Visiting the opening of Sin.Ta Art Gallery in Greenhills Promenade last weekend was like a trip down memory lane as two Singapore-based Filipino artists made traditional Filipino games the theme of their first show. Currently on display are the “Laro Tayo” collections of Carlo Andrada Cacho (known to his fans as Wetworks) and Valerie Villafor (or Valvee).
The “Laro Tayo” concept was the idea of visual artist and toy designer Wetworks who’s been based in Singapore for 17 years. It’s a nostalgic theme, he tells ANCX, as he grew up playing street games like “tumbang preso” and “langit-lupa” in his Makati neighborhood. He’s been a toy designer for about 10 years now and is known for his art toy characters Foxy & Xin which are sold worldwide.
Valvee, on the other hand, works as an advertising art director in the Lion City, and the Laro Tayo art toys are her first collaboration with Solid Toys, the outfit that put up Sin.Ta Art Gallery. Valvee’s characters Maya, Laya and Hiraya are featured in the exhibit. She also came up with paintings that depict “luksong baka,” toy marbles (or “jolen”) and “karera.”
What inspired Valvee to create her toys is the iPad culture prevalent among kids today, their friend during the pandemic when Covid rules prevented them from going out and play. Many Filipino kids are also no longer familiar with the traditional Pinoy street games. “I have a daughter, and when I was doing my sketches, she kept asking me, ‘What is that?’ Then I’d explain and we’d watch videos of how to play tumbang preso and the other traditional Filipino games.”
The “Laro Tayo” art toys—limited to only 75 pieces produced—were sold in sets of five and priced at P25,000 per set. The paintings, meanwhile, were at P85,000 each. Wetworks tells us everything was sold out on the second day of the gallery’s opening. But he assures the show is just the first of many more collaborations coming in the future.
Sin.Ta Art Gallery is a dream come true for Solid Toys founder and art toys enthusiast Patrick Reyes, Jessie James Jocson, and Pau Lontoc. Sin.Ta is a play on the words sining and tanghalan, and the three envision the space to become the latter, a platform that will help showcase the country’s growing art toys scene. “In the conventions and launches we’ve attended, we’ve seen so many new artists that are so good. Through this venue, we could help them launch their designs,” says Reyes.
Reyes started out as a collector of Funko Pops before he dabbled in reselling and retailing art toy collections. He and Jocson first met at art toy events and realizing they could grow their market more by joining forces, they decided to put up Solid Toys with Lontoc in 2020, focusing on designer toys. Their group is the authorized retailers of Sank Toys, 2PetalRose, J.T Studio and Fool's Paradise Toys. They also have exclusive toys released in collaboration with Wetworks and Arman Kendrick.
Back in the day, Reyes says they were just renting cabinets to showcase their art toys. “This used to be a cabinet rental place, and we used to sell only from here and online. Now we have the whole gallery to ourselves,” he says, thrilled with the group’s accomplishment.