Date posted: October 15, 2021

Raw Potential

Philippine indigenous materials are reinvented, reimagined, and re-engineered into standout pieces

by Vicky Montenegro

Filipino designers and manufacturers have long acknowledged the importance of material in the production of their designs. Put simply: a design vision will never come to fruition without the right material to work with.

The Philippines is considered rich in supply of raw, indigenous materials. Rattan, for example, grows in abundance in the mountainous regions of Mindanao, Visayas, and Palawan. Rattan is just one kind of natural fiber that is commonly used and locally sourced; there’s also abaca, buri, raffia, sisal, and coconut, among others. And that is just one material classification that we are fortunate enough to have quick and ready access to.

Renowned designer-artist Tony Gonzales, part of the pioneering Movement 8 (together with Kenneth Cobonpue, Ann Pamintuan, Tes Pasola, Al Caronan, Luisa Robinson, Renato Vidal, Carlo Cordaro, and Milo Naval) and one-half of One of T, a furniture and lifestyle store he runs with Pasola, is a firm believer of the infinite possibilities of the country’s indigenous materials. In fact, for FAME+ Market Days, a three-day event happening from October 20 to 22, the acclaimed design consultant will hold a virtual discussion on how Philippine indigenous materials can be reinvented, reimagined, and re-engineered. Entitled “Raw Potential: Manifesting Materials into Concepts,” Gonzales’ session will take place on the second day (October 21) of the online event.

Together with technique, workmanship, and a singular vision, the right material will complete the realization of a standout piece. Below are some examples of these standout pieces from the FAME+ Catalogue. They beautifully demonstrate how raw materials can take on new forms and magically transform any space.

Narra, acacia, molave, mahogany, mango, santol, yakal, tanguile, gmelina… the Philippines has several wood species to choose from. Lamana, a brand known for woodworking sources “whatever is already in the country,” according to owner Jar Concengco. “We do not place orders for species that are not available,” he says.

1) Hand-turned wood finials in various finishes for your tops and ends. Finials (BNW-F2006), BASKET AND WEAVES 2) This is what we call the ace of base. Montana Dining Table, OMO Furniture 3) Upcycled pinewood in attractive geometric shapes—for your small plants and knickknacks. Geometric Wooden Planter, CRATE POSSIBILITIES 4) These “rings of little universes” look stellar in the dining room. Ringo Lamps, VITO SELMA HOME 5) The bag is a sculptural beauty, but also functions well for quick errands. Anilla, KARA DE JUAN 6) This lounge chair is a perfect example of wood magic. Arata Lounge Chair, VITO SELMA HOME 7) Even the humble driftwood can look exquisite, as this side table proves. Trone Side Table, MURILLO 8) The hand-turned details in this three-legged mahogany beauty make a design statement in the home. Coffee Table with Cane Matting Top, CYMRU FURNITURE 9) Polished elegance by way of solid wood appliques combined with walnut veneer. Brooks, DESIGNS LIGNA

Many designers and manufacturers have long favored bamboo’s versatility and functionality. The native plant species, which grows in many parts of the Philippines, has been used in the production of furniture, décor pieces, and even toothbrushes and bicycles.

1) Bamboo is handcrafted to form this contemporary fixture. NCA90109 Bamboo Teardrop Pendant, NATIVE CRAFTS AND ARTS 2) Hand-laminated bamboo provides the arresting design detail in this solid wood construction. Bamboo Dining Chair (Wide), OMO FURNITURE 3) This multi-functional piece is made of bamboo and vegan leather. Buslo Bamboo Planter/Bin, GREAT GIFTS 4) Bamboo is crushed, formed into “origami,” finished in a pewter tone—and becomes a stunner. Origami Stool, E MURIO 5) Natural bamboo adds an architectural detail to this paper basket. Paper Clay Basket, INDIGENOUS 6) Handmade from crushed bamboo, it can serve as both a functional and a decorative tray. Crushed Bamboo Tray, E MURIO

From the sea to lamps, furniture, and home and fashion accessories, shells have been used as finishes and inlays on many occasions. Capiz is undoubtedly one of the most popular ones, and it has been used on almost everything—from windows to earrings.

1) Oyster shells produce a beautiful look and sound. Hanging Chimes (NCHS-907B), TGIA 2) Capiz shells create the most beguiling translucent effect. Cherry Blossom Bouquet Pendant Lamp, VENZON LIGHTING 3) Hundreds of hand-pounded capiz shells are fully laminated and shaped into a bell. Bell-Shape Capiz Lamp, GOLTRIO INC. 4) Capiz shells majestically transform into a flower in this drop lamp. Alessa Drop Lamp, OMO FURNITURE 5) GMOP shell and steel create an avant-garde shape of a vase. HD10467, BON ACE 6) A great example of a modern take on shell inlay in fashion accessories. Mayari Choker, SUSANNE VERALLO 7) Sea shells, brass, and resin combine to form a piece made for royalty. Melo Shell Dragon Tray, ARDEN CLASSIC INC. 8) Two different tones of capiz create a pretty pattern, as seen on this charger plate. Kiwer Des Charger Plate, LBRPHILCRAFTS

Natural fiber is perhaps the most prolific material in furniture and home design. Abaca is considered the strongest natural fiber and, understandably, sees constant, heavy use. “The natural fiber is malleable,” Mary Mediatrix Villanueva of Shelmed Cottage Treasures says. “There are so many processes that you can adapt—braiding, twisting, crocheting, weaving. And you can shape it, dye it into many colors, and be excitedly different in creative approaches.”

