Steve Harvey at Bangkóta?

Entry 3: Updates on Royal Pineda's fourth day in Dubai and an unexpected interview with an expert on Dubai attractions and fine living

Royal Pineda, as told to Judith Torres
Images BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture+Design

Artist’s render of Bangkóta, the Philippines Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 from 1 October 2021 to 30 March 2022, Header: Perspective of Abdulmari Toym Imao’s Confluence of Wings

  • 2021 September 8, Wednesday
  • 06:00 PM

Marahuyo Boutique

As Bangkóta’s curator Marian Roces says, even the shopping experience in the pavilion will advance the curatorial intent of our art-driven presentations. Exiting from the last exhibition area, Our Gift to the World, visitors traverse an outdoor exhibition area called Bridgeway and Vast Waters to reach Marahuyo and Go Lokal, the pavilion’s souvenir shop.

Suspended over the “vast waters” are two mythical bird-like diving creatures called Limokon and Timamanukin designed by Riel Jamarillo Hilario, who very sadly, recently passed away from COVID.

Bridgeway and Vast Waters, an outdoor exhibition space that leads to Marahuyo boutique and Go Lokal! souvenir shop
Marahuyo Boutqiue and Go Lokal! Souvenir Shop occupy 97 square meters and a 5.5-meter-high ceiling

As mentioned in my previous diary entry, the Dubai authorities are very strict about safety. Here they required that we place railings on the sides of the bridge to prevent people from falling into the shallow water. I chose a glass railing so that the material wouldn’t break up the sightlines.

The mood and feel for the area are one of childlike glee, and the boutique supports the visitor’s inquisitive and acquisitive feelings by allowing them to buy memories of their Bangkóta experience.

Marahuyo is a cosmopolitan boutique offering upscale Filipino fashion designer brands. Together with the objects exclusively designed by Go Lokal! for Expo 2020, Marahuyo’s mission is to transform previous stereotypes about Philippine goods. Following BUDJI+ROYAL’s design philosophy of practical luxury, Go Lokal! products marry usefulness with artistry.

When I met with the fashion and product designers last year, I asked them to read Bangkóta’s creative brief so they would understand what we’re after. I didn’t want us selling cliché ethnic crafts and asked them to think instead of modernizing Filipino ethnic designs on products with global appeal. I also asked for shimmer and glitz because the majority of visitors would be from Dubai and the neighboring emirates and are attracted to glimmer.

Perspective of Mangrove Café with its honeycomb ceiling

Mangrove Café

Today we installed the restaurant’s accent lights. Mangrove Café is Bangkóta’s jewel. It’s the first space you see upon entering the pavilion’s plaza. At night, the space is meant to glow. I met with the operator today about training the servers, who will all be Filipinos.

Everyone compliments Filipinos for their warm hospitality. What I hope I was able to put across to the operator is that I’d like our servers to serve but not be subservient. We are not slaves. I’d like our young men and women to greet visitors exuding warmth and hospitality, yes, as well as pride, dignity, and confidence.

The restaurant takes up 210.8 square meters and a 5.5-meter-high ceiling. The mood is one of relaxation. Elegant but informal. The curatorial intent is water, mythology, archipelago, permeable surfaces, connectivity, and cultural sustainability. You can see this in the blue carpet, the filament lights that will glow at night, the glass that allows restaurant guests to see straight across the plaza and view people climbing up the ramps of the Bangkóta. Actually, Bangkóta is the second tallest structure on the Expo grounds.

Crowding the blue treetops are 46 fiery-colored birds in Jotun hues named Cherry Red, Sunlit, and Rothko.

Confluence of Wings

The Imaginarium is 1,473.7 square meters of an ascending outdoor ramp that wraps around the Bangkóta core. The ramp starts as one departs Marahuyo Boutique. It ascends and coils around the second level and ascends until it reaches the roof deck.

At the crest of the Imaginarium is Bangkóta’s architectural crown—seven spiky trees with a canopy of birds whose explosive bright hues make the viewer feel the feathered creatures are about to burst into flight.

The avian forms remind me of the sarimanok, a legendary bird of the Maranao people, which Abdulmari Imao, Toym’s father, often sculpted in brass.

