Charisse Aquino-Tugade, Philippines
Anthropologist, Cultural Explorer, Founder of The Manila Collectible Co.
Weaving through the cobble-stoned streets of what was once a fortress-city, I wondered how I would be able to spot The Manila Collectible Co (TMCC). Its home, tucked within an enclave of Spanish colonial shops and galleries and sitting behind the iconic Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, is a charming, light-coloured baroque building with a little signage bearing the name, Villa Blanca. I had the privilege of interviewing its founder and owner, Charisse Aquino-Tugade, an anthropologist and cultural travel guide who was happy to share the story behind her shop and advocacy with Open Brief.
What is the story behind The Manila Collectible Co.?
My background is in anthropology and I’ve always been really crazy about our (Filipino) indigenous cultures and history. As a cultural travel guide, I would organise tours and go on expeditions to various parts of the country. The Philippines is so rich with artistry, ingenuity and craftsmanship, all of it deeply rooted in multi-cultures and history. Yet, (I noticed) not everyone really knows much about these artisans and craftsmen and what they create. By everyone, I mean, most of their own fellow countrymen. The reason for this is really geographical accessibility. Being an archipelago with over 7,000 islands, it’s just not easy to get around. Most of these indigenous artisanal communities dwell in obscure, tucked-away corners all over the islands. Their craft is a prime source of livelihood, yet how do they reach their market? How can they put a premium price on their work, when they themselves don’t actually realize the high value of their creations?
I am passionate about indigenous cultures and artisanal crafts, so I felt drawn to create a way — an actual physical space — to bridge this gap and just help make it more accessible. Also, my experience of working with museums and my love for the curative experience have shaped the concept of TCMM—which is a one-stop-shop anthropological gallery of art, crafts, and functional products for daily living, wherein everything is direct from the source and not mass produced for mass consumption.