A Kagay-anon artist has taken the ubiquitous Pusô famous in the street food culture of Southern Philippines and transformed it into an objet d’art embellished with traditional indigenous designs which has made it worthy of the haute couture catwalks of Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai.
Pusô, which Filipinos often translate to foreign guests as hanging rice, is a staple in the Visayan and Moro street food culture.
Actually, Cagayan de Oro-based artist Oscar Esteban A. Floirendo took his inspiration from the intricately woven packaging of the pusô which comes in octahedral, diamond, or rectangular shapes, and various other complex forms.
“I enjoy eating pusô with siomai,” Mr. Floirendo said. “I always see it as an interesting, simple, yet elegant design out of a simple strap of a leaf as a container for rice.”
“I am drawn to the process of how it is formed and how Pinoy it is with its prevalent use by the common tao, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao. As an artist and as an aspiring designer, I began to look for ways to incorporate this fascination as a main element for my designs.”
Upon further studying the pusô’s intricate weaving, Mr Floirendo was encouraged he was on the right track since leaf-weaving is an ancient Filipino craft used in most traditional handicrafts like baskets, hats, mats, toys, sidings, and even religious decorations, as well as in food and rice, which are commonly wrapped in woven young pale yellow or light green coconut leaves.
He originally planned to make a pusô lamp but when he found this was already commonplace, he opted to do a design bag. The first Pusông Pinoy, is named after the colors of our Filipino flag, and the second Zenaida after his late mom.
“I did my research and found out there are many types and forms of pusô using different weaving techniques. I still settled for its most common/recognizable form and that most closely resemble the form of the heart after which is it named. I studied the actual process on how to weave it by using two strips of coco leaves to make it into a bag.”
Aside from the original Pusong Pinoy and Zenaida series, Floirendo Creatives’ Puso Fashion Pouch Bags are now available in six other different designs.
After many trials and errors, Mr Floirendo discovered the width of the straps would actually determine the size of the bag. He settled on a 1.5″ to 2″ width to come up with a medium and large size pusô bag using premium colored nylon straps accented with Meranao Langkit strips and Matigsalug-Manobo Behek beadworks to come up with a harmonious Pinoy design.
Some examples of the Matigsalug-Manobo Behek. (courtesy of JC Salon)
The Behek is a simple neck ornament of the Matigsalug-Manobo tribe of Bukidnon usually made from chalk or glass beads, although they also other other materials such as Keleb or Li-us (river seeds), bone or tooth enamel, wood, clay or metal, said JC Salon, Mr Floirendo’s former co-worker at Museo de Oro who supplies him with the bead works.
Meanwhile, the Langkit in the pusô bags are sourced from Ifah Ziya’s Langkit in Marawi City, who heads a collective of Meranao women doing Langkit weaving.
The Meranaos weave decorative strips called Langkit, consisting of three to four colors with okir designs: scroll, leaf, or vine motifs woven in abstract forms.
A UP Fine Arts graduate, Mr Floirendo is a visual artist who is currently employed as the acting head of the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) and curator of the university’s Museo de Oro.
Although he’s still an admirer of traditional arts, he is more inclined to its contemporary forms, exploring different materials, processes and actively participating in design and art forums.
“My works are often mixed media and process driven, revolving on social and contemporary commentaries,” he shared. “As an artist, one must continue to strive to evolve and improve, seek new learnings and learn new skill sets.”
More recently, he’s aspired to hone his skills as a designer and artisan, to make and build stuff, joining workshops and courses on design.
To pursue his passion, he has established Floirendo Creations, where he crafts art pieces that interest him such as toys for his son, wine holders which defy gravity, and various handicrafts based on the motorela, Cagayan de Oro’s iconic tricycle originally invented by his late father Rafael in 1967 when it won a Silver Medal from the Filipino Inventors Society.