[PHOTO AT LEFT - A resident of Barangay Banglos in General Nakar town in Quezon puts the finishing touches to a wooden sculpture.]

MANILA, OCTOBER 6, 2006 (STAR) In December 2004, a strong typhoon devastated the town of General Nakar in Quezon, destroying houses and leaving fallen trees as souvenirs of a calamity.

Instead of wallowing in the tragedy, residents of the fishing community of Barangay Banglos chose to carve out a different fate.

With the help of sculptor Rey Paz Contreras, the Banglos residents went from being fisherfolk to becoming sculptors who rebuilt their homes and their lives.

Contreras, who is known for working with local materials and being influenced by indigenous Filipino art practices, was tapped to help Banglos residents find an alternative and artful source of livelihood.

Smart Communications Inc. and Gawad Kalinga (GK) joined hands with the local government and other private sector volunteers to build a Smart Amazing GK Village in a safer part of the town.

GK is an alternative solution to the country’s housing and poverty problems and is grounded on integrated, holistic and sustainable approaches. It is the brainchild of Ramon Magsaysay awardee and GK executive director Tony Meloto.

The Smart Amazing Village was cited by GK as a model village for its partners during the first anniversary of the Kalinga Luzon program at the AFP Theater recently.

Contreras trained the Banglos residents to sculpt driftwood and logs felled by the heavy rains. Since then, the Banglos residents have mastered the art of sculpture, opening for themselves an avenue to a new livelihood and gaining recognition as skilled artists at par with the country’s finest. They are now known as the Banglos sculptors and have also learned the craft of furniture-making.

Contreras said his work with the people of Banglos has spawned a healthier appreciation for art and for ecological balance among the Banglos sculptors: "The artistic expression of the environmental preservation of the Banglos sculptors is one statement of resolve against a core issue that caused the December tragedy — that of environmental degradation."

The Banglos sculptors’ works have been featured at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Furniture Festival at Megatrade Hall, Go Negosyo fair at Market! Market! in Taguig City and in various Smart functions. They have also become symbols of hope for a new life after a seemingly insurmountable tragedy.

"Artistic expressionism could be even more unique if it dictates a mission towards environmental preservation; if it respects the existence of things for their own purpose, and not dictating for what artistic purpose they should exist," Contreras said.

With its impressive post-tempest rise contributing to the barangay’s entrepreneurial development, the Smart Amazing GK Village is recognized and will be awarded as an inspiring entrepreneurial community by the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE).

PCE is an organization that actively promotes entrepreneurship in the country. The award will be handed out by PCE Founding Trustee and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Concepcion III and Meloto during the Gawad Kalinga’s global expo on Oct. 6 to 8 at the SM Mall of Asia.

The sculptures made by the folks of Banglos will be sold at the expo for P200 to P7,000, a lucrative venture compared to measly P65 a sack they used to get from making charcoal. Most of the artwork of the Banglos sculptors are inspired by their experiences as fisherfolk.

Smart provided funding for 100 houses and facilitated the involvement of over 600 employee volunteers in house-building activities. Banglos residents were also trained in organic chicken farming to augment their income from sculpting and furniture-making.

Smart also set up a wildling nursery and brought its employees to Barangay Banglos to help in tree planting activities to prevent landslides in the future.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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