A brand pays homage to T’boli traditions
Fashion accessories are not just for aesthetics – they can also be tools for telling a story, creating awareness and preserving traditions.
Accessories brand Nawa aims to preserve Filipino craftsmanship and culture through their handmade brass accessories crafted by T’boli community artisans of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
Founders Timmy Potenciano and Jopie Sanchez started their social enterprise quite serendipitously.
“I personally love accessories and I am inspired by tribal women and ethnic jewelry. Unfortunately, there was nowhere in Manila where you can get brass bangles that are well-made and affordable,” shared Potenciano. “Jopie is a make-up artist and did some work on K’Na the Dreamweaver, an independent film set in Lake Sebu, and she got to meet and immerse with the T’boli community, including brass makers. We initially wanted to make sets just for ourselves.”
The brand’s logo is itself a reference to the mystical Lake Sebu: two lotuses intertwined inspired by the pink lotuses that grow in the lake and only bloom in the early morning. The brand is also a reference to the T’boli culture.
“To speak of one’s ‘nawa’ is to speak of their character or emotions. Nawa can also mean ‘breath’, and it seemed fitting to pay tribute to the T’boli culture by breathing life into their craft,” said Potenciano.
Nawa in Filipino means “amen” or “let it be”, an allusion to trusting in the universe and something the founders have learned in the process of creating their brand.
Nawa is most known for their brass bangles, which are made using the traditional T’boli brass casting method. The brass is melted in a fire pit before it is poured into molds. Once it hardens, artisans use hand tools to cut, polish, and create the details of each bangle. No two pieces are exactly identical, which adds to the uniqueness of each piece.
Both of them recently visited the community and came up with a new product line – stackable brass rings that come in three sizes. They also work with T’boli weavers who make handwoven pouches made of traditional malong cloth that serve as packaging for the accessories.
Aside from preserving an age-old craft, they also help in promoting T’boli culture by allotting a portion of their sales for the Lake Sebu School of Living Traditions.
“We are really happy to be partnered with this organization that works so hard to protect the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the T’boli community. The profits we earned from the first batch of orders will go into the rehabilitation of the School of Living Tradition, which serves as a classroom and a home stay,” Sanchez shared.
In a world where trends change in the blink of an eye, it is refreshing to see a brand that is deeply rooted in its identity and reflect not just a certain aesthetic but a philosophy that transcends time.