TAMARAW-INSPIRED. Filipino artist Neil Capistrano (3rd from left) wins the 2022 Design-A-Bag Competition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Wednesday (April 6, 2022) with his Tamaraw-inspired creation. Beside him are the runners-up from India and Hong Kong, and the competition organizers. (Photo courtesy of Design-A-Bag (DAB) Competition Official Facebook Page)

MANILA – Two budding Filipino artists bested 300 competitors in an international design competition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with a striking designer bag inspired by Mindoro's endemic Tamaraw or dwarf buffalo

Neil Capistrano, 24, prime designer, with his business and designing partner Mark Boni Marter, 28, gave the country its first gold award in a decade at the Design-A-Bag (DAB) Competition with their bag called “Amara handbag.”

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency, Capistrano revealed that it was the duo's first try at joining a competition and they struck gold.

First-ever na recognition po namin, and first-ever na international contest na sinalihan po namin alone (It’s our first recognition, and first-ever international contest we’ve joined),” he said.

Marter added that their creation came about thanks, in part, to the pandemic.

Product po siya ng (It’s a product of) lockdown po. Lumabas po ‘yung creative juices namin (Our creative juices came out) last lockdown po, noong (last) 2020,” he said.

But the Amara handbag is more than just aesthetics, as Capistrano disclosed he personally found inspiration from the world’s last captive Tamaraw "Kali."

Siya lang po ‘yung kaisa-isa at kauna-unahang tamaraw po na ([Kali] is the first and only tamaraw) raised in captivity, in the efforts of the Philippine government to help them, to care of them, so ayun po nag-resonate po ako (I resonated), kasi I’m an only child, I imagine myself a lot growing up, with brothers and sisters,” he said.

Closer look

Amara handbag is undeniably appealing in its spherical shape, semi-circle when opened; striking with blue and yellow genuine leathers. 

AMARA BAG

TAMARAW-INSPIRED HANDBAG

Amara bag wins the 2022 Design-A-Bag competition, with its endemic Tamaraw-inspired design and in-depth advocacy

 

The artists said the shape symbolizes a circular economy, while its colors stand for security and conservatism (blue), as well as optimism and positivity (yellow).

They also decided to include a horn design as a focal feature of the bag to represent their advocacy.

Gusto po naming iparating na kaya po naubos ‘yung mga tamaraws natin (We want to let them know that we lost tamaraws) before is due to poaching and hunting only for their horns to be kept as a trophy,” Capistrano said.

Capistrano and Marter said through their winning masterpiece, they hope to increase awareness on the protection of Tamaraws.

Besides the Amara handbag, the two artists are also fond of coming up with unique styles of earrings and shoes.

These include earrings designed after the Trimeres snake, Bul-ul or the classic wooden figure representing ancestors, serving as guards in rice farms for northern tribes, and shoes fashioned after the Philippines’ traditional mode of transportation, jeepneys.  

BUL-UL-INSPIRED EARRINGS
This design is based on the northern tribes' Bul-ul or the classic wood carving believed to be serving as guards in rice crops

 

“‘Yung (the) bul-ul po, from Baguio, inspired lang po siya sa bul-ul po (the earrings is bul-ul-inspired), then currently ‘yung design po na jeepney heels po, we’re making po a commercial version,” Marter said.

Capistrano said was given a study grant in Milan, Italy after winning the competition, while his partner is gearing up for another international competition, this time for a shoe design tilt. 

dyip heels

DYIP HEELS

This pair of heels is designed after the country's classic public transportation, jeepneys

 

Si Bon po, representative din po kasi siya ng (Bon is the representative of the) Philippines sa (in the) upcoming international footwear design competition, na-postpone po siya nitong (it was postponed last) May, sa (in) Guangzhou, China po siya gaganapin, pero sa November na po siya gagawin, sa (but it will be held by November in) Hong Kong po,” he said.

Despite the uncertainty brought by the pandemic and the new normal, the two encouraged their fellow artists, especially the young blood, to relentlessly pursue their aspirations in life, saying they will reap great things in time.

Hindi nila nakikitaan ‘yung (they don’t see) art as some way na magkakaroon tayo ng pera (to earn money), just ignore them, if you love what you do, you love the craft that you're doing, please continue,” Capistrano said.

To which Marter added, “Parati lang po tayong mag-visualize, and parati lang po tayong tumingin sa paligid natin, kasi lahat halos po, si God po ay gumawa ng beautiful things po so pwede po natin maging inspiration (Let’s always visualize, always look around us, because almost everywhere, God has created beautiful things which can serve as our inspiration).” (PNA)