Chairs and culture at SM City North Edsa

(The Philippine Star) - October 5, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Mallgoers had the rare opportunity to see an exhibition of Filipino chairs during the recent launch “Salumpuwit Bangko, Silya, Atbp.” at The Block of SM City North EDSA. More than that, they had a glimpse of how chairs play a big role in history and culture, as very well-documented in Salmpuwit Bangko, Silya, Atbp, the book written by Dr. Gerard Rey Lico, the event’s curator.

A joint project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and SM City North EDSA in partnership with the Metrobank Foundation, the exhibit featured more than 35 antique chairs from Dr. Lico’s collection, as well as six chairs from Interior Zone Tenants Dos Pueblos, Dimensione, Linden Teak, and Space and Style.

No less than National Commission for Culture and the Arts chairman, Professor Felipe De Leon Jr., attended the event to give support to Dr. Lico, who heads NCCA’s Committee on Architecture and Allied Arts. They shared honors during the ribbon cutting ceremony with renowned interior designer Johnny Hubilla, and SM VP for marketing Millie Dizon, and SM Supermalls AVP for marketing Ruby Ann Reyes and AVP for operations Renee Bacani.

Guests not only enjoyed the exhibit, but also a cultural performance by the Lyceum of the Philippines Dance Troupe and Filipino cuisine by Tres.

The Salumpuwit exhibit also showcases chairs as essential elements of interior design and social artifacts. Each chair is designed and acquired for their symbolic content, aesthetic, qualities and fashion.

For many centuries, chairs were articles of state and dignity rather than items of ordinary use.  They have their origin in the hierarchic society of Medieval Europe, where only the king or pope sat on chairs.

It was not until the 16th century that chairs became common in Europe.  The bench and the stool were, until then, the ordinary seats of people belonging to the lower rungs of society.  After the Renaissance, the chair ceased to be a privilege of the state, and became the property of whoever could afford to buy it.  Once it came into general use, it began at once to reflect the changing fads and fashions of the hour more than any other piece of furniture.

The Filipino term for chairs, silya or siya originated from the Spanish silla, revealing that the chairs were introduced objects.  The introduction of chairs was a political act, as seen in the gradual transformation of existing social arrangements.  It was a civilizing piece of furniture, which elevated what was considered the primitive ways of sitting of the early Filipinos, uplifting them from the “uncivilized” posture of lounging on the floor or with one’s legs tucked in.

Today, chairs project the sitter’s sense of wellbeing, self-concept, affinities and social relationships, ideological bearings, and even their class pretensions.  In contemporary usage, the chair is still used by a person of authority. A single chair emphasizes the importance of the individual, while chair backrests can display decorations that speak of the occupant’s social rank.

Chairs as culture were highlighted in a lecture series: Interior Design Today: A Review by designer Leo Almeria, and Filipino Architecture: Examining Identity thru the Analysis of the Architectural Forms in the Philippines by Architect Rino Fernandez. Dr. Gerard Rey Lico also delighted mallgoers with a talk about his book, Salumpuwit.

 â€œSalumpuwit Bangko, Silya, Atbp.” is one of the many exciting cultural events at the SM City North EDSA.

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