Kwentuhan With Cambio: Intimate Conversations For The Filipino Community

Kwentuhan With Cambio: Intimate Conversations For The Filipino Community

The Tagalog word kwentuhan means ‘to have a conversation’ and a ‘back and forth flow’. We’ve been using this word to guide us, not only through the tumult of 2020, but to shape who we are for our community.

Cambio & Co. is a fashion company for accessories designed and handcrafted in the Philippines. But over our last 4 years in business, we've become much more than a shop: we’ve become a gateway for Filipinx/a/o in the diaspora to reconnect with our heritage, culture, and motherland.

Cambio & Co. is a platform that not only creates sustainable livelihood for Filipino artisans, but also centers Filipino stories to challenge, rethink, and reclaim the narratives we’ve been taught.

Eventually, the idea for an online storytelling series came up. What if, we asked ourselves, we invited cool people to talk about fashion, beauty, and culture and then just chatted with them?

And so, in the midst of the COVID-19 quarantines, Kwentuhan With Cambio was born. I think the quarantines partly added to its magic.

Over 300 people from around the world signed up. We were joined by folks from the Philippines, USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and the UK.

Kwentuhan, in real life, is a casual gathering of friends, usually over drinks and snacks. Obviously meeting IRL was out of the question, but maybe we could recreate the vibe; this casual conversation and flow and connection. At least as much as our laptop screens would allow.

For four straight weeks, we hosted our Kwentuhan series and felt the power of our community like a living, breathing being. The sessions were powerful. And though it’s hard to translate the magic of those evenings, we did our best to document them for you here.

We hope that as you watch each session, you’ll learn something new about our guests, our community, and about yourself.

And if you do walk away with something new, we hope you’ll share your learnings with us. Comment on this blog post, email us at hello@shopcambio.co, connect with us on Instagram, or tag us at #WearYourHeritage. 

Let’s keep the kwentuhan going.

Chapter One: Christine Tiu of AMAMI Talks About The Power Of Preserving Filipino Artistry 

Why is it important to preserve craftsmanship? What do we gain by preserving centuries-old traditions and art forms, and what could we lose if we don’t fight for them? 

These are some of the questions my co-founder Jérôme and I discuss alongside one of the founders of AMAMI, Christine Tiu.

Christine talks about AMAMI’s story of working alongside Filipino plateros (silversmiths) to preserve the pre-colonial craft of gold filigree and how AMAMI blends tradition with modernity to create something that’s uniquely ours.

About Christine Tiu:

Christine Tiu is the co-founder of AMAMI, a social enterprise which aims to revive endangered Philippine jewelry traditions while providing sustainable livelihood and empowering Filipino artisans. She is passionate about social justice, entrepreneurship and women’s rights.

Born and raised in Manila, Christine spent several weekends volunteering for marginalized groups - from orphaned and chronically ill children, prisoners, indigenous groups, survivors of sexual abuse, and the urban poor. At age 16, she was elected as the Youth Council Chairperson at her local government. Her exposure to various social realities at a young age moved her to co-found the first campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity Philippines, as well as an award-winning social enterprise providing alternative livelihood for women in fishing communities through fashion. Christine has worked for both for-profit and non-profit organizations such as Mondelēz, CNN, Ashoka, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Chapter Two: Beauty Insider Erianne Salazar Discusses How She’s Redefining Filipina Beauty 

As Filipinos, how do we unlearn everything we’ve been taught about beauty? We’re raised from a young age to believe that thin bodies, straight hair, and white skin are beautiful. But where did these expectations come from? And how do we redefine beauty on our own terms?

The Black Lives Matter movement lends a new urgency to these questions which are important for us to tackle as a global Filipino community.

In this Kwentuhan, Cambio’s Community Storyteller Nikki Bautista and I chat with Erianne Salazar, a Manila-based makeup artist, model, and empowerment advocate. Erianne talks about her experience as a morena, curly-haired Filipina working within the beauty industry, how colorism in the Philippines has impacted her, and what she’s learned along her journey towards self-empowerment.

