Destruction, reconstructed

PIECING together debris and scrap left by the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan, product designer Bernardo Urbina conceptualized and created an ingenue furniture line aptly titled “Tacloban Prevails.” The collection shed light on how a pinch of creativity can transform even the tiniest remnants of destruction into a masterpiece. The 10-piece collection, with more items still in production, was on display at the Qube Gallery last Sept. 1 to 6.

The idea, he said, was actually born during a trip to Malapascua Island, a couple of months after the typhoon hit. Seeing so many of the communities there destroyed and people rebuilding their homes, Bernardo, a designer, was inspired to help the survivors the best way he can. “I wanted to buy wood pieces like door frames, pieces of the house that are broken-- and give these scraps, new life. (I planned) to sell it as unique furniture and give back a percentage of the sale to the family who provided the debris,” he said.

Working on the entire collection, including personally going to Tacloban to source the pieces, ran for almost six months. On display during the exhibit included coffee tables, automated wall lamps, and a wine glass rack. So far, he said the piece has received the most attention was the ladder coffee table, which was made by debris sourced by Nestor Abilado, an 89-year-old man.

“I try to keep the essence of the debris and its history,” he said. “I want the end user to see the item and know what the scrap wood used to be, be it a door frame or a ladder. I think this is one of the challenges (while making it)-- how to keep the integrity of each debris and re-purposing the material with a new use.”

Each furniture item also comes with a picture of the survivor who sourced its scrap material, the picture placed in a frame recreated out of boat debris from Bantayan. Aside from the Taclobanons who will be receiving a percentage from the sale of the furniture itself, so will Bantayan Crafts who the designer has also partnered with.

Hailing from Costa Rica, 26-year-old Bernardo studied industrial design at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York and later at the Politecnico di Milano (Polytechnic University of Milan) in Milan. He moved to Cebu late last year and was previously senior designer for Vito Selma. He said, “I’ve always wanted to improve the quality of life of people through furniture, creating not only a well-thought furniture but also a conversational piece which the end user would be proud to have in their homes.”

Tacloban Prevails will also be exhibited in Manila Fame this October.
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