What makes the ar­ti­sanal prod­ucts of Gifts & Graces dif­fer­ent

Work­ing with 21 com­mu­ni­ties, the fair trade foun­da­tion raises lo­cal to a whole new level

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - LIFESTYLE - By Cheche V. Moral

Filipino hand­i­crafts and ar­ti­sanal prod­ucts are hav­ing quite a mo­ment, and this is giv­ing a boost of con­fi­dence not just to lo­cal de­sign­ers, but also to the com­mu­ni­ties they work with.

The trend not only en­sures that her­itage crafts live on, but also pro­vides eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for the un­der­served sec­tors.

Upon her ap­point­ment, Tourism Sec­re­tary Ber­nadette Ro­mulo Puyat first ze­roed in on the duty-free stores in the air­ports.

“Why are there no lo­cal prod­ucts? When you leave for abroad, you want to buy lo­cal prod­ucts,” she told Lifestyle at the open­ing of Gifts & Graces Fair Trade Foun­da­tion’s (G&G) store and show­room at LRI Plaza in Makati City last Oct. 25.

“At the DOT, we not only pro­mote the sun, the beaches and the food; we also pro­mote lo­cal prod­ucts.” Thus, she has vowed to work with the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try to beef up lo­cal of­fer­ings in du­tyfree stores in de­par­ture lounges in the air­ports.

Avowed cus­tomer

Puyat has been an avowed be­liever and cus­tomer of G&G for four years now. At the store launch, she was car­ry­ing a clutch with a T’boli brass charm—one of 12 bags she has bought from G&G over the years.

“When we were grow­ing up, lo­cal was pang- Linggo ng Wika,” a cos­tume worn once a year to school to cel­e­brate the na­tional lan­guage, Puyat said in her key­note speech.

“Now we wear it proudly every day. Lo­cal has never been as much in vogue as it is now,” she added.

G&G is the brain­child of Sandy Pri­eto Ro­mualdez, In­quirer Group pres­i­dent.

When it was founded 12 years ago, the idea was to push for­ward two emerg­ing trends at the time: fair trade and so­cial en­trepreneur­ship. Its goal was to bring the ar­ti­san prod­ucts of marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties to a wider mar­ket­place, thereby giv­ing them sus­tained liveli­hood.

G&G now func­tions as mar­ket­ing arm of the 21 com­mu­ni­ties it works with, and helps th­ese groups de­velop quality and de­sir­able prod­ucts.

Ro­mualdez part­nered with like-minded in­di­vid­u­als to form the board, which in turn brought in known de­sign­ers to guide the com­mu­ni­ties.

“It went through dif­fer­ent stages,” says board chair Marivic Lim­caoco. “At first the ex­e­cu­tions weren’t good. So we gave them skill-set sem­i­nars. We went through trial and er­ror.”

Even­tu­ally they hit on some cham­pion prod­ucts. Th­ese in­cluded the die-cast brass prod­ucts of the T’boli tribe of Lake Sebu in South Cota­bato. It was not only a mar­ketable prod­uct, it’s also a source of pride of the tribe, as it pro­motes their eth­nic­ity.

They also work with box mak­ers of Cavite and Que­zon City, coco farm­ers of Mindoro, sakada farm­ers of Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal, the rebel re­turnees of the Ting­guian tribe in Abra, the Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tute for Women, and in­di­vid­u­als with spe­cial needs from The Learn­ing Cen­ter, among oth­ers.

Not a big mar­ket

G&G be­gan sell­ing the prod­ucts in bazaars and popup stores. It now also sup­plies SM Kul­tura, Robin­sons Depart­ment Store, Rus­tan’s, Makati ShangriLa gift shop, Ayala Mu­seum, El Nido Re­sorts, Atin Ito at Naia Ter­mi­nal 1 and 2, Aki Ning Maisog in Naia Ter­mi­nal 3, The Farm at San Ben­ito, Go Lokal stores, as well as its own G&G kiosk in Glo­ri­etta 2, Makati.

The LRI out­post is its first full-scale store.

It’s not a big mar­ket by any mea­sure, says Lim­caoco, “since there are still very few Filipinos who are will­ing to pay pre­mium for lo­cal prod­ucts.”

It has been quite help­ful for G&G and sim­i­lar en­ter­prises that Puyat and other tastemak­ers are mak­ing it their task to push for lo­cal.

“It al­ways has to come from a tastemaker, or the for­eign mar­ket,” Lim­caoco said. “Many Filipinos still want the ‘ best price.’”

Be­sides, she added, “it’s not al­ways a good thing to get a big or­der, since we’re work­ing with small com­mu­ni­ties, not big fac­to­ries. We, how­ever, can cus­tom­ize. We guar­an­tee there’s a soul to each prod­uct since they’re made by in­di­vid­u­als, by hand.”

G&G is true to its prin­ci­ples of fair trade—child la­bor is an ab­so­lute no-no. “When we or­der, we pay out­right, no con­sign­ment. We also pay for sam­ples. We’re happy that the in­come trick­les into the com­mu­ni­ties, and it’s not just the mid­dle­men who are ben­e­fit­ing,” said Lim­caoco.

“Fair trade is a key as­pect of the Depart­ment of Tourism’s over­ar­ch­ing agenda of sustainable tourism, so it works hand in hand with what Gifts & Graces is es­pous­ing now,” Puyat said.

“Tourism is a mul­ti­fac­eted in­dus­try. The only way to en­hance it is through a holis­tic de­vel­op­ment of the sec­tor, and fair-trade tourism rep­re­sents the best prac­tice of re­spon­si­ble tourism,” she added.

“When we started, we were all alone,” said Lim­caoco. “Now it’s a whole new move­ment, it’s ex­cit­ing. It’s an ad­vo­cacy that even the young ones are aware of now.”


Dance per­for­mance by the T’boli tribe of Lake Sebu at the store open­ing of Gifts & Graces Fair Trade Foun­da­tion

Tourism Sec­re­tary Ber­nadette Ro­mulo Puyat (cen­ter) with the board mem­bers of Gifts & Graces: (from left) Joanna Duarte, Mar­iles Gustilo, Vicky Ja­lan­doni, Marivic Lim­caoco, Sandy Ro­mualdez and Sheree Go­tu­aco


The Gifts & Graces store at LRI dur­ing the open­ing

SM’s Tessie Sy Co­son (cen­ter) with Sandy Ro­mualdez and Gifts & Graces ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Vicky Ja­lan­doni

Die-cast brass prod­ucts of the T’boli

For­mer In­quirer chair Mar­ixi Pri­eto (right) with Am­bas­sador Howard Dee looks at brass nap­kin rings

Myda Pri­eto, Vir­gie Ramos, Dr. Andrew Pri­eto, Sandy Ro­mualdez

Am­bas­sador Howard Dee

Rus­tan’s di­rec­tor Maritess Tan­toco En­riquez

Mon­ica and Luis Mer­cado

Sec­re­tary Puyat and In­quirer Group pres­i­dent Sandy Ro­mualdez

Trickie Lopa, Mavis Fuente­bella and Lia Bernardo

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