Bench x Katutubo: ‘It was a leap of faith’

Collage photos from Bench Facebook page

By: Philstar

When Ben Chan and Mons Romulo presented their Bench x Katutubo event two weeks ago they did not have expectations. Amid this pandemic, many people were still not going out.

“We were ready for people not to come,” explains Ben. “Thankfully, people came and people shopped. There were a lot of familiar faces, both family, friends, and industry people who had not seen each other for months. You could feel that they wanted to hug each other, but could not.”

Ben points out that it was probably the first pop-up market during these times. “People were just happy to shop with a purpose: to help local merchants, including their weavers, artisans, embroiderers, sewers restart their business again. I think everyone knew that their mere presence was enough show of support, giving such a strong, positive air of hope that our local industries can bounce back again with each other’s support and love for local.”

Way before the hashtag #LoveLocal became a trend, Ben had been doing this campaign on his own through Bench. “I don’t remember what gave me the courage to go against the grain by promoting ourselves as a Filipino brand at a time when others were changing their branding to look more global.”

Humbly, Ben says it’s difficult to claim credit for the present heightened consciousness for things Filipino. “But we are glad we have contributed and will continue to do so through projects such as the tie-up with the Department of Tourism, Ternocon and Katutubo.”

What makes Bench x Katutubo unique?

“We always try to provide opportunities for new merchants. At September’s Katutubo, we felt it was time to introduce new designers who were products of our Ternocon,” explains Ben. “Marlon Tuazon of Pampanga, who won the grand prize in Ternocon 2018, came up with his easy-to-wear, elegant ternos.

Gavin Ruffy, a finalist from Ternocon 2020, launched his line of men’s and women’s shirts with barong embroidery.

Mons emphasizes: “We want our merchants to be accessible to everyone. So we don’t charge entrance fees for shoppers. We charge only a minimal joining fee for merchants and this goes to the salaries of the team and collaterals needed for the event. In short, we want to make it easy and friendly, and we encourage merchants to develop beautiful, Philippine-made products and we don’t burden them with extra fees so they can keep their prices low.”

Since then, Mons and her team carefully researched and even went to the provinces to look for merchants for their next Katutubo events. She discovered many artisans and local weavers.


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