[This is an Ongoing Project]

The Kalibutan Project brings together designers, craft businesses, and artisans to exchange ideas, learn new ways of making, and explore what it means to be a maker and a designer during the pandemia.
Kalibutan October Newsletter-1


Happy Garaje was brought in to do brand design direction for the One Town, One Product program, our task was to help the crafts sector in Region 7 (Cebu, Bohol, Negros, Siquijor) tackle the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic.

At the beginning of the project, we were teamed up with Product Designer, Creative Director, and Holicow co-founder Debbie Palao. We worked together to select a team of product designers and communication designers. We picked a crop of young and talented creatives from across the region.

The Design Center of the Philippines also assigned senior designers to the team. Each senior designer would provide guidance, team superverions from Manila and report to us and Debbie for overall direction.

Why is it called the Kalibutan Project?

Debbie Palao introduced the concept of the  Kalibutan Mindset - based on her own personal design philosophy. In Bisaya (the language we speak in Cebu) Kalibutan means two things: the world and awareness. So it became apparent that we would answer the following questions: What is happening to the world right now? How do we respond?

The project invited 39 small craft businesses to work with a team of designers across 4 provinces in the Philippines. Our task was to strategise how crafters and artisans can continue with their livelihood during the pandemic.

The selection process was spearheaded by the Department of Trade and Industry, they are the government agency responsible for providing support to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Philippines.

Our initial design research revealed that most of the artisans made products for tourists and we needed a shift in the target market, at least for the time being, as the pandemic raged on. So we responded by designing new products in partnership with local artisans that were targeted towards everyday people in the Visayas whose lifestyles have been changing during these strange times.

How has the behavior of everyday people in the Visayas changed during the pandemic?

The Design Center of the Philippines was also involved in the project and they suggested that we answer this question by listing down personas or as it would later be called the Personas of the Pandemia - different archetypes based on interests that was brought about by having to spend extended periods of time at home.

Some of the personas that we identitfied were as follows

1. The Plantita
2. The Health Buff
3. The Worker from Home
4. The Netflixxionado
5. The Pet Lover
6. The Intergenerationalist
7. The Student from Home

There were about 50 personas identified and each designer would pick a persona to design for.

The personas became one of the major considerations that we took when designing the products - we designed for these types of people. What sort of products could make their lives better?


Some of the products that were developed can be seen in the videos below. It also highlights how the designers and artisans worked together to create things that they might never have done before.

Biyahe Bicycle Bags. The artisan in this video is Reyboy Felicano, who is a master weaver, who has taught the hapao technique to hundreds of other crafters in the area. Mona Alcudia is a talented young designer who recently graduated from a masters program in Design Academy Eindhoven (a great school!)

Designer: Mona Alcudia.
Artisan: San Remigio Basket Weaving Association.

Kawayan Stampers. This was interesting because Kawayan Collective previously made big objects like furniture and even houses and this was the first time for them to make small things. We're also super glad to have worked with Vanessa, who is an amazing young designer.

Designer: Vanessa Gaston
Artisan: Kawayan Collective

Ship of Stories.

Designer: Jobel Dino
Artisan: Hinablon sa Cebu

More about this Project:

The Personas of the Pandemia
Communicating the Kalibutan Mindset


Featured MSMEs: Hinablon Sa Cebu, San Remigio Native Basket Industry, Mahalyalika, Kawayan Collective  

Regional Director: Nanette Abron, DTI-Region 7
Provincial Directors: Rose Mae  Quiñanola, DTI- Cebu
Executive Director: Maria Rita O. Matute, Design Center of the Philippines 


Creative Director: Debbie Palao
Brand Design Director: Mark Deutsch, Happy Garaje 

 Product Designers: Jobel Diǹo, Mona Alcudia, Caroline Iris Armogenia 

Viscom Designers: Issa Cacnio,  

Design Center Team Leaders: Benjamin Molina Jr., Cristine Nazareth, Chester Gazzingan

Design Center Project Officers: Flordeliza Pinlac, Ethel Cerdan, Nicole Carmel Obong

DTI Regional & provincial Project officers: Christine Ejes, Rey Anthony T. Regis