(Clockwise from top right) Lia Macadangdang, Philippine Embassy Cultural Attaché and webinar moderator; Wilson Limon, creative director of NIñOFRANCO; Gwendolyn Torres, co-founder of Filiology; and Joyce Puno, founder of Love Sweatshop.

2 OCTOBER 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  To mark the beginning of this year’s commemoration of National Indigenous Peoples’ Month, Sentro Rizal Washington DC organized a webinar that highlighted the promotion of ethnic Filipino designs, preservation of traditional weaving techniques, and efforts in providing sustainable livelihood to Philippine indigenous communities, especially during the pandemic. 

Entitled “Face Mask Designs: Weaving Stories of Hope and Tradition in the Time of COVID-19,” the webinar was conducted via Zoom and Facebook Live on 1 October 2020 in the United States and 2 October 2020 in the Philippines. 

Sentro Rizal Washington DC organized the virtual program in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through NCCA’s “PADAYON: Paglikha sa Panahon ng Pandemya”, that aims to inspire members of the Filipino communities overseas to move forward and thrive in spite of the pandemic. 

“Through this webinar, we hope to bring stories of hope, encouragement, and awareness to Filipinos wherever they may be during this difficult time. For Filipino-Americans and Filipinos overseas, it will hopefully ease your longing for your Filipino roots, heritage, and families, and somehow bring you a feeling of connectedness and healing as we all go through the COVID-19 crisis together. Sentro Rizal Washington DC is grateful for the opportunity to once again collaborate with NCCA in this very timely project”, said the Philippine Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Renato Pedro O. Villa, in his opening remarks.

The first featured speaker was Wilson Limon, creative director of NIñOFRANCO, a thesis-based clothing line launched in 2014 during his grad show for the Philippine Women’s College in Davao City where he took Bachelor of Fine Arts Major in Fashion Design. Limon talked about NIñOFRANCO’s mission to showcase Filipino art and culture via contemporary fashion while providing a sustainable livelihood to its partner indigenous communities: the Blaans from Sarangani and Bagobo Tagabawa from Bansalan Davao del Sur.

Alongside its ready-to-wear clothes such as t-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, skirts and other basic clothing accentuated with artisanal craftsmanship, NIñOFRANCO launched the Mask of Hope collection to raise awareness about traditional weaves and generate funds to continue supporting the community beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Another featured speaker, Gwendolyn Torres, delivered a presentation on Filiology, an e-commerce company that seeks to re-educate local and international audiences about Philippine culture through stories of discovery, revive and sustain the livelihood of indigenous communities, and reconnect local artisans who are living the heritage of Philippine cultural values to local and global audiences. Established in 2016, Filiology works closely with the Inabel weavers from Ilocos, Kalinga weavers and beaders, Sama-Bajau free divers, Mangyan weavers and embroiderers, Maguindanao weavers, Yakan weavers of Mindanao, and the banig weavers from the Tausug (Jolo), Waray (Tacloban), Bajau (Tawi-Tawi) and Molbog (Palawan) communities.

“We intentionally expanded production to work with several partner communities to make sure each island grouping was represented. We saw it as an opportunity to showcase the diverse cultures of the Philippines through a few of the tribes from North to South: Kalinga, Mangyan, Panay Bukidnon, Yakan,” Torres described Filiology’s venture into face mask production. 

Love Sweatshop is a D.C.- based group composed of volunteers sewing and distributing non-medical grade and washable face masks to frontliners, the homeless, seniors, families, and children in need. Joyce Puno and her family started Love Sweatshop in March when COVID-19 cases in the United States started to rise. 

“We are thankful that through our page ‘Love Sweatshop’, we were able to convey our message to a lot of people. Different individuals, groups and organizations have reached out to help us by spreading the news, distributing the masks where they are needed, donating towards the materials and even offering help with the production. To date, we have donated thousands and thousands of masks in the US and in the Philippines,” Puno said.

The webinar, which was moderated by the Embassy’s Cultural Attaché Lia Macadangdang, may be viewed on the Embassy’s Facebook page.

Visit the following sites to know how you can support NIñOFRANCO, Filiology and Love Sweatshop:

Love Sweatshop on Facebook

Wilson Limon talks about NIñOFRANCO’s partnerships with the indigenous communities in South Cotabato and Davao City


Gwendolyn Torres of Filiology discusses the reclamation of sustainable culture embodied by Filipino indigenous peoples, and the renewal of the Filipino ‘bayanihan’ spirit during the pandemic


Joyce Puno of Love Sweatshop shares her experience handing out face masks to those in need both in the DMV area and the Philippines