About Erianne Salazar:

Erianne Salazar is a Manila-based makeup artist and model, with her focus on makeup for film and television and commercial modeling. She earned her Broadcast Communication degree from the University of the Philippines-Diliman, and has been advocating for media literacy with regards to beauty and body messaging in the Philippines. She is the creator of Pretty Positive, a blog that promotes the optimization of the Self with self care for the body and spirit.

Chapter Three: Fashion Designer Victor Baguilat Jr. Of Kandama Collective On His Journey To Find Himself, His Ifugao Identity, And His Passion 

When the Philippines is made up of thousands of islands, languages, and a rich array of Indigenous cultures, what does it mean to be Filipino?

How do we honour Indigenous communities without appropriating them? And what role does fashion play in all this?

In this session, I speak with Victor Baguilat Jr., an international fashion designer of Ifugao heritage whose work has been featured on the global stage. Victor is also the Founder of Kandama Collective, a couture fashion brand that celebrates Indigenous heritage in the Philippines while creating livelihood for Ifugao women weavers.

In addition to sharing his experiences as a social entrepreneur, Victor talks about what it means to be a fashion designer who not only represents the Philippines on the global stage, but also the rich traditions of his Indigenous heritage.

About Victor Baguilat Jr.

Victor Mari Baguilat Jr. is an Indigenous fashion designer whose works have been featured in Paris Fashion Week, Melbourne Fashion Week, Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival and more. He is a finalist of the Young Social Entrepreneurs Program of the Singapore International Foundation and has been recognized by the Development Bank of Singapore and the National University of Singapore as 100 social enterprises in Asia to watch (2018).

Kandama Collective is a social enterprise that aims to empower Indigenous women specifically those in Ifugao, Philippines. To date, Kandama has trained 29 rice and vegetable farmers in the traditional art of handloom weaving. Through innovative product design and various collaborations, Kandama creates artisanal products that express the timeless elegance of Indigenous art for the cosmopolitan woman.

Chapter Four: Jovie Galit of Pinay Collection Shares Her Pathway To Healing and Reconnection As A Filipina Immigrant-Settler 

What does healing and reconnection look like for us as Filipinos in the diaspora? 

I’m joined by Pinay Collection Founder, Jovie Galit. Jovie speaks about her migration journey from the Philippines to Canada, how she found reconnection through community, and how Pinays can reclaim our heritage through our words.

About Jovie Galit

Jovie is a Filipina Immigrant from Nueva Ecija who arrived in Canada in July 2011. Jovie’s immigration journey moulded the person that she is today and the person that she is for her community. Jovie is the founder of Pinya Letters, a Modern Calligraphy business based in Toronto. Her work with the Filipino language has been focused on reclaiming Tagalog pejorative words through the art of hand lettering. She also recently founded Pinay Collection - a merch line that celebrates and reclaims Filipina/x heritage and identity. Outside of her artistic role, Jovie is a trained Social Services professional and leads a team of Settlement Workers in Toronto, where she develops and facilitates workshops for Filipino youth and families exploring belonging, identity, community, and many more.

Chapter Five: A Conversation On JOYFUL RESILIENCE with Reese Fernandez-Ruiz of Rags2Riches

How do you foster resilience and cultivate joy when the world is so dark and uncertain?

As women, we often feel the pressure to lead in our work, our communities, and our homes. But how do we lead others when we're struggling ourselves? If we’ve got you nodding, this is for you.

Join us in intimate conversation with Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, Co-Founder and President of Rags2Riches. R2R is a fashion and design house in the Philippines that empowers artisans through livelihood. Reese will share R2R’s story of working with Filipino artisans, the ups and downs, and the MANY near-death experiences they’ve overcome over the last 13 years.

This event is in celebration of the launch of Rags2Riches' first online store in North America at r2rshop.com

Which Kwentuhan session resonated most with you? Share your insights with us!


Gelaine Santiago

Gelaine Santiago

Gelaine is a social entrepreneur, an online storyteller, and a passionate advocate for diversity and ethics in business. She’s the co-founder of Cambio & Co., an e-commerce fashion company working with Filipino artisans to celebrate Filipino craftsmanship, culture, and heritage. Gelaine is also one of the founders of Sinta & Co., the world’s first conscious Filipino wedding boutique. She was named one of RBC’s Top 25 Canadian Immigrants of 2019. Find her on Instagram @gelainesantiago and www.gelainesantiago.com