MANILA -- Much of what people turn out to be when they grow up are mostly a product of the kind of childhood that they had.

What started out as a fondness and a fascination for the “taka” or the art of “papier mache” has since become a passion, an inspiration and a journey back in time for advertising professional-turned-entrepreneur Mary Velmonte.

Last Saturday, she conducted the “Takatak Project” -- a workshop dedicated to the art of taka-making -- at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET) beside the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex in Manila.

The “Takatak Project” aims to acquaint Filipinos in taka crafting, from design to decorating the pieces which can take on any form from the well-known horse to jewelry and even Christmas décor.

Mary, who works as a creative director in an advertising agency started her love for the craft at an early age. “I grew up watching these colorful, decorated horses on the children’s show, ‘Batibot’ and I’ve loved them ever since. It would inspire me to learn the craft as I got older,” Mary narrates.

Art and history has always been a part of the family, says Mary who has been doing taka-making workshops as a weekend activity for the past five years.

“Having been part of the corporate world, some of my colleagues were getting tired of staring at computers all day and wanted something else to do as a diversion. When I found collaborators, we became popular, getting offers to sell our ‘takas’ everywhere. The reaction was indicative of the demand. There is a gap that we filled for a lot of Filipinos,” Mary explains.

People from all walks of life and from different backgrounds were very appreciative of Mary and her team’s efforts. “All of a sudden, people became interested. I felt that it would be a disservice to the younger generation if they were not familiar with it and for us just to let it pass when the old generation of craftsmen died,” Mary said.

The “Takatak Project” is a three-pronged approach as Mary explained. First, there is the educational aspect such as the workshops that they conduct in schools and museums; second, her team acts as a go-between for artists and crafters; and third, producing a demand for artists.

“This is really a tangible heritage. Bits and pieces of information passed down from generation to generation. They’re really helping the grassroots communities in seeing the product very differently and in a very diverse perspective. It’s very nice to have that kind of dynamic -- workshop siya but at the same time, it talks about a tradition. In this particular tradition, it’s not just the horse but you also have the wood carving for the mold over which the taka takes its shape. Even the papier mache process is done from scratch with pure starch and water,” according to Billy Ray Malacura, Education Officer of MET.

“With this “Takatak Project,” they’ve reinvented the “takas” and re-designed it in a very contemporary fashion. We’re seeing a very different look of the taka tradition here -- from horses to jewelry to Christmas décor, so many evolving designs,” Billy Ray adds.

For Mary, the message of the “Takatak Project” is simple. “This is a part of their history that looks really low-brow and it simply says that Filipinos are artists,” (PNA)