After initiating cultural festivals, putting up showrooms and refurbishing museums, Ilocos Norte is now pushing its design industry to enter the global market through its initial participation in the prestigious Manila FAME, the country’s design and lifestyle event. Manila FAME is a bi-annual event which showcases the country’s finest collection of home, fashion, and holiday products crafted and designed in the Philippines for the world market.
The crafts are a combination of the rich and multi-faceted tradition with modern design inspired by the Ilocano experience as migrants all over the world.
For the past few years, Ilocos Norte has been gradually making its trademark as a competing innovative and creative hub in the country. In her State of the Province Address in 2011, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos said the province would emerge “as the nation’s hub of creativity and innovation through the rediscovery of the Ilocano greatness.”
“Let us make the Ilocano great again. Pioneers, revolutionaries, today’s artists, scientists, the rule-breakers, the trouble makers and game changers — with them we shall rediscover ti Kinatan-ok ni Ilocano. Let us reinvent together Ilocos Norte as the nation’s hub of creativity and innovation. Encourage fearless initiatives and ambitious projects. Let us enable our precursors, our instigators, perhaps some madmen, for they will be the reagents of transformation. And then the North will be the creative hub of the nation, and our province will indeed be great again,” Gov. Marcos said.
An extensive range of Ilocano masterworks showcases the province’s rich design tradition and rural lifestyle in the prestigious Manila FAME, one of the longest-running trade shows in the Asia Pacific.
Each edition of Manila FAME features various programs aiming to position the Philippines as an ideal sourcing hub of finely crafted products for the local and global market. Featured in the Ilocos Norte pavilion are the works of skilled Ilocanos known for their expertise in weaving, wood carving, and pottery.
Traditionally used for blankets, mosquito net, pillowcases, linens and other household garments, the abel Iloco is one of the unique Ilocano crafts that showcase the greatness of Ilocano tradition throughout generations. It has served as one of the top exports during the Spanish era because it has been admired for its superior quality in terms of durability and design.
The Ilocano weaver employs a variety of techniques ranging from kinurkuros (plaid), pinilian (brocade), sinan-bulong (palm leaf). Charito Carriaga, head and founder of the Nagbacalan Loomweavers Multipurpose Cooperative continues to develop the loom-weaving industry as she considers this a bridge to history and continuously enriching the Ilocano tradition.
Reflecting the Ilocano resilience and genuine artistry, the Ilocos jars are considered as relics of a dignified and centuries-old tradition, much sought-after by foreign and local visitors for their own simple and functional designs. These decorative pieces are molded by a potter’s skillful hands with the use of pottery wheel and kiln in a high temperature to ensure its toughness and durability.
Handcrafted from harvested narra, tanggili, acacia and molave trees, Ilocos Norte’s antique native wood furniture pieces remain unique for their authenticity, exceptional quality, award-winning design, and enduring value.
Local experts in the field of wood furniture design highlight the Ilocanos’ frugality and appreciation for nature through their upcycled products. Among them is Redemptor ‘Dem’ Bitantes, a multi-awarded designer with 23 years of experience whose contributions to the furniture design industry helped promote the image of the Philippines as the premier hub of Asia.
Marietta Bonador, on the other hand, gains pride in her work through the idea of innovation by upcycling natural hard wood waste — demolished century-old houses in the region, scattered logs from forests, and salvaged wood from defective crafts like boats — into functional furniture pieces or home accessories with modern designs.
Supportive of upholding Ilocano products and craftsmanship, Gov. Marcos said the province would continue to strive in promoting the global competitiveness of local crafts, not just to bring livelihood to the local communities but also to continue the great Ilocano history established several centuries ago.