Krusada: World-class Pinoys

By Nathalie Blanco, Multimedia Producer, Krusada

Posted at Dec 28 2010 04:48 PM | Updated as of Dec 30 2010 12:01 AM

Anchor: Karen Davila
Time and again, we Filipinos or “Pinoys” have proven that we can make it abroad through our creativity and talent—that we are indeed, world-class.
Despite various challenges like discrimination, Pinoys have made it globally; even competing with the big names in western regions such as the United States and Europe.
Most of our local designers are promising, even the homegrown talents. With their creativity and skill, they are certain to emerge into the global market. However, their exceptional works of art are being copied, produced in lower qualities and sold in exceedingly cheaper prices.
In an economy where quality is sacrificed for cheaper products, consumers settle for dupes, leaving the original designers out of royalty from their works.
Questions on the scope and limitations of Intellectual Property Rights are answered in Krusada’s third episode with Karen Davila.

Can the government help them protect their works? Likewise, Davila pushes to protect the works of these local designers from being pirated, as well as seeking the implementation of the Intellectual Property Office’s enforcement powers.
World-class designers
Vogue is a prestigious fashion magazine being read all around the world. Previously, two Filipinas have graced the covers of the magazine through their distinctive style in designing bags and one-of-a-kind neckpieces. Their designs are being worn by celebrities and socialites abroad; a couple of pieces were even included in the characters’ wardrobe in the hit movie, “Sex and the City 2”.
Tina Maristela-Ocampo
                 Karen Davila with Celestina Designer Tina Ocampo

Fashion model turned Celestina bag designer, Tina Ocampo never thought she would be a world-class designer of evening bags.
Primarily, Tina gets inspiration from books; but she also acquires ideas from things most people hardly even notice—like the Celestina hand-painted stingray clutch. Its shape was inspired from a pie box of a fastfood chain.

Celestina uses indigenous materials and are crafted mostly in the Philippines. Because of its freshness, Hollywood celebrities who accessorize with Celestina bags include Halle Berry, Jemima Khan, Sandra Bullock, Lucy Liu, Alicia Keyes and Eva Longoria to name a few.

Even when Tina has become a world-class designer with her own brand Celestina Maynila New York, she still experienced discrimination while doing a trunkshow in Asia.

Before the press conference, the department store team asked her not to mention the Philippines.

“I said [to them], ‘It’s going to be hard for me not to mention that because they’re going to ask me about the products and the artisans so I might have to say Filipinos so what do you want me to answer?’”, she recalls.

She received a wounding reply directed to overseas Filipino workers.

“It’s just that I don’t know how you would answer it but… Ang problema kasi dito sa bansa namin, puro domestic helpers ang mga Pilipino.”

Tina is aware of the rampant piracy of her designs in the market. Despite patenting her designs as soon as they were made, she says it is not enough to protect it.

“Eh ang mahirap naman siyempre, nakukuha nila ‘yong concept, nakukuha nila iyong idea… Pero tini-tweak lang nila ng konti, bago pa rin!”

She admits that it is hard to define and set boundaries in terms of how the law could protect their rights since tweaked designs are still considered as original. More than ever, she strongly opposes plagiarism.

“Para sa akin, hindi mo dapat kamukhang-kamukha. Katulad nito [referring to an artwork]. Kung ito ay drinowing ko, plagiarism ‘yan.”
Bea Valdes

