Kenneth Cobonpue, Maria Ressa, Boy Abunda, and how groundbreaking ideas take flight
John A. Magsaysay (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2015 - 12:00am

Their answers tell us how these game-changers took flight, from grounded careers to destinations that shape the future of the country and, perhaps, the world.

 

MANILA, Philippines - While most of us are busy keeping to our resolutions, seminal luggage brand Delsey decided to shift its focus to the more groundbreaking aspect of mankind’s development: innovation. Headlined by three of the country’s industry movers, the first-ever Innovation Caravan by the 69-year old French luggage brand lets an audience of the Metro’s mobile set in on a conversation that heralds what could be humanity’s greatest triumph.

“Why do you do what you do?” the event’s host, celebrated television personality Boy Abunda, asked his guests — new media instigator Maria Ressa and world-acclaimed designer Kenneth Cobonpue. Their answers tell us how these game-changers took flight, from grounded careers to destinations that shape the future of the country and, perhaps, the world.

“A mentor once told me, ‘Always make the choice to learn,’” Ressa said, after sharing how she switched from a pre-med, molecular biology path at Princeton to becoming a Fulbright scholar with a master’s in journalism — and now, one of new media’s most commanding voices.

“Whenever you are at a crossroads, choose the path where you can learn. And if you like it, then follow it. If you don’t, then change your path.”

It’s not necessarily an easy ride. After her Fulbright, Ressa returned home with outstanding student loans. “My parents thought I was crazy, because I had an admission to law school, I had a corporate job, and I came back to something that I was paying much less than when I was as an intern in New York City,” she recounted.

Ressa describes the post-EDSA era — with its restored civil liberties and expanding media — as “an amazing time.” “In 1986, I thought, 20 years from now, the Philippines will be an amazing place, and 20 years later, there I was, and we were not amazing. In fact, we were probably at one of those ‘low points.’ But the Philippines set me on a path to journalism, it made me find my passion, it gave me my sense of purpose, and it showed me the importance of journalism and the role it plays in, not just as a society, but as a democracy,” she continued.

Cobonpue, on the other hand, had a more creative background. “My childhood was a creative one, my mother was a designer, and I was taught very early on to do things and love what I did.”

From start-up school projects that challenged his sense of individualism, to failing entrance exams for his desired UP Cebu Industrial Design course, Cobonpue developed a sense of resourcefulness and resilience in coming up with his world-class creations.           

JOURNEY TO GREATNESS

“You’re both in industries where people ahead of you were originators,” Abunda asked the two guests. “How did you innovate beyond what the others have done?”

“On a daily basis,” Ressa explained. “I don’t think new ideas actually come out of your head. For us on the Internet, every new idea has already been out there. It’s the combination of how you put it together, and depends on what purpose you want, the key elements of innovation that can somehow lead to this new thing.”

Ressa’s “new thing” was Rappler.com, the country’s first social news network site she and her team founded in 2012, soon christened a “news and action site.”

“People talk about Rappler like it’s completely new, but it really isn’t. It is really the path we are on, except I took away all of the friction for a group to get there,” she said, noting how digital broke the bounds of traditional broadcast media in introducing a timelier, more in-touch alternative.

 “In my work, there’s just so much out there,” Cobonpue answered. “The world doesn’t need another chair! If you can’t make it different, if you can’t make it very unique, then there’s no point. The world would never notice it.”

Thus, Cobonpue tapped into this country’s materials for a limitless source of imagination. From his Brangelina-approved Voyage bed, to his celebrated Bloom, Dragnet, Yoda and Zaza seats, clearly the whole world was taking note of his creations.

“It was hard when I started. I didn’t have a brand, I didn’t have a name. I came for a Third World country trying to sell a luxury product. I was up against all the odds,” Cobonpue shared. “There is no formula for inspiration, I wish there was. So, sometimes, I use my dreams, my inspirations, and know that if I like it, someone in the world will connect and like it too.”

“I think innovators see patterns that, oftentimes, when you only look at what’s in front of you, you don’t see broadly enough,” said Ressa. “New technology keeps us in a world of patterns, and if you can see them, then maybe, you can even figure out solutions to the world’s problems.”

Abunda also asked these game-changers: “What is your philosophy in life?”

