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They shrink the world to fit their homes |

Modern Living

They shrink the world to fit their homes

CITY SENSE - Paulo Alcazaren - The Philippine Star
They shrink the world  to fit their homes
Albert Labrador painting scale models is a painstaking art.

In this time of pandemic, our world has shrunk to the limits of homes and gardens. Those with no gardens or green thumbs have turned to other diversions like arts and crafts, or hobbies that combine both.

For both hobbies, most of the kits or materials that you need can be ordered online. In fact, Edon relies mostly on recycled paper and cardboard. Albert and Edon prove that even if your personal space is small, you can go big in the world of miniatures.

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A finished tank model

Albert Labrador, scale modeler

We start with Albert Labrador, who builds scale models as a hobby. Albert is an established professional photographer by day, but in his off hours he focuses on this intense endeavor for recreation. The pandemic has given him more time for this pursuit.

PAULO ALCAZAREN: When did you start modeling?

ALBERT LABRADOR: I have been building scale models since the late 1970’s. My dad would bring some kits home from business trips abroad and we would build them together. The hobby grew into an obsession very quickly.

How much time do you spend on this hobby?

It varies but usually happens in sudden bouts. Once I’ve started on a project, though, I can spend as many as 10 hours a day. These days I spend one to two hours a day building, painting, and researching for projects. I tend to binge when working on a project, which would mean spending probably as many as 15 to 24 hours in a week.

How has the pandemic affected your hobby?

The (dark) joke among modelers is that when the lockdowns started, they all rejoiced at how much time they could spend seated at their workshops building their long-delayed projects. Building a model is like a time warp for me. Everything disappears and I get very focused on what I am doing. It’s a great distraction from all the bad news. The research takes a lot of time, surfing the net and looking through volumes of reference, so even when not building, it’s a distraction.

Combat vignettes capture action in minute but accurate detail.

How many scale modelers are there in the Philippines?

The Scale Models Philippines Facebook group alone has more than 4,000 members. My club, The International Plastic Modelers Society, Bert Anido Chapter, has over a thousand. With the internet, modelers are even more connected worldwide than ever before.

How have you configured space in your house for this hobby?

My workshop was custom built when we renovated our house around 10 years ago. A model workshop desk has always been part of my requirements, and so we put a lot of work building a large worktable into the space in our upstairs living room.

The heart of the workshop is a glass-topped 2.5 meter-by-1 meter table attached to the wall. Below it is storage space for (a lot) of unbuilt kits, while above is a set of display cabinets for built ones. Lighting is daylight-balanced LED in office-type pendant fixtures. A large window affords good ventilation.  Conveniently, my reference library is only three steps away.

My mess expands to the space available and so the size of the table is very welcome; not to mention the amount of tools, paint and other stuff that ends up on it.

The key feature of my workspace is that my wife’s friend (architect Regine Olanday) designed it so that my extremely messy workspace can almost instantly be hidden by a set of three sliding faux shoji doors.  The feature preserves my wife’s sanity, and keeps the cats away from my work.

Edon Tuazon Fabreo and one of his favorite sari-sari store dioramas.

Edon Tuazon faBreo, diorama maker

Next we pay a visit to Edon Tuazon Fabreo, who works as an expat designer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. For the last few years he has been a key creative in a Saudi family-owned company engaged in the designing, manufacturing and installation of modular and classic kitchens/closets/vanities. In his spare time Edon creates fascinatingly detailed dioramas of Philippine urban scenes.

The ukay-ukay shop is a new addition to the Philippine urbanscape.

When did you start this fun hobby of yours?

EDON TUAZON FABREO: I’d been making miniatures during my schooldays when I got it into my head to make scale models that show daily urban life in Metro Manila. I was quite intrigued with the idea of slum areas and street corners as dioramas, since I could not find anyone doing the same thing then.

Philippine urban life revolves around the sari-sari store.

How long does it take for you to complete a diorama?

It takes me about 60 man-hours to finish an urban diorama in the scale of 1/25. This would normally involve structures, some minor landscape, and maybe a partial street view. This works out to about a month, since I do it in my spare time.

The LBC shop, essential to OFW relatives, anchors many street corners of our towns and cities.

I noticed your work on Facebook. When did you start posting your work there?

In 2014 I started with one that went viral when netizens started sharing one of my dioramas, tagging it “Filipino Doll House.” Then everything just took off from there.

The local bread and pastry shop is a landmark in any provincial town.

Are there many Filipinos engaged in this hobby?

Our Philippine Urban Diorama group page on Facebook now has more than 3,000 members, and it keeps growing. Many new diorama makers have started since the lockdown. I am so glad it has taken off. I see many younger members making dioramas or miniatures. It’s a great activity in this time of the crisis.

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