Artefino | HeArteFino x Zarah Juan
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HeArteFino x Zarah Juan

A Retrospective Look

Designer Zarah Juan first met the Bagobo Tagabawa community in 2013 and since then her advocacy has been to help the community obtain a steady and sustainable means of livelihood. Upon their first meeting, Juan was able to have an enriching and productive dialogue with the Mother of the Tribe, Bae Arlyn Salazar. They spoke at length about what product they could work on together so that every female individual in the community could have a new source of livelihood. She adds, “Kailangan namin na hindi lang siya na temporary na hanapbuhay sa bawat kababaihan na miyembro ng community, kailangan itong magtuloy-tuloy. Sa pagtutuloy-tuloy nito kailangan din na mag-improve yung capacity ng community.”  (“ We need for it to not only be a temporary livelihood for each female member of the community, it needs to be sustained. Through this continuity, the community also needs to improve their capacity.”)

Over the years, the hardships they’ve faced together in pursuit of this shared advocacy has laid the groundwork for a collaborative partnership that has allowed them to overcome many of the challenges they have come across. She continues, “Marami kaming na-encounter na mga problema at mga suliranin na minsan parang feeling mo na hindi mo na siya ma-sosolusyunan or hindi ka na makaka-move forward pero sa awa ng diyos, sa ilang taon na aming pinagsamahan, maraming mga opportunities at mga tao na dumating para mabigyan kami ng tulong.” (“ We’ve encountered many problems that sometimes felt like they couldn’t be solved or that we wouldn’t be able to move forward from but by God’s mercy, over the course of the years we’ve been together – there have been so many opportunities and people who have come to help us out. ”)

Realizing just how big of an undertaking establishing a sustainable livelihood for the community would be, Juan has learned to work with others who also recognize the value of preserving the Bagobo Tagabawa’s cultural heritage after years of trying to do it all on her own. She explains, “…Kailangan natin tanggapin na hindi natin kaya mag-isa so kailangan natin humanap ng mga tao na may kaparehong mindset para yung ating impact sa community ay mas lalo pang lumawak and at the same time, we have to trust the process.” (“We need to accept that we can’t do it all on our own so we need to look for people who have the same mindset so that our impact on the community can widen and at the same time, we have to trust the process.” )

Juan went on, “Unang-una , nakatira ako sa Maynila at sila ay nandito sa Davao, so yung distance lang namin na malayo kami sa bawat isa, ay malaking suliranin na iyon upang magtuloy-tuloy kami sa mga project namin. Pero, sa kabila ng lahat, nagagawan parin namin yun ng paraan.”(“First of all, I live in Manila and they are here in Davao, so in terms of distance we are very far from one another which is a huge problem for us to keep going with our projects. But in spite of it all, we were able to work around it. ”)

They continued to face the same challenges even as they joined the HeArteFino program in 2018, but they persisted because they were determined to do something that would create a lasting impact on the community.

Through HeArteFino, Zarah Juan has been able to make great strides towards fulfilling her dream of establishing a sustainable livelihood for the Bagobo Tagabawa community. Juan shared, “So yung mga suliranin na iyon ay ang mga hinaharap namin sa araw-araw na nagpapasalamat ako na dahil sa HeArteFino program – itong mga suliranin na ito ay unting-unting nabibigyan ng solusyon. Dahil sa programa, nagkaroon kami ng talagang opportunity na i-angat yung capacity ng community para mag-produce ng tama na hindi napapabayaan yung kanilang kultura at mga activities sa kanilang pamilya.” (“So those are the problems that we face every day which I’m grateful for that through the HeArteFino program – these problems are slowly being resolved. Because of the program, we had a true opportunity to elevate the capacity of the community to produce in such a way that doesn’t disrupt their culture or their activities with their family.”)

When asked what she would like to impart to future HeArteFino grantees, Juan emphasized the importance of discipline, courage and hard work for the program to be successful, bearing in mind that it is ultimately for the partner community’s prosperity. She continued, “Kahit anong community work, kailangan mo talagang maging committed. Kung walang commitment, ano lang siya, parang ,hindi mo kasi siyang pwede talikuran. Once nasa community ka na, bahagi na siya ng buhay mo. Hindi mo na siya pwedeng basta basta iwanan so kailangan mo talagang maging committed, maging hardworking, maging passionate sa trabaho mo na tapusin yung programa.” (For any kind of community work, you need to really be committed. If you don’t have commitment, it’s just like, it’s not something you can turn away from. Once you’re in the community, it becomes a part of your life. You can’t just leave [them] so you really need to be committed, to be hardworking, to be passionate about the task of completing the program.”)

HeArteFino x Zarah Juan and the Bagobo-Tagabawa Community

In January 2018, HeArteFino’s first grant was awarded to artist-entrepreneur Zarah Juan, with the Bagobo Tagabawa of Toril, Davao as her partner community.  Having worked with the Bagobo Tagabawa community before for her own brand, Zarah Juan acted as their design/skills training mentor and chief liaison. Her brand was initially chosen to be the most promising brand in terms of social impact and product innovation from the pool of artist-entrepreneurs in the ArteFino 2017 Fair.   As a beneficiary, the Bagobo Tagabawa community received Php1,000,000.00 in funding from ArteFino.

Zarah Juan was tasked to work with the community in designing, mentoring, and monitoring the production of their debut HeArteFino collection:  a line of limited edition jackets that showcased the Bagobo Tagabawa’s distinctive intricate beadwork. Launched at the 2018 ArteFino Fair, the collection truly embodied the Stilo ArteFino aesthetic—well-crafted, uniquely Filipino products with a modern appeal. In view of its success, the exclusive collection was expanded to include limited edition beaded shirts which were available at the 2018 Christmas holiday pop-up, Presente by ArteFino.

What aid was given?

The community received tools and equipment to boost their productivity such as:

  • 35 LED lamps for clarity as they work on their intricate beadwork
  • 5 high-speed sewing machines for greater efficiency
  • Community center structure for work/fellowship gatherings
  • Livelihood opportunities through the 156 jackets ordered for the ArteFino fair in 2018
  • 220 t–shirts for the Presente Holiday popup in 2018

Financial Literacy Talk with Colayco Foundation

In addition to this, the Bagobo Tagabawa community had a chance to attend a financial literacy session by Armand Bengco, co- founder of the Colayco Foundation – the pioneer and most trusted name in educating Filipinos about managing their income. The community also received product innovation and skills training for their enterprise. Throughout 2018, ArteFino was able to get to know the Bagobo Tagabawa community and its needs even further through 2 scheduled community immersion visits. The immersions laid the groundwork for a solid relationship and bond of trust. With the help of these immersions, ArteFino recognized the need to continue working with the community in order to support their sustained growth.

Take a deep dive into the HEARTWORK that the community poured into their one of a kind designs and find out

what inspires their exceptional bead work through this special #HeArteFinoxZarahJuan highlight.

We saw first-hand just how much the HeArteFino program has made a difference on the lives of individuals in the community as well as Zarah Juan and Bae Arlyne Salazar’s invaluable roles in leading and instilling the community with persistence, dedication and above all, a love for what they do. 💖

Their dreams and visions renewed our determination to keep giving back and growing communities.