Bringing the Philippine brand to the world
Ida Anita Q. Del Mundo (The Philippine Star) - October 26, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Celebrating its landmark 60th year, Manila FAME, organized by the Center for International Trade Missions and Expositions (CITEM), is the second longest-running trade show in Asia Pacific. As a testament to its global reach, it is the only trade event in the Philippines approved by the Union des Foires Internationales, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry.

“Every edition of Manila FAME is exciting because it’s always an opportunity for us to bring something new. That something new comes in different shapes, forms, and textures. It can be a breakout young star, or a new product,” says CITEM executive director Rosvi Gaetos.

“It’s not only exciting for us at CITEM, but also for the exhibitors because they undergo a lot of product development. When they come to Manila FAME, they make sure they have something new that will define them,” she adds.

This year’s design and lifestyle event was driven by three overall concepts: luxury, youthfulness, and soulcrafts, explains Manila FAME creative director Budji Layug. “Soulcrafts” being qualified in their catalogue as “Colorful stories of history, heritage, and hope… woven into every intricately crafted product by dedicated Filipino craftsmen whose skills have been perfected through the years – with passion. Influenced by the craftsmanship of the past, these handmade creations bring tradition to the now and continue to inspire those who value soul art.”

Both Layug and Gaetos point out some Filipino brands featured in the event that stand out as the brands to look out for on the global market: Schema, Industria Home, and Triboa Bay, which mix the use of interesting materials with a unique and edgy style.

“They are the most forward designs right now. It is very exciting to see their work,” says Gaetos.


CITEM, the export and promotions arm of the Department of Trade and Industry, is dedicated to making the Philippines one of the design capitals of the world. It is committed to develop, nurture, and promote globally competitive small and medium enterprises, exporters, designers, and manufacturers through export-driven programs, such as Manila FAME.

“We’re looking forward to inspiring people to understand that good design breeds life, inspires the moment, and brings joy to living. When you have good design, it spells a good future and good business,” says Layug.

“It’s not an easy job,” says Gaetos, but she realizes that “Any effort we do here in trade impacts how the world perceives the Philippines. It’s not just the beaches and the sand that will make people visit the Philippines.”

While perhaps other countries are equipped to mass produce items at low cost, Gaetos says Filipinos can “Differentiate ourselves in terms of design, quality, and artisanship.”

While in the past, many designers have experienced problems with copycats replicating their own designs, usually when displayed at exhibitions, Gaetos says that for true designers, copying is not an issue. “Designers have to be one step ahead. Copying will force you as a designer or manufacture to be able to improve and come up with a new idea… It will always be a challenge.”

On the global field, the Philippines has started to see much success with the likes of Kenneth Cobonpue and Josie Natori receiving recognition not only as designers, but as brands.

“We have very good success stories when it comes to designers who are very good businessmen as well,” says Gaetos on the designers today who have become more business-savvy. “We got Kenneth Cobonpue as a consultant in CITEM and Manila FAME because he is a  designer, manufacturer, and businessman and has been pretty lucky in that respect. He has remained an icon that designers and manufacturers here should strive for.”

CITEM also aims to discover and nurture young talents through the Red Box designer development program. “One important thing is that we always have to bring them outside to see the world. It changes their perspective. This is especially true for the young designers,” says Gaetos.

Featuring new breed designers who are on a rise, Manila FAME exhibited the works of the Red Box home scenography junior designers Rachelle Dagñalan, Joseph Rastrullo, Leeroy New, and Lillianna Manahan under the mentorship of Layug.

“Red Box will bring the winners abroad to New York, Milan, Paris – Josie Natori offered her atelier in New York for the designers to train with her,” says Gaetos. “It makes your design more global.”

But, Gaetos adds, in the end, the strength of Filipino designers and companies lies in “Their sense and sensibility that comes from their upbringing, their environment and exposure. These are the things that create them, give them their point of view.”

She again cites Cobonpue whose playground as a child was his mother’s furniture factory. “Early childhood trained him to know material, which is one of his strengths.”

She also mentions Michelline Syjuco, another exhibitor who has been making the rounds at trade fares and is one of the standouts in Manila FAME. Michelline being from a family of artists, Gaetos says, “She has perfect genes and upbringing, at the same time, she has developed a sensibility that is totally different and totally unique.”

Through CITEM’s work, the executive director hopes “That we will have a lot more Michellines and a lot more Kenneth Cobonpues.”

Looking forward to 60 more years and beyond for the center, Gaetos says, “I wish everyone will think about developing their own brands and they will not only manufacture for foreign companies. How nice it would be to go to, for example, Crate and Barrel in the US, and see Arden Philippines or Lillian Manahan on the tag. That’s my ultimate objective.”

She adds, “I’m not sure if it will happen in my lifetime, but surely, we have started it already.”

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with