Three materials that I need to see in person: paper, wood, leather. I met Harley Dave Bahian Beltran because of a wood and metal installation that stood out in a crowded mall bazaar in November 2017.
Recycled galvanized iron pipes formed an austere scaffolding in a shopping mall set up for the holidays. Iron tubes forming letters spelling out “Harl’s” were placed against reused pitted boards. The industrial facility featured leather bags handcrafted by Harl and other artisans, most of whom have physical disabilities.
Each style of bag has a name and a story. The Leona tote with short and long handles bears her grandmother’s name. The Cherry Open Tote was inspired by Filipino actor Cherry Gil, longtime patron of “Handcrafted by Harl’s”.
In 2017, what stood out was the manual work, in particular the respect for the craftsman evident in the clean functional lines, with greater emphasis on the natural marks of full-grain skin, imperfections that tell worlds about the animal he once was.
I was drawn to the messenger bag Harl used that night. It had a large birthmark on the flap, disfiguring if one preferred polished, sanded, dyed and coated leather to the veneer of perfection coveted by the market.
Respect took over when Harl spoke about the Social Enterprise for Training and Working with People with Disabilities (PWD) to produce bags, wallets, belts, bike accessories and even bow ties with leather. from Marikina and other local sources.
Remembering the passion of this man – awarded in Germany for social enterprise in 2017 – I renew my respect for a social entrepreneur who is doing his best not only to survive the pandemic for more than a year.
At the height of the lockdowns imposed on Luzon in 2020 and 2021, the Harl team moved to include the manufacture of “Maska”, face masks incorporating leather and “banig,” used in woven rugs. Selling online during extended shutdowns that have shut down non-essential businesses, Harl, his wife Sheila and eldest daughter Harriet have allocated a portion of the sales to pack and distribute fresh vegetables, rice and other groceries to families of people. with disabilities.
Harriet gets P10 for every drawing she does by hand to thank online customers who choose “Harl’s,” which her father says means “hope, ability, resilience, livelihood, spiritual.”
On July 12, the company celebrated its seventh anniversary, until today giving a 25 percent discount to those who buy bags online or in person. Since that evening in 2017, when I brought home a Cherry, I’ve never had to have a bag repaired, even for a loose thread or frayed seam.
Life does not leave us indifferent. Scar or character: it all depends on our way of seeing.