He is best known for his exuberant canvases that show mythical creatures inhabiting the folkloric universe of our rainforests. She is beloved for her poignant paintings of old garments and personal objects that evoke not only the passage of time but secret histories. Rodel Tapaya and Marina Cruz know the power of stories, and the couple have recently embarked on a project that will take their passion for stories outside the confines of canvases and galleries.
During the height of the pandemic, they were able to form a startup and called it Istorya, “a narrative design studio that crafts thoughtfully designed” and original learning tools for anyone who’s into Filipino culture and history—but especially for children who needs to learn about them.
Their first two products were conceived in the family home in Hagonoy, Bulacan, and are launching at Toycon this weekend: the first is called Patandaan, a card game that features famous Filipinos in history and who is older than whom, and the second is Sangandaan, also a card game but this time about historic moments in our past.
Patandaan can be played by two to five people, while Sangandaan can be played by two teams of four to six. In the process of developing and testing the games, they discovered even grown ups enjoyed playing them, and that they can be good family/group activities. The first project started out as a board game but they soon realized cards are simpler. The less complex, the more fun the playing becomes. They also enlisted the help of historian Ambeth Ocampo to make sure their historical trivia are correct and they’re not messing with facts.
With these game cards, Rodel and Marina hope to spark a fervor for learning among the young about our roots. “Our vision is to break new ground and transform learning in the Philippines,” says the couple in their press release. “We aim for a time when our history is easily remembered and is joyfully shared in ways that would bring light to our culture and bring hope to our future.”
It’s a timely undertaking, to say the least, with all the tweaking and playing around with history happening. But Istorya was really inspired by the artist couple’s three kids—now ages 13, 11 and 8–who, because of pandemic restrictions, Rodel and Marina were able to closely observe and play teachers to the past two years. “Na-inspire kami ng mga anak namin to make teaching fun,” Marina tells ANCX. Marina was an art teacher once and comes from a family of educators.
When one of their kids started making a board game, it awakened something in Rodel. “Yung batang Rodel,” says the muralist. “Nakita ko yung sarili ko doon, yung makalikot mag-isip na hindi naman related sa school. Nabuksan ulit yung part na yun sa akin…Kaya imbes na kami yung magturo, yung mga bata nagturo sa amin.”
Through the process, not only did the couple see how creative their kids are, they realized a key truth about the concept of play: that it is more powerful than older folks deem it to be, and that it could be a happy path to learning.
[Visit Istorya at ToyCon 2022 at Booth D4, Megatrade Hall, SM Megamall, from July 8-10. For more information on IsTorya, visit istoryastudios.ph or contact email@example.com]