Bamboo Trimmings

 Christmas can be uniquely Filipino, even as the rest of the world celebrates it.

During this time of year, our streets are lit up with parols and our dinner tables are set with handa. To commemorate the birth of Christ, we immerse ourselves in countless customary practices that spark our Christmas nostalgia. We put up belens, attend simbang gabi, eat puto bumbong and bibingka, sing carols from house to house, and stay up for noche buena.

Hacienda Crafts of Manapla, Negros Occidental, in collaboration with CM Bamboo Craft Centre of Iloilo, releases a collection of Christmas ornaments that mirror life in the Philippine countryside.

These time-honored traditions make our Yuletide celebration richer, more meaningful, and uniquely Filipino. For a notable designer based in Manapla, Negros Occidental, this is something she knows and harnesses in her work.

This designer is Christina “Ina” Borromeo-Gaston, the Managing Director and Designer of Hacienda Crafts Company. Once a balikbayan who had worked in the United States at an architecture firm, Ina’s calling became clear to her when she returned home and subsequently moved to Negros Island with her husband, Joey Gaston. It was there that her passion for her work lined up perfectly with her goal of uplifting local rural-based communities, evolving into an advocacy that pushed her to establish her envirosocial design enterprise in 1994.
Fiesta Set.

Tahanan Set.

Kultura Set.

As the term suggests, Hacienda Crafts has a strong leaning towards the use of indigenous, renewable raw materials that abound in the local environment. That, plus the fact that Ina wanted to provide livelihood opportunities for Negrense sugarcane farm workers. By sharing her vision of art with them, she not only gave them dignity as skilled artisans, but also helped them find a new way of re-connecting with their culture. It has always been important for Ina, as an accomplished Filipino artist, that the traditions of Filipino craft are not only preserved, but also innovated. This is a vision that she’s turned into a lifelong pursuit, having even organized a program that sought for Filipino designers abroad to return home and collaborate with designers in Cebu (2010 Kagikan Program of the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation), and continuing to mentor many Filipino designers and design students.
At Hacienda Crafts, their mission is to source materials and manufacture on the community-level, providing livelihood opportunities and access to markets for partner artisans.

In 2018, Hacienda Crafts entered into a collaboration with CM Bamboo Craft Centre, an Iloilo-based social project that was founded in 1974 by Spanish Carmelite missionary, Sister Natividad Martinez. At the time, Martinez had noticed the lack of opportunities for the poor and disadvantaged, and as with Ina, found herself wanting to help uplift the local community through art. The social project then began to establish itself as a notable contributor to Filipino art culture, particularly from the ‘90s, when CM Bamboo began producing intricate works portraying  vignettes fashioned from bamboo veneers. At present, CM Bamboo continues to be a place where all people, including PWDs, women, and the youth, are welcome to learn and practice the traditional art of bamboo craft.
At the helm of Hacienda Crafts, Christina “Ina” Borromeo Gaston is the company’s Creative Director and Designer. Through her creativity and artistry, Ina translates nature into functional ideas.

Throughout the 2000s, Sister Marlene Cultura was the Carmelite that was assigned to manage CM Bamboo, and was the one that Ina ended up meeting at a Manila FAME trade fair. Having been a longtime fan of their products, Ina was elated to share the Hacienda Crafts exhibit space with them. “My heart swelled when I first saw these ornaments at CM Bamboo Crafts in the ‘90s, so much so that I bought the whole collection. I loved the craft and the craftmanship,” Ina said when asked about her collaboration with the social project. Ina began designing for and with CM Bamboo because HoliCOW (Holistic Coalition of the Willing), a Cebu-based furniture store that was also co-founded by Ina, had been looking for artisanal crafts to feature in their gallery. “The intention was to help CM Bamboo expand their existing market by introducing them to our network,” Ina said. It was a match made in heaven, because since then, Hacienda Crafts continued to collaborate with CM Bamboo in succeeding Manila FAME shows. “...[We] share the same mission as CM Bamboo… so, with this advocacy and love for traditional craft, we decided to continue producing these works of art together,” Ina shared.

In time for the 2021 holidays, Hacienda Crafts and CM Bamboo will launch their first Christmas collection together. The Christmas tree ornaments, all depicting distinctly Filipino motifs, are grouped into three sets – Fiesta, Kultura, and Tahanan. Each set consists of six ornaments, nestled inside a nito boxes woven by an Aklan community.
Hacienda Crafts designs for a contemporary lifestyle, incorporating traditional craft materials and techniques as a community based manufacturer, thus the tagline “envirosocial design company.” You can find Hacienda Crafts creations in hotels, resorts, restaurants, and homes all over the world.

“Home is where the heart is,” the Hacienda Crafts description of the collection begins. “This collection of bamboo veneer holiday trims is a celebration of Philippine culture and traditions to have wherever you are.”

Over two decades into her journey of elevating Filipino culture and tradition through art, Ina has yet to lose her fascination in exploring the connection between Christmas and Filipino traditions. If you are interested in purchasing bespoke ornaments from Hacienda Crafts and CM Bamboo, you can visit the Negros Trade Fair website  or Hacienda Craft’s official Facebook  and Instagram pages.

There will also be a display of their products at Cafe Uma, located on the ground floor of Paseo Verde, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. You can also check them out at the ANP HUB, which houses the Negros Showroom along South Capitol Road, also in Bacolod City.

Text by: Chaela Ruth Mirano
Photos & Video by: Unit A Creatives

Mostly women weave these crafts at home, providing a second income for their family.

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Cultural Experience

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