 Karen Davila with renowned bag

and jewelry designer Bea Valdes

Bea Valdes is an international bag and accessories designer who is known for creating the famous Zelda necklace which Kate Moss wore in British Vogue’s September 2009 cover. In magazines, September is the big advertising month; and gracing the cover is a momentous event. Bea’s one-of-a-kind art pieces began to emerge into the international fashion world’s sight more than ever.  Her creations have appeared in Vogue a number of times since then.
Bea started designing jewelry as a hobby. Her statement pieces are inspired by various elaborate bead patterns. In fact, her fascinating ‘bib necklaces’ show intricate beadwork and embellishments—everything handmade.
Despite coming from a family of artisans who has been in the fine jewelry trade for generations, Bea says selling her art pieces was not her first intention in creating them.
“I was always just focused on just making a beautiful bag. It was always that. The one piece… It wasn’t really if it will sell or anything like that. I was always just about the one piece.”
Other celebrities who have sported Bea Valdes creations are Fergie, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Hudson, Sharon Stone, Rachel Roy, Angela Lindvall, media icon Wendy Murdoch and even the Queen of Malaysia.
When asked about the challenges Filipino designers face while trying to stand out in the global market, Bea answers,
“I’ve always felt that if you concentrated at what you’re good at, instead of looking at other people, you will find your mark. I was frightened out for a while back and they were always complaining about emerging markets that were competing and I though if you stop looking at them and you just focus on what you can do best, you’ll go further.”
On the issue of local copycats, Bea believes that to be Filipino is about creativity. That is what Filipinos should be known for—not copying.
“As a designer, when you start off by copying, it’s not very good because it starts you on a trend where you think it’s hard for you to get into an original idea”, Bea explains.
“I think, if people want to be proud in being Filipino, then they should look at themselves and say, ‘Hey, maybe you know I can design my own thing’, which they should anyway.”
Kenneth Cobonpue

Karen Davila poses with designer Kenneth Cobonpue;
behind them is the "Voyage Bed"
purchased by Brad Pitt for his son Maddox

Filipinos have made a mark not only in fashion and style, but also in the world of industrial design.
Kenneth Cobonpue discovered his love for designing furniture when he was a child. Growing up with craftsmen, he spent his childhood building his own toys and playing with wood and blocks. Nevertheless, he never thought he would become a world-class furniture designer.
“I wanted to design things… And we had a furniture factory then but my mother left. It was up to me to transform it into something that was personal, that was mine. I never thought about making it global.”
Over the years, he has become an industrial designer globally known for his iconic designs in natural fibers and resources. Being a member of Movement 8, a design alliance formed by his mentor Budji Layug, Kenneth’s designs essentially focus on heritage and craftsmanship using diverse indigenous materials such as bamboo, rattan, buri and abaca.
While his furniture exudes sophisticated flair, he says that he gets inspiration from regular things. He claims to have been inspired by boats, dimsum steamers, even UFOs in his dreams.
One of his much-acclaimed furniture, the LOLA Chair, was inspired by a crushed soda can. Accordingly, he incorporated the technique used in boat-building to build its frame. Kenneth uses his imaginative and innovative mind to create his timeless pieces.

Karen Davila and designer Kenneth Cobonpue
pose behind the "Bloom Chair"

Kenneth believes that for a product to make it globally, it should not exclusively look Filipino.
“It should have a personality that can be Filipino, that is Filipino, but it has to be global. It has to be modern… Try to create a thing out of natural materials that can belong anywhere!”
Excellent designs together with topnotch craftsmanship, Kenneth have penetrated the Hollywood scene with patrons such as actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Because of his fame, it was inevitable for other designers to imitate his works. He is protected by his Intellectual Property Rights but that does not hinder local furniture companies from copying his designs.
“There’s a company here in Cebu who’s been copying my designs already for four or five years and after four years I thought it’s about time that I put a stop to it because it was just too blatant.”
World-class filmmakers
Brillante Mendoza

