By KC Santos
MARAWI CITY, LANAO DEL SUR- Belonging to a community whose beliefs are slowly changing with modernity, doll designer Sainuddin Moti aims to preserve what he believes is an indispensable component of Maranao tradition.
Sainuddin is the proprietor of the Darangen Dolls, which he established last January. Unlike most imported and locally made dolls available, his designs depict the traditional costumes of Maranao women.
Most non-Muslims only know of traditional Maranao costumes when worn in ethnic cultural shows. But Sainuddin says these can be misleading especially for those who, to begin with, know only very little about the culture of the Maranaos.
“Even some women in Marawi are no longer wearing what was once the customary clothing of our people. If I can’t do something to change that, the more I can’t change the perceptions of non-Muslims,” he says.
Sainuddin made his first doll in 2008, which he tailored out of ukay clothes that barely cost 10 pesos. A friend of his displayed his creation in his restaurant.
“She said she was going to buy it because time will come I will make a name out of making these dolls,” says Sainuddin, who then got inspired to pursue his newly discovered craft of designing dolls.
With the number of prominent Muslim people noticing his works, Sainuddin later found his dolls the centerpiece and the “face” of inter-university competitions and local trade exhibits.
Sainuddin later on discovered the Internet and uploaded photos of his Darangen Dolls online. Through the Web he was “discovered” and was honored the Children’s Choice Award for this year’s Prague Quadrennial of Performance Space and Design in Czech Republic.
Though he can already boasts of international acclaim, Sainuddin would rather see Filipinos buying (and appreciating) his dolls.
“Darangen or Darangan is actually a set of epic poetry about the romance and adventures of a warrior-prince named Bantugan. These dolls are tangible representations of the chivalric albeit polygamous relations warriors were known for in the ancient times,” he shares.
The Darangan is recognized as one of the oldest pieces of Philippine poetry, having been declared a “Philippine Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2005.
Over the past two years, Sainuddin has made several “generations” of Darangen Dolls, a passion of his aside from being a doctor and also working as a wedding coordinator.
He is often tapped to display his works in cultural, regional and international shows and expositions as representative for the Muslim community. His Darangen Dolls sell for 1,500 pesos each.
In his humble workshop in Marawi, Sainuddin continues to make his masterpieces tapping out-of-school youth in his hometown so they could earn a livelihood for their schooling.
“I always tell them not to settle with a mediocre life. I’m glad that by making something I am very passionate about, I also show Maranao youth the importance of aiming high,” he says.
Through his craft, he also intends to promote Muslim culture and improve the image of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its people.
“With the recent unfortunate events that had happened in our home land, I hope products synonymous to ARMM can help re-shape perceptions and highlight the creativity of Muslims.”
(Check out more photos at the Darangen Dolls Facebook page)
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