Published: 10:46, July 4, 2023 | Updated: 11:26, July 4, 2023
Philippine arts and crafts talent on show in Hong Kong
By Prime Sarmiento in Hong Kong

Participants take a group photo at a show of Philippine-made apparel and accessories on July 1, 2023. The show, organized by the Philippine consulate general, is part of the International Culture, Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PHILIPPINE TRADE AND INVESTMENT CENTER-HONG KONG)

For Filipina gallerist Anna Bernarte Pendry, joining a culture expo in Hong Kong has helped her to tap China’s burgeoning art market and at the same time enhance cultural exchange through art.

Pendry’s Kambal Gallery showcased Filipino artworks at the Philippine booth of the International Culture, Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition (ICTICHE) that ran from June 30 to July 2 at the AsiaWorld-Expo.

By joining the event, Pendry said that Kambal Gallery introduced the creativity of Filipino artists to Chinese art collectors.

She said one potential client that she met at the expo is a corporate executive who is keen to buy several pieces by Hong Kong-based architect Justine Velasquez.

The artist uses resin to depict Philippine seascapes which resonate with Chinese clients, Pendry said, noting that Philippine beach resorts are a favorite destination among Chinese tourists.

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At the same time, parts of Chinese culture have inspired Filipino artists.

Irene Bernarte Haagen, Pendry’s sister and gallery co-founder, exhibited her artwork at the expo.

Haagen showed her mixed media paintings featuring a panda, the imperial horse, and iconic Hong Kong landmarks like the International Finance Centre towers and the Bank of China building. She said that she considers her artworks a homage to her adopted home, as she has lived and raised her family in Hong Kong for over 20 years.

Kambal Gallery and the Fashion Accessory Makers of the Philippines (FAMPh) were part of the Philippine exhibit organized by the Philippine Trade and Investment Center-Hong Kong in line with the ICTICHE. Philippine exhibitors said apart from strengthening trade relations, joining ICTICHE also promoted cultural exchange.

This photo shows Roberto Mabalot Jr. (left), Philippine commercial attache and vice consul, and Gina Nebrida-Ty, president of Fashion Accessory Makers of the Philippines. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PHILIPPINE TRADE AND INVESTMENT CENTER-HONG KONG)

Philippine Commercial Attache and Vice-Consul Roberto Mabalot Jr. said that the three-day event helped promote the Philippine creative industry to the Chinese market.

“The intention is of course to look (for buyers) outside the Philippines. That’s why we invited possible importers that they might be able to talk to,” Mabalot said. 

Gina Nebrida-Ty, president of FAMPh, said her group participated in the exhibit to showcase Philippine craftsmanship and promote trade relations between the Philippines and China.

She said that one potential lead, a businessman from Wuhan, Hunan province, invited FAMPh to set up an outlet at a shopping mall in the Central Chinese city. The Philippine exhibit also attracted attention – and sales – from visitors to the expo.

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While China has long been a key export market for Philippine products, Nebrida-Ty said that Philippines fashion accessory makers have barely tapped the Chinese market. This is why FAMPh agreed to the Philippine consulate’s invitation to take part in ICTICHE, she said.

Since FAMPh is eyeing the Chinese market, the jewelry items that were exhibited featured “a lot of colors, a lot of gemstones”, she said, adding that the decision was based on FAMPh members’ discussions with Chinese importers.

“When we create (jewelry) pieces and we do business with the Chinese buyers we take into account the culture of the Chinese,” Nebrida-Ty said, adding that this is not just a trade partnership but also a form of cultural exchange.

She said that all of the items that FAMPh showcased at the expo have “Filipino elements”.

This is why the fashion items that were displayed were made from Philippine-sourced pearls and fiber, she added. Some designs were inspired by Philippine culture such as a pair of brass earrings shaped like ylang-ylang leaves or another pair of earrings that featured the colors of the Philippine flag, she explained.

Irene Bernarte Haagen (left) poses with one of her artworks exhibited at the International Culture, Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition held at the AsiaWorld-Expo in Lantau, Hong Kong. Haagen also co-founded Kambal Gallery with her sister Anna Bernarte Pendry (right). (PRIME SARMIENTO / CHINA DAILY)

Nebrida-Ty, who is also the owner-designer of Agsam Fashion Fern, exhibited bags she designed and made from the stems of agsam – a wild fern plant only found in the Southern Philippine province of Surigao del Sur.

The bags, handwoven by the indigenous Manobo and Mamanwa women, featured designs that were hand-painted by Khristina Manansala, granddaughter of Philippines National Artist in Visual Arts Vicente Manansala.

Christine Virtucio showcased minaudiere purses and costume jewelry made from brass and used plastic bags. She said selling these upcycled fashion items, handcrafted by women from the central Philippine province of Bohol, provides the craftswomen a livelihood and promotes a zero-waste lifestyle in the province.