Bangkota captures the spirit of the Philippines

05 September 2021
The Philippines pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is the story of the Filipino people and the country's overseas workers flying high as global citizens

With a rich history that dates back several centuries, the Philippines of today is a myriad blend of traditions, cuisines and languages inspired by different societies.

Taking this culture across the seas are its people, the Filipinos. And it is their global presence, resilience and warm spirit that forms the inspiration for the Philippines participation at Expo 2020.

Designed under the theme ‘Bangkóta’ – an old Tagalog word for coral reef – the pavilion was conceived by architect Royal Pineda, principal of Philippines-based firm Budji+Royal Architecture+Design, and curated by independent curator Marian Pastor Roces.

It represents the Filipinos as an overlapping and extensive community, and the Philippines as “a nation bound by zealous interconnectivity, a culture of compassion, and a tropical, fevered imagination”.

“The theme of travel belongs to today's Filipino migrant workers and their ancestors,” says Rosvi Gaetos, assistant secretary, Philippine Department of Trade (DTI) and Industry, and alternate commissioner-general, Philippines Expo 2020 Dubai. 

“The Bangkóta pavilion embodies the resilient, travelling Filipinos, poetically emphasising the recurring themes of cultural sustainability."

Global citizens

Nearly 11 per cent of the 108 million Filipino population resides overseas, forming one of the largest diasporas in the world. The vast majority are in the North America and Middle East regions; in the UAE, Filipinos constitute one of the largest expatriate groups.

"It makes me immensely proud as a Filipino to be seen in a new light,” says architect Royal Pineda, overall artistic and theme director for the pavilion. “Our stories as a nation truly need to be told.”

The pavilion will feature artworks and exhibits that reimagine the Filipino’s nature as global citizens.

“Visitors will be looking at spectacular scenes of flying sculptures, bird-like motifs and murals,” explains Pastor-Roces. “These will evoke the images of Filipino contract workers moving all around the world. They play an important role, and we want to celebrate our overseas workers.”

Gaetos notes that forming the creative team for the pavilion was crucial to getting the theme right. It was essential to get people who were not only idea generators, but also effective implementers in an unfamiliar and global environment.

“Building the Philippine dream team was like a jigsaw puzzle,” he says. “It required us to assemble different people with different talent and skills, and even personalities, like oddly shaped interlocking and mosaic pieces that perfectly fit together, to complete the picture.”

Maximising their presence

“One of the key reasons behind the Philippines’ participation is to position the country as a creative, compassionate nation and a reliable regional partner for trade and investments,” says Gaetos.

To maximise their participation at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Philippines has organised a series of government-led business missions, networking and retail events across the expo’s six-month duration.

The pavilion will also host a three-month-long Philippine Food Festival from 1 December 2021 to February 2022 across multiple locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This event aims to present the Philippines as a reliable source destination of authentic local ingredients while also bringing favourites from home to overseas Filipinos.

After a year of managing design and construction remotely, the Philippines pavilion will be handed over to DTI and open to the public on 1 October 2021.

Striking pieces of art in the pavilion will stage Filipino artistry: from the sculpture of a mythological figure by Duddley Diaz; a suspended techno-mythological piece by Dan Raralio; human-bird forms by the late Riel Hilario; a sculpture titled “Soaring High” by contemporary artist Charlie Co that depicts floating men and women representing expatriate Filipino workers who are flying “to everywhere, for everything, in every possible way forward – and back to the Philippines”;  and an explosion of bird forms by Toym Imao.

Sculptural work by artist Lee Paje exquisitely complements the underwater and wildlife photography of Scott “Gutsy” Tuason and Ivan Sarenas.

Other stunning sculptures that add to the artistic setting of the pavilion are a three-dimensional filigree boat by artist Patrick Cabral; and a helix embedded with the names of Filipinos of different cultures by Baby and Coco Anne, in the form of a tall upward spiral that carries the 65,000 years of genetic mixing in the Philippine archipelago.

A mural of the Filipino movement painted by Dex Fernandez will also evoke emotion among thousands of overseas Filipinos in the UAE.

The artworks are connected in a symphony of music and melodies composed by Ramon Santos, a national artist for music in the Philippines, who will take visitors deeper into the journey experience.

An area with a 180° screen is an audio-visual presentation titled “Our Gift to the World”: the Philippines’ call to end racial divisions. The video centres on contemporary dance that poetically gathers motifs of Philippine life, choreographed by Denisa Reyes and Japhet Mari "JM" Cabling, to music by young composer Teresa Barroso.

This expo package also includes:

> Dubai's platform for global change
> Expo 2020 Dubai’s Programme for People and Planet
> Expo’s legacy will pivot to people 
> Beginning the final preparations for showtime 
> Read the September 2021 MEED Business Review

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