Once in a while, we find surprising things in our own backyards. Digging up a bit around my own — the Philippines — I stumbled upon some superb finds that made me want to dig into my own wallet and hand over money to these people, who not only make great products but do good things for other people. Check them out.
1) The Tannery Manila (www.thetannerymanila.com)
Good, authentic leather is hard to find. So when you stumble on something like The Tannery Manila, you start saving up for a piece.
The leather goods store is owned and run by the Hermoso family of Meycauayan, Bulacan, which used to be the center of Philippine leather-making. The Hermosos were among the pioneers of the industry, having started in 1901. In 2014, sisters Mariel and Macy Lazaro, fourth-generation Hermosos, launched The Tannery Manila, their own brand of beautifully designed, handcrafted leather products. Their bags are the bestsellers, easily as good-looking as the big-brand leather purses Hollywood celebrities carry around.
The Tannery Manila exports their products to Germany and Japan under different labels. In the Philippines, their products can be purchased online and personalized with a monogram, or customized to a specific length, type of leather and design.
Find them: The Tannery Manila’s newly opened showroom at 2F, Bldg A in Tiendesitas, Pasig City.
2) loudbasstard (www.loudbasstard.com)
The name speaks for itself. Loudbasstard is making waves among musicians and earth-lovers by doing all the right things. Its range of products—from sound amplifiers to iPhone cases and tablet stands—are made from bamboo, handcrafted by artisans in Cebu and designed with inspiration from the island environment of the Philippines.
Since starting in 2012, Loudbasstard has found its way to the likes of Jason Mraz and Mick Jagger, who were both impressed by the Bamboo Sound Amplifier. Its headquarters are located in Cebu and Los Angeles but its products are available in Singapore, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Find them: SM Kultura, Nothing but H20, Common Thread in Greenbelt and Powerplant malls, SWITCH in Glorietta and Alabang Town Center
3) Tejo (Facebook/Tejo Threads)
Tejo is a Spanish word that means “I weave,” and this community-based livelihood partnership has done just that—connecting underprivileged Filipino women with an opportunity to earn an income from home.
Tejo offers colorful bracelets hand-woven by mothers from Paranaque and Muntinlupa who couldn’t hold traditional jobs because they needed to look after their kids. After a month of training with Tejo founder Gabrielle Cruz, the women make all the bracelets from home, guided by Tejo modules. It takes about 30 minutes to a few hours to finish a bracelet. Designs are inspired by the colors and patterns of the season.
Find them: (Resorts) Pangulasian, Lagen, Apulit, Miniloc in El Nido, Palawan; Anvaya Cove Beach & Nature Club in Bataan, Maribago Bluewater Beach Resort in Cebu; (Metro Manila) Aura Athletica, Bungalow 300, Common Thread, The Manila Collectible Co.
4) Ricefield Collective (www.ricefieldocllective.org)
Doesn’t helping someone give you that warm, fuzzy feeling?
Well, Ricefield Collective is literally going to keep you warm with its knitwear as you help the indigenous women of Ifugao. Located in the famous Banaue Rice Terraces, Ricefield Collective began when Filipino-American Meredith Ramirez came over to do research and found that the Ifugaos were abandoning their ancestral land to work in Manila and find a way out of poverty.
A passionate knitter, Meredith decided to teach the women how to knit, and soon found out how skilled the locals were. She then partnered with European and US designers, and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund Ricefield Collective. Today, scarves, headwear and gloves made in the terraces of Ifugao are finding their way into the high-fashion streets of New York.
Find them: Most of their products are sold internationally but you may message them on Facebook/Ricefield Collective for inquiries.
5) Rags2Riches (www.rags2riches.ph)
One of the pioneers of social enterprises in the Philippines, Rags2Riches has evolved into a company that offers not just bags and accessories but well-designed furniture. After starting out of Payatas, one of the biggest garbage dumpsites in the country, in 2007, R2R has grown into a globally recognized brand collaborating with top-notch designers such as Rajo Laurel, Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Olivia d’ Aboville.
Today, R2R has its own store at the Glorietta mall in Makati and a showroom in San Juan. Its products are sold in stores across New York, Los Angeles, Belgium, London and Edinburgh. Anthropologie, a lifestyle brand in the United States, also carries its Arja tote and Arianne foldover clutch. It has also been featured in magazines such as Vogue.
Find them: Aranaz, Firma, SM Kultura, The Ramp at Crossings, House of Laurel, Shangri-la resorts
6) 23060 (Facebook/23060)
Sick of all the Paris-themed notebooks, shirts and accessories? Try some of Manila on your stuff. Architect Kath Mitra’s sketches of Manila buildings are now on the cover of notebooks she decided to launch under the brand 23060, partly out of love for paper and partly in response to the deluge of tacky Eiffel Tower things. 23060 notebooks are the secret stash of creative in the know.
Find them: Heima. You may also order through their Facebook page.
7) Banglos Sculptures (Facebook/Banglos)
Ten years ago, the fishermen of General Nakar, Quezon were nearly wiped out by a fierce typhoon. Nothing was left of their homes and community, save for a lot of driftwood washed into land. Nobody knew then that those driftwoods would alter the course of these typhoon survivors, who are now local sculptors trained by no less than the master, Rey Paz Contreras.
Banglos, a term coined by joining Bangon + Kilos (Rise and Move), is the result of a livelihood partnership between Gawad Kalinga and Smart Communications. Banglos creates driftwood pieces that are now a proud possession of local museums, a conversation-starter in the homes of businessmen like Oscar Lopez and Washington Sycip, and a valuable gift to foreign collectors.
Find them: Banglos occasionally holds exhibits and participates in bazaars. For information, check their Facebook page.