1) Three-panel rattan solihiya weave will make a great accent for any living space. Ramona Divider, HOME EDITION 2) Anahaw palm in ribbed louvers cast a gorgeous light. Banahaw Small Drop Light, AZCOR LIGHTING SYSTEMS, INC. 3) Rafia and wire form an out-of-this-world beauty. NCA90192 Saucer Pendant, NATIVE CRAFTS AND ARTS 4) Rattan has never looked this bold and handsome. Apparatus Chair, E MURIO 5) Round core rattan creates the eye-catching texture on this coffee table. Coron Table, MORE THAN A CHAIR, INC. 6) Handcrafted coconut twigs and abaca twine add rustic chic to your tablescape. GEMA Placemat 14” Dia., HACIENDA CRAFTS 7) This black beauty is purely handmade with bamboo and rattan. Desk 201, E MURIO 8) Rattan basket weave combined with pastel-colored fabric strips is playful, yet modern. Oona, LIJA BY THAT ONE PIECE

Wonderful news: there are now sustainable ways to source paper. Masaeco, for example, uses paper made from sustainable plants and agricultural by-products, such as mulberry, salago, cogon grass, banana fibers and pineapple leaves, and upcycled cartons. Indigenous, meanwhile, has its pinyapel, a portmanteau of pinya (Filipino for “pineapple”) and papel (paper), which is made out of pineapple leaves that would have otherwise been discarded after harvesting.

1) Abaca fiber and cogon grass are transformed into a sturdy paper material—then shaped into the most striking storage piece. Red Oval Paper Clay Storage with Cover, INDIGENOUS 2) Paper made from natural abaca, cogon pulp, and bamboo skin is handsewn and color-treated. Stitched Washable Paper Lamp in Pinyapel and Lime, INDIGENOUS 3) This wreath-slash-wall-art is made of paper, floral tape, and rattan. D24-DEV52, DEPARTMENT 24 4) Made of Nucast – composite paper, the production of which follows the Green Furnishing Code, these pieces are part of an “eco-lux” home accents line. Home Accents and 5) Floreia Table Set Accessories, both FLOREIA

Stone and clay—literally and figuratively—give off an earthy aesthetic. There is a perfect imperfection to pieces made of these materials. Pumice, for example, is volcanic rock that looks abrasive (and it is), yet it’s beautiful when transformed into vases and bowls. Pottery and ceramic, which are formed with clay, have seen an increase in popularity due to gardening becoming a pandemic hobby for most people—resulting in the creation of the most beautiful trends.

1) Natural pumice stone lends a crude aesthetic to your home. Irregular-shaped Garden Pot, Tabletop Flower Vase, Irregular-Shaped Garden Pot and 2) Wall-hanging Flower Vase, both PUMICEUNLIMITED VENTURES 3) Natural crushed stone is stamped dry in a mold to simulate the way the earth makes limestone. Vasti Vase, NATURE’S LEGACY 4) This porcelain tabletop décor was created using slip-casting method. Burlesk Vase Standing On Disc, CSM PHILIPPINES, INC. 5) Fine bone china takes on a tropical vibe. Pandanus Fruit Vase Large and Small, CSM PHILIPPINES, INC. 6) Terracotta clay is carbonized, producing a bold statement for your plants. Xtra Large Big Curvy Planter, RED SLAB POTTERY 7) Cement top finish provides the brutalist aesthetic to this table. Cemento Dining Table, DEDIPO


FAME+ Market Days happens online from October 20 to 22, 2021 at HopIn! Philippine design marks its second year online with this immersive digital expo, showcasing more than 200 storefronts and thousands of the finest home, fashion, and lifestyle products.

Don’t miss the talks on the future of design, Philippine fashion, brand storytelling, and marketing by local and international thought-leaders. Grab the opportunity to connect with buyers, exhibitors, industry professionals all in one digital marketplace. To register for the FAME+ Market Days event, visit the HopIn Market Days registration page. Visit or follow FAME+ on Instagram and Facebook.



Can't Get Enough
of FAME+?

Our free email newsletter is bursting at the seams with the latest in high quality design-oriented home, fashion, holiday, and interior products.

Your data is safe with us and you can unsubscribe at any time.
For more information see our Privacy Policy