On Local Artisanship and Commercialization

A Reflection Paper By Karlo Biatro B. Gumabay, a BA Anthropology student at the University of The Philippines Baguio.  

   One cannot deny the unique and expressive artisanship of the Filipinos. The remarkable artisanship of Filipinos is no surprise since the ubiquity of their artisanal skills is present in various industries—hence the rise of a multitude of local artisan businesses in the Philippines.

   The local artisan businesses in the Philippines mostly center on the Philippine traditional arts. These traditional arts often encompass weaving, carving, folk performing arts, folk literature, and even decorative art forms. However, some traditional arts are bearing distinct features that tend to be overlooked by the common people—and one example would be the culinary arts.

   It was early 2020 when I stumbled upon a local business here in Tuguegarao City. The store caught my attention with the splash of colors on their unique products. This store was the Batik Atbp. At the heart of this business, they proudly showcase a unique and expressive taste of the local and indigenous artisanship. From the name itself, the Batik Atbp collective directs its purpose on the recognition of various Philippine indigenous groups. In doing so, they gracefully flaunt their colorful products that range from chokers, earrings, bucket hats, scarves, and face masks—in which these products are made entirely from indigenous textiles

   I must say that out of their products, what intrigued me most is their Tampuso Artisan Gift Box. The gift box intrigued me because its mere simplicity offers a lot, especially in the realm of culinary arts. But, as of the moment, the Tampuso Artisan Gift Box cost ₱899.00. In this regard, it is with great interest to know if such price is indeed proportional to the labor of the indigenous artisans.

   Hence, in what follows, I shall argue why the price of the gift box is perfectly consummate to the labors of both the business enterprise and the indigenous artisans. Accordingly, I shall unveil the factors why the gift box’s price—considering all three items in the box—rightfully justifies the labors of both the business enterprise and the indigenous artisans.

   To fully comprehend the topic, note that the Batik Atbp acquires their raw products from a trusted artisan—either from a local craftsman or an indigenous artisan. Take the Tampuso Artisan Gift Box, for instance. Inside the box, there is a wooden barrel mug, a 200 mL coffee, and a 100 mL wild honey. In that context, the wooden barrel mug is made from acacia wood and is sourced from artisans in Pampanga. On the other hand, the 200 mL coffee—a robusta variety—is obtained from the local coffee growers of Tabuk, Kalinga. With this in mind, it is said that, compared to an Arabica variety, the Robusta variety is generally more potent than the Arabica variety—both in taste and caffeine levels (Little 2017). Lastly, the 100 mL wild honey is acquired from the trusted foragers in Calayan Island, Cagayan (Batik Atbp 2021). 

   So, how exactly does the price justify the labor of the enterprise and the artisans? First, the Batik Atbp is not just your ordinary business enterprise. The enterprise is fully committed to helping the artisans not just in their livelihood but also in their lives. What I mean by this is that, according to the Batik Atbp’s website, they are dedicated to helping local [and indigenous] artisans in a way that once a product is manufactured, a portion of the sales is redirected to the same artisans that made them. The percentage of the sales, in turn, is used to support the artisan’s children for their formal education.

   The second justification of the price, and perhaps the most important, would be that Filipinos tend to undervalue the creativity of the Philippine artisans. Sadly, Filipinos tend to undervalue Filipino craftsmanship, while foreign craftsmanship, on the other hand, is often highly praised. Unsurprisingly, we can deduce the very reason of Filipino consumerism to a historical context in that, for how many decades, the Philippines have been under a colonial rule, hence the internalization and heritage of western influence in the political, cultural, social, and economic aspects of the Philippine society—colonial mentality if you will (David and Okazaki 2006).

   I, for one, support small businesses—especially in the onslaught of the pandemic. Perhaps from a socio-political perspective, we can say that the pandemic—and the government's incompetence—has drastically affected many business owners' livelihood.

   Now more than ever, the narrative "tangkilikin ang sariling atin" does not merely denote a sense of unity among Filipinos. Instead, "Tangkilikin ang sariling atin" is a political call for action on recognizing the unique and expressive artisanship of the Filipinos—for where is true unity if we cannot even appreciate our own?

 

References: 

Batik Atbp. 2021. “Heart Gift Box: Amianan Gift Boxes.” Batik Atbp. https://batikatbp.com/products/heart-gift-box-amianan-gift-boxes.

David, E. J., and Sumie Okazaki. 2006. “Colonial Mentality: A Review and Recommendation for Filipino American Psychology.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 12 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1037/1099-9809.12.1.1.

Little, Will. 2017. “Arabica vs Robusta: What's the Difference?: We Are Little's.” Little's. March 28. https://www.wearelittles.com/arabica-vs-robusta/.

Philippines Art, Culture + Lifestyle.” 2021. Batik Atbp. Accessed June 8. https://batikatbp.com/.

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