GUEST POST: The market for Pinoy pride
By Terri Jayme* I left the Philippines eight years ago to pursue college in the US. As is the case with many Filipinos living abroad, being away from the country compelled me to give greater thought to what it meant to be Filipino and to learn more about the culture and history that define us. Being so far away, I felt the call of home and family. I struggled to preserve that connection and sought out little ways to affirm my identity: I am Pinoy. Aside from the occasional “Got Adobo?” shirt, I’d come home during my first few years away and find very few Filipino products for young people. I had to choose between campy souvenir shirts or the more traditional capiz or bamboo Filipiniana wares. It made me wonder whether the absence of more modern options implied a lack of interest among young Pinoys locally. Fortunately, things seem to have changed in recent years. I moved back to Manila last year and was surprised to find a growing market of fun and young product lines celebrating pride in being Filipino and exploring different aspects of this identity. They proudly showed off names of cities and local streets. They flashed modernized images of Philippine heroes. They documented the little quirks and perks that make daily life in the Philippines unique. I found everything from clothes and bags to books and music. In terms of clothes, my personal favorites back then were the things I’d find in Team Manila and Bayo. Suddenly, it was cool to be Filipino. We wore it on our shirts. We wrote about it in our blogs. We celebrated it in concerts. We tried to capture it in our photography. It was exciting to see Filipino artists, designers, and entrepreneurs working together to promote this love for country and make it more accessible to the general public, especially the youth. Even more encouraging for me was when I discovered that many of these products were linked to the work of some pretty inspiring initiatives. There are groups like Team RP, RockEd Philippines, Yabang Pinoy, and YTRiP. Each have programs that reach out to young Filipinos and challenge them to engage in issues such as education, the environment, geotourism, and poverty. Many of these initiatives started out as groups of friends, usually young professionals or college students, who came together and decided that they had to do something. These efforts reject the notion of an apathetic youth and seek to find a voice and foothold in our nation’s ongoing history. One fascinating group that I had the chance to learn more about was CANVAS. Committed to promoting a broader appreciation for Philippine art, culture, and the environment, CANVAS works with Filipino artists, writers, and artisans and sparks exciting new collaborations. For instance, their flagship activity is an annual children’s storywriting competition. But as a first step, a young promising Filipino artist is commissioned by CANVAS to create an original, large scale painting. This work then becomes the centerpiece of an open online writing competition. Writers submit children’s stories that are inspired by the painting. The same artist then further illustrates the winning literary piece on large-scale paintings. The result is the publication of an amazing, full-color Filipino children’s book and a major solo exhibition of the artist’s paintings, which have been completely sold out in the past. With this growing market and interest in all things Filipino, we must also face the challenge of sustaining quality. I’m not just talking about better merchandise. Our projects and initiatives need to be effective, sustainable, and designed to effect long-term positive change for our society. How do we channel all this energy and general awareness into productive action? We must go beyond the hype. It would be a shame if our patriotism becomes trendy yet uninformed and disengaged. We must continue to ask ourselves: What exactly am I proud of? What does being Filipino mean to me? What are my own concrete contributions to this society? If we make a conscious effort to think and act on these questions each day, it will feel a hundred times better when we put on that shirt, walk down the street and declare, “Pilipino Ako.” *Terri is a young Filipina who is currently based in Singapore and works with Ashoka: Innovators for the Public in Asia (www.ashoka.org).
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