|Ninay, The First Filipino Doll|
|Written by Dino Manrique|
|Saturday, 01 February 2003 00:00|
The Ninay Collection
The Ninay collection, however, is not just about a single doll. It is a set of 58 tableaus that portray and document the Philippine cultural and social life during the Spanish era, as depicted in the novel. âOur focus, really, is Filipino traditions,â says Tesoro. âAnd what I like about Ninay (the novel), is it really shows the traditions.â
This rich heritage is accurately represented in the collection, which includes âNagsisimbaâ (Going to Mass), âSantacruzanâ (The Procession of the Holy Cross), âLola NagnoÂnovenaâ (Grandmother Praying the Novena), âPanunuyoâ (Courtship), âDoÂmingo de Ramosâ (Palm Sunday), âPasÂkong Filipinoâ (Filipino ChristÂmas), just to name a few.
In addition to the Ninay heroine, the tableaus also feature other types of people who lived in the 19th century, like âTindera en Dimasalangâ (Merchant in Dimasalang), âAlmacen de Parianâ (A Shop in the Chinese Quarter), âTrabajadoraâ (Peasant Worker), âTindera ng Pamaypay at Tsinelasâ (Fan and Slipper Vendors), âBurdadoraâ (The Embroiderer), âLa Maestra y su NiĂ±aâ (The Tutor and her Girl), and âLa Mujer de las Floresâ (Lady of the Flowers.)
When Tesoro tries to articulate how it all started, she inevitably betrays her passion for dolls, recounting her lifelong romance with them. âWhen I was a little girl, I was always making rag dolls from the scraps from my motherâs dress shop,â relates Tesoro.
Her brother, Myk Pamintuanâthe project coordinator of Katutubong Filipino Foundation (KFF), a Tesoro brainchild that aims to revive all indigenous aspects âthrough livelihood, culture, and arts and crafts,â bears this out. âAs a child, she was always making clothes for dolls,â he recalls.
As an adult, Tesoro, the fashion designer, was asked to outfit Snoopy twice. She also designed two series of Filipino Barbie dolls, complete with storylines.
In 1999, while seeking funding from the government for their livelihood programs for KFFâwhich include revitalizing the piĂ±a, abaca and natural dye industriesâshe met Gomez, who heads the Balikatan sa Kaunlaran Foundation, another organization with similar aims to KFF. Gomez, well connected in the government, was able to help Tesoro reÂÂceive $100,000 for KFFâs projects.
The beneficial collaboration was only just beginning. The two women discovered that they shared the same passion for dolls. Gomez, who was already exporting angel dolls, confided to Tesoro that her dream was to create a genuine Filipino doll. When Tesoro revealed that she had the same vision, it did not take long for the two women to pair up and establish their company, which they named Perfectly Intricate, Incorporated, to pursue their shared objective.
Creating a Cultural Icon
Initially, the two entrepreneurs hired a dollmaker who exported her own dolls to the U.S. market. âThe doll was very beautiful, but it wasnât what we wanted,â says Tesoro, noting they found the dollmakerâs dolls too big, and with features that werenât sufficiently Filipino.
Not about to give up so easily, they commissioned another popular dollmaker, Paulette Cuiâwho also exported her works to North Americaâto make the dolls. Cui hired two sculptors from a nearby province to create the molds. This time around Tesoro and Gomez were pleased with the output and they gave the nod to the production of 20 clay molds, including ten heads.
For what Tesoro calls the âfirst editionâ of the Ninay line, 160 dolls were made (20- to 22-inch âadultâ and eight- to 12-inch âchildâ dolls); 98 of these dolls were used for the 58 tableaus.
There was still another problem. Tesoro was not satisfied with the expressionless look of the dolls. SerenÂdipitously, famous Filipino painter Romulo Galicano dropped by her shop. When she showed him the dolls, Galicano, who shares Tesoroâs love for all things Filipino, offered to teachâfree of chargeâTesoroâs workers how to paint the dolls using oil.
Rich in Filipino Heritage
The workers then create the doll parts from the clay molds, and construct the dolls. Next, the dolls are painted and dried. âOil is not easy,â says Tesoro, explaining that it takes a long time to dry (about two to three weeks; even a month, if the weather is humid).
Costuming is the next step in the proÂcess. Tesoro, emphasizing that the dolls are fashion dolls, explains that their outfits are all made using her fabrics, which include jusi, piĂ±a, sinamay, tânalak, abaca, cotton and linen.
Each dollâs costume requires about three to four yards of cloth. âWeâre not scrimping,â she stresses. She illustrates this by counting the layers of a dollâs saya (skirt); there are seven in all, excluding the bloomers. Indeed, the dresses are miniature versions of Tesoroâs works, complete with beadings, embroideries and other embellishments.
After the carpenters have constructed the platforms, everything is assembled. Tesoro says that most of the parts are hand-made and hand-painted. Everything except for the miniature flowers, which are ordered from China, is made in the Philippines.
Pamintuan explains that some of the miniature accessoriesâlike the birds, or the paynetas (ornamental combs of silver with gold coating) are ordered from department stores. When they canât find what theyâre looking for in Metro Manila, they scour the neighboring provinces.
Prototypes are usuÂally made. âWe just want to see,â explains Tesoro, âbecause from theory to actual creating you donât know what will come out. Itâs like a painting.â
Definitely more than a painting, the entire process is a lavish production that employs around 20 workers, and in which a single tableau can take up to two months to finish.
The first of such exhibitions was during the launching. The dolls, which ranged in price from $600 to $3,600, were such a hit that 25 tableaus were sold right there and then. âCollectors appreciate the kind of work put into the pieces and they understand that these are works of art,â says Tesoro.
Spurred on by the initial favorable response to the dolls, a new set of Ninay dolls is presently being created, with the launch tentatively set for the early part of 2003.
Tesoro notes that everything is evolving and improving. For the next edition of Ninay, more appropriate materials will be used to replace some fabrics. They will also pay more attention to diversifying the detailsâlike different sets of slippers for the various classes of people represented by the dolls. More affordable tableaus are also part of the future game plan. âMayÂbe more single pieces beÂcause sinÂgles are less expensive and therefore more afÂfordable for a lot more people,â Tesoro says.
Doll lovers on tight budgets can buy the mass-market and smaller version called Nenita (small Ninay), which BSKF produces. These dollsâthere are more than ten versions of Nenitaâare dressed in the same materials as the Ninay collection; the only difference is that they are painted with acrylics instead of oils. Nenita, which costs $50, has been so popular that a male version, still nameless, is already in production.
Ever the visionaries, Tesoro and Gomez conclude that their ultimate dream is to build several doll museums for Filipino children that adults can enjoy as well. âEverybody loves a doll. Even a man would love a doll,â Tesoro insists. âThere are so many beautiful things to look at and enjoy.â Feasting oneâs eyes on each of the Ninay tabÂleaus, one can only agree with her.
For more information about the Ninay tabÂleaus, e-mail patisboutique@Âpacific.net or call (632) 726-5058.
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