Japanese volunteer in Bohol works to elevate PH design

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Bayong bag in contemporary shape, rendered in actual form by FabLab

Young Japanese volunteer Yutaka Tokushima has been living in Bohol for over a year now. He is one of the many young professionals working with key industries in the Philippines under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Program of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

A graduate of Tama Art University in Tokyo, one of Asia’s foremost schools in industrial design, Tokushima is in Bohol to work with local manufacturers on what seems to be the future of Philippine design.

A major tourist destination, Bohol has a creative industry that teems with possibilities, not just in the performing arts, music and architecture, but also in crafts and design.

“Product design and packaging are a big challenge for manufacturers in Bohol,” said Tokushima. “But helping the local manufacturers adapt to new technology is one way to address it.”

Bohol manufacturers have had problems executing their designs, as most of these are still done by sketching.

But Bohol manufacturers are  taking their designs to the world stage one step at a time, through the FabLab project (Fabrication Laboratory) with the assistance of Tokushima.

WOVEN bag designed by Bohol manufacturers

FabLab began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to help grassroots communities translate their design ideas into physical form with the help of computers. The concept already has a global network which includes the US, Kenya and Afghanistan.

With the new technology, Bohol manufacturers can make prototypes of their designs faster, create scale models, illustrate graphic designs, combine local materials, and even mass-produce products.

In the Philippines, the FabLab project is a collaboration of JICA through its JOCV program, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Bohol, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and Bohol Island State University (BISU).

“We’ve institutionalized FabLab because we know that creativity and innovation are key drivers of economic development,” said Blair Panong, senior trade and industry development specialist of DTI-Bohol.

JAPANESE volunteer Yutaka Tokushima (front, sixth from left) with the Philippine FabLab Team and FabLab Indonesia staff

About 135 manufacturers from Bohol are now part of FabLab, he added.

“We’ve already experimented with combining raffia with recycled plastic, and the result was a brand new material that is stronger than the natural material,” said Tokushima.

Earlier this year, the Philippine FabLab team visited the FabLab in Indonesia to learn best practices from actual operations. The purchase of specific equipment and tools like laser cutters, big and small milling machines, 3D printers, test equipment, print and cut machines, scroll saws, embroidery machines, and LED TVs for video conferencing, among others, are already underway for the Philippines.

“Keeping up with technology, through the FabLab, and eventually an integrated website portal, offers many possibilities to achieve Boholano’s full potential,” said Tokushima.

Tokushima dreams that someday there would be Bohol products in some of the world’s leading trade exhibits, like the Milano Salone, 100% Design, and Japan Good Design Expo.  Through the FabLab project, his dream may soon be a reality.

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