By Jenina P. Ibañez

DUBAI — Philippine participation in international trade fairs is usually the work of small businesses, touting banana chips and coconut oil for possible export. But participation in the world’s fair — a six-month international exhibition to showcase “the achievements of nations” — means a different kind of export: creativity.

“The pavilion also would feature the most comprehensive, unique representation of the Philippine creative industry. We’ve been pushing for creative industry more,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said at the media launch of the Dubai 2020 World Expo on Thursday.

The Philippines is spending an estimated P800 million on the construction, maintenance, promotion, events, and run of a pavilion showcasing Philippine creativity for the 192-nation expo in Dubai. The expo is expected to attract 25 million visitors.

“[The creative sector] is really an important competitive edge for Filipinos and the Philippines. This is one area where, without any effort from government, creative industry and services would account for one half of what the performance for goods export would be,” Mr. Lopez said.

The Trade chief noted that annual export for goods accounts for $65-70 billion.

“Without any help, the creative industry is making about $40 billion,” he said.

According to the Expo press materials, the Philippine pavilion will be presenting arts and design, architecture, animation, comics, gastronomy, music, photography, film, fashion, and advertising.

Curator Marian Pastor-Roces described sculptures, photographs, and designs that will be displayed in the pavilion, which would collectively tell the pre-colonial and modern story of Filipinos, as well as showcase the country’s natural beauty.

“We have put together the scientific data about the Philippines from archeology, linguistics, anthropology, a little bit of history… and present it to update the story of the Filipino,” she said.

Export promotion is not the main goal of the expo. Mr. Lopez said it is about “image-promotion,” which could also attract tourism and business investment.

The Philippines previously participated in World Expos in Shanghai in 2010 and Yeosu, South Korea in 2012. Mr. Lopez said that the country is returning to the World Expo next year as it is being held in the United Arab Emirates, where more than 700,000 Filipinos live and work.

“With 190-plus countries participating. It’s harder to explain if you’re not part of this. You really have to be part of this,” he said.

Ms. Pastor-Roces wants to use the pavilion as a means to show Philippine creativity to an international audience.

“We also want those people who are in the creative industries to know that they do belong in a global community of creative people,” she said.

The Department of Trade and Industry said that the Philippines aims to be a top creative economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in terms of size and value by 2030.

The policy recommendations in the department’s road map include declaring creativity as a national priority through an executive order, the creation of a creative economy agency, incentivizing the development of creative hubs, and promoting creative tourism.

The creative industry includes animation, film, advertising, game development, and graphic design, among many others.

Architect Royal L. Pineda, whose agency won the bid to design the pavilion, said that they used “practical luxury” in design. This means they focused on creative design while using cheaper materials and working with local UAE contractors and technologies.

Budji + Pineda Architecture + Design recently received an inquiry from the Solomon Islands to apply “practical luxury” design for their athletic stadium for the Pan-Pacific Games. After the agency presented the Philippine pavilion, South Africa asked the agency to present a design for their own pavilion.

Mr. Pineda hopes for more collaboration among Philippine creativity, culture, and nature with international technologies.

“We believe that anything that we need to do as people should really start with the mind. That’s why when we were asked to talk about sustainability, we talked about cultural sustainability,” he said.