“A philosophy is something that you build every day. It keeps on changing. When I do things, I try to create something that is unique, by taking something that is personal, that places my culture, Filipino culture,” Cobonpue said.

Ressa meanwhile speaks of the collective good. “Justice. As a journalist, you tell stories that are real. For me as a journalist, I think, when one person makes a difference, it’s amplified by everyone else. You can get governments to go ahead and solve problems.

“But this is, again, why I love new technology,” she added. “Everyone doesn’t have to be a journalist to call the world’s attention to something that you feel is unjust, or something you feel we need to act on. The Philippines, starting in 2007, is the social media capital of the world. We have fun with it, but we can harness it for so much more.”

FUTURE DESTINATIONS

“In my field, it’s very easy to stick to something which you are comfortable with, and which sells. But I try to do something different, even at the risk of failure. So what’s next? If I knew, it would be dangerous,” shared Cobonpue.

“This is an amazing period for all of us, because we are in the cusp of massive change,” Ressa added. “That’s innovation because of technology. And innovation grows exponentially. We’re just at the beginning. I think the next few years are going to see us living in a science fiction world. For me, it’s combining the old idea of what media and journalism used to be with technology-driven social change. This is great power for us, and all we have to do is to organize ourselves, collaborate, and choose the problems we have to solve. Technology will give us easy solutions.”

Looking ahead, I asked these innovative spirits what they foresee as the next big thing.

“I think it’s going to be tougher. Whether new faces or seasoned faces in media, not just in broadcast, even print, will have to be a lot more courageous this year. Remember, this is a pre-election year, so we should be hearing braver, bolder voices coming from writers in their examinations of the events that are going to happen.”

When asked how he plans to encourage this, Abunda replied, “I will continue to do bolder and braver interviews. That’s the way to do it. Not to join the wave, but always try to innovate and to push. It’s never like I’m happy with the last one, I look forward to the next one. Go beyond the boundaries and discover how you can be better, with humility and courage.”

 “I think we’re still going to see a lot of organic design that doesn’t have a lot of sharp edges or corners,” Cobonpue said, from the aesthetic viewpoint. “A lot will be derivative of nature. Nature is still going to be big, because the environment is still a big theme. And my work has always been rooted in taking to nature for inspiration, so it fits there,” he said.

For Ressa, the big stories this year will be the run-up for the 2016 elections, and climate change. “This is a major issue, because we feel it with the typhoons, and it’s not hypothetical for the Philippines.” She also sees greater movement to online media.
“We’re seeing it already. You’re seeing how smartphones have grown more than 300 percent in the last two years. Print has actually moved online. Broadcasting is still king, , but the linear way of connecting to the audiences will be challenged, so they have to develop second screens. But I would say the biggest change to watch out for in 2015 is in politics: how will communities organize online, and how will that affect the first presidential elections that will be impacted by social media?”

And for the brand that brought these three industry challengers under one banner in Delsey’s Innovation Caravan, this tradition of pushing the envelope had always been the backbone of the luggage label. Starting as a post-war developer of camera bags and typewriter cases, Delsey Paris now prides itself of producing the most lightweight luggage, born out of inventive problem-solving and rewarding creative collaborations with designers such as Philippe Starck.

“Innovation has long been one of the battle cries of Delsey. We wanted to feature what Delsey has to offer in terms of products alongside all the other innovations that we are introducing, so we thought it best to present them along with these innovators,” explained Primer Group of Companies’ strategic business unit head Dinah Yau-Lim.

With newer technologies like the overweight indicator, and non-slip wheel stoppers to match the brand’s four-wheel luggage lines, Yau-Lim was optimistic that Delsey will continue to expand the comfort and convenience of our travels. “Filipinos have been doing a lot of travelling, with plenty of airline options and travel choices now, and for sure they need a sturdy and stylish luggage to go with them. Hopefully all the innovations that we’re introducing will also inspire them to make their own innovations for their travel milestones.”

The road to innovation is not one without a few bumps and baggage, yet surely those with a creative and collaborative spirit are bound to see their groundbreaking ideas take flight.

* * *

Delsey Paris luggage is available in all The Travel Club Stores nationwide.

 

 

ABUNDA BOY ABUNDA COBONPUE DELSEY MEDIA NEW RESSA WORLD
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