The birds aren’t attached yet, but they will be, in the coming days—14 painted cherry red, 16 yellow, and 16 orange. We’re using Jotun again, the same paint maker that collaborated with BUDJI+ROYAL to create and patent the color Active Orange, which we used in the New Clark City Athletics Stadium.

Why did we use Jotun? Because Budji and I want to make sure the colors don’t fade or peel off while the sculpture bakes under Dubai’s scorching sun. We’re confident with Jotun. They’re famous for protecting and painting the Eiffel Tower and many other iconic structures.

Steve Harvey

Nope, it’s not the Miss Universe emcee who interviewed us today. This Steve Harvey is the host of Emirates World Interviews, who seeks out the best projects, events, and places in Dubai and features them on Emirates’ inflight entertainment. He’s been interviewing the architects of the Expo 2020 national pavilions and wanted to see where we were at.

I think he was impressed by how true we were to the Expo’s sustainability theme on several levels. We made it a point to use materials and products all sourced from local suppliers and contractors. The materials are simple, requiring rudimentary technology to construct. The materials are lightweight and permeable. This is why, despite all the challenges of constructing during a pandemic, the Philippines is done with construction, while many national pavilions are still rushing to complete, and some won’t make it to opening day.

All this shows that Filipinos are also culturally sustainable. We are resourceful. We are a tenacious people. The Bangkóta, in its design and makeup, is an expression of the Filipino as a coral reef. We are connected and our spatial and social systems are permeable. I told him that Bangkóta is an architectural avatar of the Filipino as a people. I really believe that.

Workers brushing and spraying construction grime off the Bangkóta’s mesh enclosure

Things to do tomorrow

I have a bunch of business meetings to attend on Thursday and Saturday, so I won’t be here in Bangkóta.

Friday, I have a university talk. After that, I meet with the landscape architect to finalize our plans. The DTI said the plants will be coming “soon.” It better be soon! Friday afternoon and evening, I’ll be with the lighting contractor.

All these months, the workers have been taking Fridays and Saturdays off, but I was telling our contractor, can your men please work straight through until the pavilion is officially turned over to us on September 15?

After the 15th, Angel and I should be able to take a day off. I’d like to bring him with me to see the Burj Khalifa. I’d like for us to see Abu Dhabi too. •

Modern Bayanihan Philippine Creative Team

BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture+Design

Artistic and Thematic Direction
Royal Pineda

Curation and Content Development
Marian Pastor Roces

Creative Services
Architect-of-Record, Yaghmour
Design & Build, RAQ Contracting Co.
Landscape Architecture, Al Shomoos

Cultural Sites
Exhibitions, Creative Services by Christopher Draye
Exhibitions, Audio-Visual Content by Beyond Limits
Exhibitions by Star Springs

Cultural Expressions & Design
Furniture & Fit-Out Design by Budji Layug, B&R Solutions
Artisanal Objects by Bros Mastermind
Arts & Crafts by Common Room
Arts & Crafts by Go Lokal!
Arts & Crafts, Fashion by Marahuyo Designers
Fashion by Ezra Santos
Gastronomy by Jovy Tuaño

Visual Arts
Abdulmari Toym Imao

Baby & Coco Anne
Charlie Co
Dan Raralio
Dex Fernandez
Duddley Diaz
Lee Paje
Patrick Cabral
Riel Jamarillo Hilario

Ivan Sarenas
Scott “Gutsy” Tuason
Tirso Paris

Performing Arts
Original music by Dr. Ramon Pagayon Santos
Show Production (dance, music) by Nestor Hardin & Silang Communications
Dance and Choreography by Denisa Reyes & JM Cabiling
Music by Tereza Barroso

New Media & Audio-Visuals
Animation by Avid Liongoren, Rocketsheep Studios
Video Production by Manny Angeles, Twenty Manila
Game Development by James Palabay, Digital Art Chefs
Film, Advertising, Software by BBDO Guerrero
Exhibitions, Audio-Visual Content by Beyond Limits

Media, Broadcasting & Audio-Visuals
News Creation, Publication by New Perspective Media
Broadcasting, Television, Advertising by ABS-CBN TFC Dubai, Metro Group
Broadcasting, Television, Advertising by GMA, CNN

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