Do you ever feel that most of our pasalubong centers here in the metro are not as reflective of the Pinoy abilities and as extensive as we want it to be? Moreover, these pasalubong centers usually offer the same products as its other counterparts. Wherever you go, it is the same all through out! And since they offer no evident distinction from each other and just limited options, visitors coming here in Manila who want to bring a worthy memorabilia or two back to their home country end up getting the same things: either those inevitable and undying wooden key chains or those shirts that scream I love name of place in front which are both boring and overrated. That is why upon knowing of a place that exhibits and collates unique and interesting products sourced out from the different provinces of the Philippines, I immediately scheduled a visit during my convenient time to scour the place. My mom and I had the opportunity to look around the Manila Collectible Co. last Saturday before the rain poured hard.
Greeting us in the hallway is this humongous and attention-grabbing painting by Kulisap. KuLiSaP (Kultura, Linya, Sining at Pintura) is an in-house group of students, about eight of them, taking up Fine Arts in EARIST and doing their on-the-job training at the Manila Collectible Co. Their paintings mainly circle around the theme of freedom and independence. This masterpiece was completed by them for just a mere 9 days! There are really some of us who are gifted to boot.
Going up the stairs, you will appreciate the white rough stone walls and ceiling that envelops the staircase. I cannot help but feel like I am a daughter of a Filipino magnate during the Spanish era upon ascending the staircase of "our" house!
After a flight of stairs or two and a gasp in between, we arrive at the most top floor of this event place turned to shop owned by Charisse Aquino - Tugade.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Because of the enormity of the place, I feel like a kid being led in a candy-full store! I do not know where to start. There is just a lot going on and a lot of choices to begin with. Since we are already on the topic of paintings, I go straight to this wonderful corner at the near back of the shop. While I am checking out the paintings, a guy in a gray shirt approaches me and introduces himself as Jomel. Jomel actually worked for The Manila Collectible Co. (TMCC) during his OJT days but because of his love for the place, due also to the continuous support that TMCC give him to fluorish and improve his gift as an artist, he chose to stay and give his service here even after graduating. One of the members of the Kulisap, he explains that these are the paintings of their group displayed during their very first exhibit backed up by TMCC. Colorful, vibrant and alive, I immediately fall in love with the paintings. Seeing all of these sprout in me a sense of pride for our innate creativity and talents. We, Filipinos, are really world-class. I ask Jomel which of these are his creations and he points out at the three-fold canvas in the front. He excuses himself for no reason and comes back after a minute carrying three more paintings on his hands.
These are still their creations. He specifically tells me that the two on his right (the big canvas of different colored tsinelas and the two fishbowls) are his paintings and both already found an owner while the one on his left hand was painted by a friend of his, also a student of EARIST. The price differs from one painting to another, depending on the complexity and canvas size. The tsinelas painting retailed at around Php 18,000 while the one with the fish bowls at Php 10,000. I jokingly ask him if he could paint me, and he says he could very much do that! They actually do customization. So, for those people who are looking for an artist who could possibly make a portrait of them, Jomel and the rest of the Kulisap are the answers to your prayer.
Beside the paintings are these Taka (papier mache) produced from the workshop of artisan Nora Cadawas in Paete, Laguna and enlivened by individual artists for the 100 KATAO 100 TAKA exhibit. The pieces carry themes such as womanhood, culture, nature, politics, history and homage. For more information about this exhibit and to see more Taka in stock, you could just visit the website of the Manlilikha Artisan's Support Network.
First stop on the food offerings is the Tsokolate! We Filipinos are born to love anything sweet. If we could put chocolate in everything that we consume we would definitely do it! We have it in candies, in our desserts, in fondues, in drinks and we even incorporate it sometimes in our dishes. I rarely encounter a Filipino who does not have a fondness at all with sweet delights! Our Tsokolate comes from the best farms around the country - Davao, Bohol, Agusan, Batangas and Rizal.
To perk up our senses are these coffee products such as the Rice Coffee manufactured by Scufynd Food Products of Ilocos Norte and Arabica coffee produced by Tanay Hills Coffee Beanery of Rizal. Most of the products that TMCC have there are outputs of the priority program being spearheaded by DTI called One Town, One Product (OTOP - Philippines). This program was established by the government to mainly promote entrepreneurship and create jobs as this encourages the local executives of each town to identify, develop and promote that specific product or service that is distinctive and unique to their town.
Look at this ultra large Piyaya! My hand is no match to the size of it!
So many snacks and jams to choose from!
There is a designated area for taste-testing in the middle of the shop should you want to taste first the jams before you buy a brand or two. I love the Tsokolate Con Krema by Mama Evie's but unfortunately stock is out! I settle with the Sweet Potato Jam which is equally good and the Coco Bagoong which seems unusual but perfect with those green mangoes you have in the house.
They also have this herbal sweetener from Negros Occidental.
Philippines organic sugar like the Mascobado Cane Sugar.