Brillante Mendoza is known as an independent or “indie” filmmaker. He is the first Filipino to win the Best Director award at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival for his full-length film, “Kinatay”. He bested famous directors such as Hollywood filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and Ang Lee. His latest film "Lola" won Best Film at the 6th Dubai International Film Festival.
As a world-class filmmaker, he has his own share of difficulties in protecting his works. His concepts get copied; infringers change only some minor parts of the story—because they can get away with it more often than not.
“Kung siguro hindi mo siya kilala, kung nakatira siya sa Japan o kaya sa America, nagkataon di ba? Paminsan naman merong mga artists talagang nangongopya! Literally, pinapanood nila iyong pelikula, kinokopya talaga nila pero gumagawa sila ng a little change. Paminsan naman pinagsasama nila ang dalawang pelikula in one film.”
Brillante states that the scope of the Copyright Law is unclear. A filmmaker would not know when to assert their rights because they could not determine when their works are being infringed.
“Puwede lang niya palitan ng konti iyong pangalan, ibahin iyong situation, location… nag-iba na! But you have the same concept ‘di ba?”
Emerson Reyes
Indie filmmaker, multimedia artist and professor, Emerson Reyes is a young but emerging world-class director who is the first and only Gawad CCP Awardee for Film and Video of De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde.
His short films include the surrealist film “Telenovela ni Juan at Luzviminda” (The television serial melodrama of Juan and Luzviminda)  and “Ebolusyon ni Kasalanan” (Evolution of Sin), an animation picture. Both films represented the Philippines at the 12th TBS Digicon Regional Awards in Tokyo, Japan last November. “Telenovela” was also part of ABS-CBN’s Ambisyon 2010.
Emerson says he has never thought of applying his films for copyright protection—it was not part of his filmmaking process of writing, shooting and editing. Other than that, he states that with the country’s unbridled piracy in films, most Filipinos have become insensitive to Copyright Laws; while the filmmakers have lost their interest in securing their works because it was predisposed from being copied anyway.
Even so, Emerson states a very important point regarding ownership of ideas especially in film.
“Walang nagmomonopolize ng ideas. Hindi mo pwedeng sabihin na ako lang ang nakaisip nito kasi sa sobrang dami ng tao sa kabilang parte ng mundo, malamang diyan merong parehas kayo ng naisip. So kung paano siya magiging original and paying homage, original siya pag sinulat mo and in-execute mo according to your visual stand.”
The Setback
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the sole government bureau that has the power to grant Intellectual Property Rights which prevents various works from being copied or used without permission from the owner.
When it comes to Tina, Bea and Kenneth’s products, they are classified into Works of Applied Art. According to Atty. Ricardo Blancaflor, Director General of IPO, such categorization is between Copyright and Industrial Design Protection.
Works of Applied Art are “artistic works used for industrial purposes by being incorporated in everyday products.” The term of a patent lasts for twenty years from the filing date of the application.
While these designers are protected by their rights, imitations and fake products are still rampant in the Philippines.
“You can be inspired by an existing piece… But copying is basically capturing the concept and the essence of what the person is trying to do and trying to pass it off as your own.”, Kenneth explains.
The Intellectual Property Office has the authority to grant the rights but their raiding team lacks the enforcement power to penalize offenders. The creator or the designer still has to file for civil action against the infringer to recover damages sustained.
Frustrated by the ambiguity of standards, Tina asserts the lack of protection conferred to them, “Napapapatent ko pero pag tinweak nga eh. Tulad noong si Bea Valdes… She was the original designer of that Bib necklace. Pero iibahin ‘yan ng Pilipino. Gagawin na nilang ibang klaseng treatment. Ibang bato pero bib din. Pano iyon?”
But Blancaflor insists that ideas cannot be protected; only the produced work.
When it comes to protecting films and other types of creations which are usually referred to as “works”, IPO grants Copyright. “These rights enable the author to control the economic use of this work in a number of ways and to receive payment.”
Because of the limitations in the said law, Brillante states, “Dapat naproprotektahan from the concept up to the actual product. Kumbaga kahit papaano merong isang organisasyon o merong isang law that would protect these concepts or ideas.”
In terms of infringement, IPO admits they require more police power to enforce Copyright. Unfortunately, they will have to wait for a civil action case filed in the court to be able to take down offenders.
“Maliwanag sa batas na tungkulin at karapatan namin na kahit walang magreklamo sa amin, pwedeng bigyan ng protection. Sa ngayon, pag tinigil naming iyong isang tao sasabihin, ‘Sino ba kayo? Kayo in charge ng Bureau of Trademarks and Patent. May karapatan ba kayong mag-supervise sa Copyright? Wala kaming masasagot diyan. ’”, Blancaflor elaborates.
“As of now, wala kaming enforcement power so tama yung programa niyo, Krusada. Sabay-sabay na tayo sa Krusada. Meron din kaming bill sa congress ngayon sa House [of Representatives] saka sa Senado na magbibigay sa amin ng enforcement power. Dapat may sarili kaming pulis.”
December 23, 2010