Stories from the Field: Translating Memories and Experiences into Product Designs

Ang lake ang tinubdan sang amon kinabuhi. Dira kami nabuhi sa una pa. Dira man kami ga kuha sang amon pagkaon.” [The lake is our source of life. It has always sustained us.] (Joel Blunto)

sesotunawa tboli lake sebu

Conversations that allow our partner Tboli artists to articulate this kind of insight has always been the center of our product design and development programs. This kind of storytelling allows us to take our artists to a space where they can re-experience the good in their culture and use it as a resource to create products that represent them, their identity, and their cultural heritage.

Before we started Sesotunawa, Kuya Joel’s creative and design thinking process was largely driven by his desire to earn for his family. In one of our conversations, he expressed that he stopped creating his own designs for worry that no one will buy it. In his words, “Basi malugi kami, sir. Sayang man kung maghimo ko tapos hindi nila baklon. Ti, kung ano tong ipahimo sa customer, amo lang to himuon ko. Kung ano ang ara sa drawing, amo lang man ang i-temwel ko.” [No one might be interested to buy if we created something original. To ensure we don’t waste our time and money, we create whatever the customers ask us to. They give us a design sketch and we produce it.]

When I asked if he considers a Tau Temwel a designer, he lowered his gaze and said, “Hindi siguro, sir.”

sesotunawa lwok sbu brass ring

While we understand the needs of our Tbolil artists to earn, we also recognize the valuable opportunity presented in what Kuya Joel has articulated. In fact, what he said opened so many other conversations where their fondest memories and experiences were translated into product designs. This design thinking process has allowed our community of artists to reclaim their confidence as a designer and take control of their own creative process.

Through our conversation about the significance of the lake in the lives of our Tboli arists, they were able to gain a deeper appreciation of their natural world and its vital role in nurturing their community, culture, and identity.

sesotunawa bluko brass wire bracelet

Today, when Kuya Joel looks at his creations, his eyes sparkle with joy and his heart is filled with pride. His fondest memories and experiences of Lake Sebu are now immortalized in the gentle waves of the Lwok Sbu rings, the graceful curl of the Bluko bracelet, and the warmth of the Silang Kdaw earrings – designs that he meticulously crafted and can finally call his own.