more importantly, the beautiful collaborations behind the creations.