ITEMS FOR THE OLD MAN: WINES, CIGARS & WALKING STICKS
This is a shelf that extensively showcases some of the fruits wines that we have here in the country. Take your pick among varieties of Coco Wine, Bignay, Mango and Rambutan.
They also have those old school and premium hand-rolled cigars.
Do not be fooled by the sweet words written across the cigar boxes manufactured by Flor de Filipinas like Chocolate Truffles and Honey Nectar because these are still bad for anyone's health!
APPARELS & ACCESSORIES
Seven 107 Islands sells island shirts and barongs neatly and conveniently placed on those clear, resealable packs for easy packing.
How cute are those native suitcases!
I simply adore these hand-woven backpacks crafted from rattan by weavers from the Northern Cordillera called Pasiking. Due to the modernization, the Pasiking's are getting less and less by the year; along with this is the decrease also in number of the weavers. I did not know until now that we are producing bags like these! These definitely topples those MCM backpacks and those ridiculously priced The Row backpacks by the Olsen twins that are very in nowadays. We ought to revive the use of these Pasiking's to help promote what we have and to also help the weavers preserve the backpack making tradition of the Northern Cordillera.
The HABI Footwear has already been running for two years now. Means weave in Tagalog, HABI only uses sustainable materials like woven cloth for the upper part and recycled truck tires for the soles to produce each pair. HABI's owners are pioneers themselves on helping communities be self-sustaining through platforms like this. With HABI, the owners are able to help the community of Kawan Sto. Nino in Old Balara, Quezon City by providing the moms there weaving jobs, livelihood opportunities and trainings. As you can see, a pair of HABI shoes is not just a product of compassion and high regard to mother nature but also love.
TMCC will also stock up the high heels line of HABI soon!
Every beach bum has already heard about Lagu in one way or another. These are beach-friendly blankets which allows you to lay on it with ease but at the same time help conserve the beach since it repels sand. This also has quick-dry properties which makes it an ideal partner during a day on the beach!
METAL & WOOD CARVINGS
Coming all the way from the Benguet province, this intricately made, wood carving of a man with a child on his back was done by the Ifugao artists.
Miniature furniture all the way from Vigan, Ilocos Sur are also present at TMCC.
The Lingling-O is considered an extremely important symbol all over Southeast Asia. This symbol is being used by most to welcome luck, wealth, prestige and fertility in their lives.
An artist-rendered reproduction of the original Laguna Copperplate lovingly made with Pampanga Lahar - this is believed to be the oldest discovered written document in the Philippines. The Laguna Copperplate is from the 9th century and talks about a man named Namwaran who owed a debt to the Chieftain of Tondo and how he is willing to repay all these debts by being a slave to the Chieftain, for however long it might take him to completely pay.
The Golden Tara was found in the Wawa River in Agusan. A 10th century Hindu-Buddhist goddess, she is a complete embodiment of a powerful feminine. This image basically shows the trade between Butuan and the Sri-Vijaya Empire of that period. Though the representation is made also from the Pampanga Lahar and is set against a baroque frame, the original Golden Tara was 21 carats and weighs 4 pounds and is now displayed in the Chicago Field Museum.
This is a different take on the back-scratcher from Baguio that we have come to know!
These are called Inaul. The Inaul is hand woven by the Maguindanaon and is one of the most beautiful forms of weaving in the country. This is used by them as a malong, a tabular skirt or sarong that wraps around the lower part of the body. But due to the introduction of cheap, imported textiles, the weaving industry is slowly dying. Let us do our fair share in maintaining and keeping the remaining weavers who keep this industry alive.
The T'Nalak is a cloth woven by the T'boli women of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. Called dream weavers, the T'boli women surprisingly do not use any drawn patterns in weaving but just instead rely on the mental images or dreams they have of the designs.
The Manunggul jars are known to be secondary burial jars excavated from a burial site in Manunggul Cave in Palawan. The distinguishing icons in these jars are the two human figures, riding a boat, on top of the lid. This figure actually represents two souls on a voyage to the after life. One of the two has its hands crossed on the chest which depicts the practice we, Filipinos, have in positioning the hands of a corpse.
A NICE EVENTS VENUE
On the rooftop is a very conducive place for those important events on your life. This is very ideal for wedding receptions because of its proximity to those churches found in Intramuros like the San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral.
This is my favorite view on the rooftop. With the grandiose view of the Manila Cathedral, you would not easily guess that this picturesque scene has been captured in Intramuros. This is point proof that we just have to open our eyes and be receptive of our surroundings for us to see the hidden beauty of Manila.
I had a wonderful time at The Manila Collectible Co. and I hope that you could visit it also soon. Learnings, conversations, discoveries, new perspectives and acquaintances were gained on that Saturday morning. From now on, if someone asks you of a great pasalubong and memorabilia center that offers the best of Philippine products in the metro, you already have an answer in your pocket. You can now shout loud and proud: "The Manila Collectible Co."!