When we hear the word “souvenir shop”, we imagine it filled with trinkets and local delicacies - key chains and t-shirts scrawled with the name of a certain tourist spot, packs of dried mango and yes, even those frog purses come to mind. But there is a lot more to Philippine culture and history and to the Filipino’s creativity. Thankfully, there’s The Manila Collectible Co. to showcase exactly that.
The Manila Collectible Company: Awesome Curios and Thoughtful Stuff
Thoughtful, Indigenous, Artisanal
Located just behind The Manila Cathedral, The Manila Collectible Co. (TMCC) is a new lifestyle gift boutique and culture space that promotes Philippine products made by artisans with a particular focus on pre-history and indigenous items. Spending a day at TMCC is like attending history and art classes. My knowledge was certainly tested as I explored the shelves with Ms. Charisse Aquino-Tugade, who was very enthusiastic in telling me about the historical significance of some of their items. Charisse grew up in the States but her love for Filipino culture didn’t wane. She moved back here and established her own tour company while also doing projects for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the National Museum.
Lingling-o mirror frames
First to attract my attention were the candy-colored lingling-o mirror frames right by the stairs. Charisse later led me to the other end of the store where there were more lingling-o icons. This icon is a 3,000 year-old symbol of what is called the Austronesian Migration and is still being used in the Northern Cordillera region. Replicas of the Laguna Copperplate is displayed a few steps away, which is the earliest known written document in the Philippines. Another notable item is the manunggul jar replicas that occupy a staircase. “What we want to achieve really is we want people to understand that there is more to Philippine history than 1521 onwards,” says Charisse. Don’t know the stories behind these? Feel free to ask her during your visit.
Laguna Copperplate replica
TMCC works with different ethno-linguistic or ethnic groups who produce handcrafted items. “We work with the T’boli, Maguindanaoan, Bukidnon, Tlaandig, and some of the groups from up north as well. We try to promote a lot of the indigenous groups that are not really known just because a lot of their groups don’t have access to market their products,” says Charisse.
There’s the shiny tinalak, a special textile made of abaca woven by T’boli women. No two designs are the same as the women take their designs from their dreams. Right beside it are intricate T’boli belts made of brass and beads. The elegant-looking inaul is the handwoven fabric of the Magundanaoans, a symbol of distinction and royalty that is used as a malong skirt by women or trousers by the men. The versatile textile can also be used as a turban, blanket, baby cradle or bag.
Different types of bags, wallets, native fans, and back-scratchers in cute colors can also be found here. Some of the weavers are wives of MILF members, I was told.
TMCC also carries items under the One Town, One Product (OTOP) program. You won’t be disappointed with the unique food finds from different parts of the country. There are tins of unsweetened chocolate from Davao, packs of Arabica Coffee from Tanay and organic coffee from Negros. There’s Samra from Maguindanao (P95) and Y! Nut Glazed Pili Nut with honey (P190) from Albay.
Organic coffee from Negros
Samra, delicacies from Maguindanao
Glazed pili nut
The Pili and Pino brand from Cebu has marmalades (P300) in calamansi and mango made with coco nectar syrup (perfect on bread) and toasted coconut granola (P400) which I ate with some maja blanca being served the day of my visit. I also tried the Collection Jam (P299) from Island Jam of Cagayan de Oro, which is a combination of papaya, jackfruit, guyabano and mango preserves that was absolutely delish I just had to take a jar home with me. A bit later into the afternoon, a bottle of Vino de Coco Dry Coconut Wine (P699) was popped open and I took a shot of its strong, sour flavor.
Pili and Pino products
Toasted Coconut Granola and Jackfruit Granola
Bottles of local wine
Visitors can have a cup of organic coffee for just P30 and payment is by honesty system (that’s another class, this time on ethics).
Paint your own pots
Aside from the boutique, TMCC is also an unconventional space for events. The rooftop serves as an event venue that can hold about 200 to 250 people while a 50-square meter meeting room is also offered for people who need a smaller venue. For the little ones, there’s a dedicated area for terracotta pot painting.
Not only does TMCC help micro-entrepreneurs and the indigenous community, it also supports the local art scene. During my visit, they were holding their first exhibit called Freedom and Independence by the Kulisap group of artists from Earist College (who also painted the mural by the entrance). It’s so exciting to know that there’s a place like TMCC that support budding artists. Manila needs more places like this to encourage more people to create!
A collectible may mean different things to people but one thing is for sure: if it’s an item that speaks of you – whether about your culture, your heritage, or your passions – it’s something that serves a greater purpose other than collect dust on a shelf.
So the next time you have visiting balikbayan relatives or foreigner buddies on a vacation or you’re just looking for some inspiration, march on down to Intramuros where you can take home a meaningful token.