Words Gabrielle de la Cruz
Images GROHE Philippines and The Kanto team
The World Architecture Festival was back in Singapore in 2023. And Team Philippines proved that we are still in the game! The past year marked another record-breaking number of shortlisted placements, with the country represented by 12 Filipino projects from 12 Filipino firms. A total of three Highly Commended recognitions and one WAFX win were brought home, our biggest turnout yet since 2021. On top of these are victorious returns to WAF’s sister events, with MEDE Architecture’s Eldry Infante winning under the Hybrid category of the Architecture Drawing Prize and the University of Northern Philippines Team bagging the top prize at the Global Student Charette.
It was a journey to remember, one that would not be possible without the growing support of WAF’s founding partner GROHE, and the architecture and design community. It is no secret that GROHE Philippines has been sending off and hosting private practice sessions for Filipino WAF finalists since 2015—a tradition that was well observed in 2023.
Left and right preparations were done in anticipation of the festival, with GROHE Philippines Managing Director Emily Besavilla and GROHE Philippines Leader Arian Zaragoza consistently messaging finalists and Kanto regarding travel arrangements. The 2023 live crits took place at the GROHE Showroom at Wilcon IT Hub, Makati City on October 27, 2023. The sessions gave both first-time and returning shortlisted firms insightful advice from the jurors and their co-finalists, allowing them to revisit their presentations and revise their spiels before taking on the WAF stage.
Arriving in Singapore
Right before the first day of WAF 2023 was the GROHE SPA Launch at the LIXIL Experience Center. The ride to the event was rainy, but the shuttle provided by GROHE made sure that we arrived safe and dry. With us were Ms. Rosemarie Bosch Ong and Alen Celestino of WILCON Philippines, GROHE Philippines Country Manager Hermie Limbo, Arian Zaragoza, Anna Cura of LIXIL, architect Arts Alcantara, architect Manny Minana, and architects Royal Pineda and Onet Coronel of Royal Pineda+. Cura also ensured that invited architects and other attendees such as architect Cathy Saldaña, Ryanne Soriano, and Miguel Sebastian of PDP Architects would get to the venue in time and with no hassle, something that she was consistent with throughout our stay.
Everyone gladly participated in the group tour showcasing the new GROHE SPA collection and the brand’s flagship products. This was followed by socials, with all of us in high spirits for the next day. I fondly recall an elevator ride we shared with the group after the launch when Pineda asked us to share the team’s presentation schedules. Ms. Rose echoed the request, and we gladly sent a copy to the group chat GROHE created. It was in the likes of these little interactions that I saw the solidarity shared by the Filipino architecture and design community, especially from the eyes of someone who was covering the festival live for the first time.
GROHE SPA Launch at the LIXIL Experience Center, Singapore
Filipino flags were literally raised during WAF 2023! Team Philippines flocked to designated crit rooms and waved flaglets brought by Buensalido+Architects for every presentation. A total of 14 Filipino entries took the stage during the three-day festival, with most of them scheduled for the first two days. Cura sent schedule reminders through the group chat and Zaragoza accompanied the team for every watch, making sure that all shortlisted finalists were backed by a supportive audience. They also saw to it that everyone was taken care of—from ensuring that we all had packed lunches to inviting us for celebratory dinners.
Kanto founder and editor-in-chief Patrick Kasingsing and I failed to join the after-parties for days one and two, as we made it an oath to stay in the venue and wait for the announcements. We’d say it was all worth it, as this allowed us to immediately share the Highly Commended placements of Buensalido+Architects, WTA Design Studio, and Dominic Galicia Architects in their respective categories. It was as if everyone was waiting with bated breath, as the large WAF Viber group created by Kanto editor-at-large Judith Torres would instantly be flooded with congratulatory messages. Ms. Emily of GROHE was always among the first in line to send her greetings, sharing the enthusiasm with everyone back home.
The last day of WAF 2023 marked a perfect ending for Team Philippines’ journey, with the students from the University of Northern Philippines bagging the top prize at the Global Student Charette. “Congratulations! Right on the 10th anniversary of our first win too!” said Kat Encorporado, who formed part of the first winning Filipino team from the University of San Carlos Cebu. “Congratulations! Bravo! Bravissimo! We are so happy for you!” Torres cheerfully added. “Your win is the country’s win. Thank you for the hard work and for bringing honor to the country, giving old peeps like me hope for the future of Philippine architecture. You are doing something right, I hope you spread the fire for excellence up north. May many more aspiring architects follow your example!”
Team Philippines’ WAF 2023 journey proved how the collective support we gathered over the years has built steps that allow our Filipino architects and designers to aim higher. We especially thank GROHE Philippines for always going beyond numbers and sharing IN everyone’s goals. Your support has been vital in plenty of the industry’s previous victories and continues to encourage a community that believes and strives to achieve its visions. •