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Printed displays of affection: Bench’s ‘Love Local’ as an exercise in DTR

Chonx Tibajia - The Philippine Star

Do I love the Philippines, or did I just want to sleep with her that one time? Will I be okay with changing her diapers when she’s 80?” Until yesterday, it seemed unlikely that anyone would internalize his relationship with his country in such terms. Do you love her enough to deal with all her crap, or are you just waiting for a way out, waiting for her to royally mess up, get a bad haircut, flirt with your friend, elect the wrong president, as you plan your graceful exit?

The above quote is from Bench’s recently launched book, Love Local. Its pages will tell you that it’s a collection of stories and photographs that elevate patriotism to an art. On the cover are our flag colors; featured inside are 100 Filipinos, from Ronald Ventura to Eddie Garcia, and what they have done and would do for our country. The illustrations — isaw, lechon, the Barrel Man, a shiny pageant mango, etc. — are nods to our history, street life, and the quirks of our culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read between the lines, it’s a love story. On the cover are our flag colors; inside are people, who happen to be Filipinos, telling you why they left, why they stayed, what songs they listened to when they (perhaps over a nondescript tub of artisanal sorbetes) wondered what the heck they’re doing here, why they came back. Why they keep on coming back. Not all of these people have been on Bench billboards along EDSA. There’s a Filipino phrase that comes to mind, something about a bench and lifting it yourself — it’s not about that. Notwithstanding slight allusions to the brand that carries it, Love Local comes across as personal.

For those who are wondering, DTR is an acronym that people who CNBBTTW (could not be bothered to type words) invented and it means “define the relationship.” To DTR is to have The Talk. It’s not always mutual; it could end badly. Maybe if the Philippines were to lay its cards on the table, it would take this book out of its bag, gently slide it across and over to you. “Here it is, the good, the bad, the fugly, my flaws and what redeems me. Take it all or hop on the next plane. Love me because, love me in spite of, or leave me alone,” it might say, if it were feeling particularly One More Chance-levels romantic that day. Or it might just blurt out, “Ano na, beh?” — as one does — and let the cards speak for themselves.

Cards on the table

Editors Paolo Lorenzana and Raymond Ang build a convincing case for the country with Love Local. The objective is the title itself, one they materialized with the help of creative director Paulina Ortega, managing editor Margarita Buenaventura, art director Patrick Jamora, assistant editors Martin Yambao, Andrea Ang and Trisha Bautista, and a dream team of journalists who write about what it means to be a “local.” In between essays are photographs of Filipinos who have collaborated with Bench as brand ambassadors, designers, artists and social advocates, as well as individuals who have represented us well outside the country. They tell us what they love about the Philippines, about being local.

Coming into the project, Paolo and Raymond were fans of all things local to begin with. “What I love is that despite all the bullshit that the government is responsible for there are a lot of Filipinos to be proud of,” says Paolo. “Through the book, I became acquainted with people pioneering movements in everything from art to dining. It makes me hopeful for the country, and hope is most certainly something to love. Personally, I wouldn’t want this to be a simple pat on the country’s back. Rather, it should be a reminder that we need to keep creating things, pushing for equality, elevating Filipino progress. The best love for what’s local is to say less and to show more. Use this book as one large Post-it to remind you of that, Philippines.

“If a fan of Bench and the brand’s celebrity endorsers were to pick the book up, this would be an opportunity to introduce that person to other Filipinos who deserve adulation. There are so many brilliant, beautiful people in this country who are doing great things. Alongside Daniel Padilla or Marian Rivera, there are Filipinos who are remarkable in their own way, whether it’s JP Anglo who is elevating Ilonggo eats, or Chito Asuncion, a taxi driver who doesn’t discriminate on distance when picking up passengers. As editors, Raymond and I meet so many of these people and have our own personal heroes. Ben Chan also suggested a few people they’d like to see in the book. We hope the mix represents the dynamic spirit of this country today.”

Raymond adds, “We thought of the book as a sort of yearbook — who are the people making the Philippines exciting right now? The over 100 personalities we assembled represent the different industries, groups and movements that are defining what it is to live in the Philippines right now. It had to be in print because it had to be a cohesive statement. The web is great in that it has limitless possibilities, but a book is special because the physical product is finite — meaning you can only feature a limited number of people, you can only put so much art, you have to carefully select the photographers you work with. And by editing, you commit to what you keep. You have to be more decisive and you have to love what you live with.”

Love what you live with

“It’s easy to get distracted by every new, shiny thing that comes along. Often, we tend to forget the good things that might’ve been in front of us all along. Nothing speaks for us better and represents us more truthfully than the local product, from Filipino movies that tell the story to the national psyche to beautiful fashion accessories born out of our ancestors’ traditions. As Paul Newman once said, ‘Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?’”

Love Local is the book that serves the steak well-done, with a side order of eye candy, fashion inspiration, mind gravy and fandom fuel. As you flip through page after pretty page it makes you think: Steak is good, but I want isaw.

* * *

Love Local by Bench will be available at Bench outlets.

ACIRC ALONGSIDE DANIEL PADILLA ANDREA ANG AND TRISHA BAUTISTA BOOK COUNTRY LOCAL LOVE LOVE LOCAL NBSP PEOPLE QUOT
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